Home Television Kids TV Owl Service, The

Owl Service, The

1 9 6 9 (UK)
8 x 30 minute episodes

Recently bereaved teenager Alison Bradley (Gillian Hills) goes with her new stepbrother Roger (Francis Wallis) to stay for the summer in the quiet retreat of a relatives house in the Welsh Valleys.

After hearing a scratching noise coming from the roof of the house, Alison discovers some dusty old dinner plates in the attic which have a flowered owl pattern.

What is the connection between this, the loony gardener, the angry housekeeper and the legend of the old village magician who made a wife out of flowers and later turned into an owl when she betrayed him?

This Sunday tea time series was a sexually-charged tale of adolescent jealousy, produced by Granada TV and based on the unsettling, fantasy-tinged book by Alan Garner which was awarded the Carnegie Medal and Guardian Award for children’s fiction in 1967.

Upper-class Alison, her haughty public school stepbrother Roger and working-class Welsh boy Gwyn (Michael Holden) are locked into a triangle of love and hate that threatens to destroy them. Sexual jealousy had never been the topic of a children’s drama before.

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Gwyn later learns of the father he’s never known and discovers that his mother was once possessed by the same old plates Alison uncovered in the attic.

This was the first fully-scripted drama to be made entirely in colour by Granada Television, although it was shown in black and white on its original runs and not seen in colour until its 1978 repeat.

This ruined the visual joke of Alison, Gwyn and Roger always wearing respectively red, black and green outfits – the colours of electrical wiring at the time – hinting at the power the three could unleash.

The serial was shot in and around Dinas Mawddwy, North Wales, between Apil and June 1969 although the kitchen scenes in the series were filmed at the Marfords Remand Home in Bromborough, Merseyside.

Alison Bradley
Gillian Hills 
Roger Bradley 

Francis Wallis 

Michael Holden 

Dorothy Edwards

Raymond Llewellyn
Clive Bradley

Edwin Richfield