The Onedin Line . . . . .

Evergreen - - Contents Summer 2015 - Graham Gough

In the 1970s, The Onedin Line was the high­light of Sun­day night tele­vi­sion. Ev­ery week mil­lions would tune in for a dose of high- seas ad­ven­ture, ro­mance and board­room pol­i­tics, all ac­com­pa­nied by a stir­ring theme tune.

The pro­gramme ran for 10 years and made house­hold names out of ac­tors Peter Gil­more, Anne Stally­brass, Jill Gas­coine and Jane Seymour.

The drama took view­ers on a voy­age of ex­otic places around

the world, but what most view­ers didn’t re­alise was that these scenes were ac­tu­ally filmed in a quiet cove on the Devon coast, and I joined the cast and crew in the early Sev­en­ties to take some pub­lic­ity shots.

The River Dart be­came a trop­i­cal river with the help of a few plas­tic palm trees and a few tame par­rots here and there. Ba­yards Cove in Dart­mouth was made to look like 19th- cen­tury Liver­pool and the lo­cal fire brigade was brought in to cre­ate a storm scene.

Lo­cal peo­ple ap­peared as ex­tras; of­fice work­ers and school­child­ren dressed up in Vic­to­rian clothes to be­come hard­ened sea­men and street urchins, and the 70- strong

film crew made good use of the pubs and bars in the town.

The Onedin Line was first screened on 7th De­cem­ber 1970 as a one- off pro­duc­tion en­ti­tled The Wind Blows Free in the BBC’s Drama Play­house se­ries. The show was such a hit that the BBC de­cided to make it into a se­ries, which was aired the fol­low­ing year.

The story cen­tred around James Onedin, a hard- up shop­keeper’s son in Liver­pool dur­ing the 1880s, who dreams of own­ing his own ship­ping line.

The se­ries was set in a time when any­one with a ship and the courage to risk their life on it could make a for­tune trav­el­ling the oceans of the world.

Onedin had no short­age of brav­ery, but hav­ing in­her­ited just £ 25 in his fa­ther’s will, can­not af­ford a boat. When his brother re­fused to lend him the money, he mar­ries Anne Web­ster to get his hands on her fa­ther’s ship, and is sur­prised when he finds him­self fall­ing in love with her.

The ruth­less would- be ship­ping ty­coon finds his feisty bride is just the sort of per­son who can keep him in check.

With its dra­matic spe­cial ef­fects and great use of lo­ca­tion film­ing, the se­ries was very am­bi­tious

in its day, and even now has a con­sid­er­able fol­low­ing. It is regularly re­peated on satel­lite tele­vi­sion and is avail­able on DVD.

In real life Peter Gil­more, who played James Onedin, and Anne Stally­brass mar­ried and set­tled in Dart­mouth, but later moved back to Lon­don due to Gil­more’s ill health. He died in 2013.

Peter Gil­more ( cen­tre) played James Onedin, Anne Stally­brass was his real- life and on- screen wife ( Anne) and James Gar­butt ( left) took the role of Robert Onedin.

An old salt ready for his close- up!

Dart­mouth trans­formed for “The Onedin Line”.

Lo­cal school­child­ren ap­peared as ex­tras.

Cre­at­ing a storm at sea!

Dart­mouth where much of the film­ing for “The Onedin Line”

took place.

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