Home Television Drama When The Boat Comes In

When The Boat Comes In

1 9 7 6 – 1 9 8 1 (UK)
51 x 50 minute episodes

A gritty Northern drama set in the South Shields area after WWI, following the trials of ex-Sergeant Jack Ford and the Seaton family as they struggled with the problems of the day: The aftermath of the war, the great depression of the 1920s, trade union activists and an uncaring society.

The characters also seemed to spend a lot of time drinking in and out of pubs.

Viewers south of the Tyne learned about ‘bonnie lads’ and took O-level colloquial Geordie (so useful later for understanding the jokes in Auf Wiedersehen Pet). They also enjoyed good solid stories with vintage cars and cobbled streets, and the relationship between the roguish Ford and Jessie Seaton, the passionate but upright (till Ford had his way) heroine played by Susan Jameson (Bolam’s partner off-camera also).

James Bolam was convincing as the cunning Jack Ford, a man who has seen ignorance and stupidity in the trenches and finds himself fighting against it in his role of Union boss during peacetime.

At the end of the third season, Ford left for the USA, to return (on the run from the FBI) for redemption via participation in the Jarrow March and the Spanish Civil War.

The stick-in-the-memory theme tune was a reworking, by David Fanshawe, of a traditional northeast nursery rhyme:

Come here me little Jacky
now ah’ve smoked me baccy
let’s hev a bit of cracky
till the boat comes in

Dance to thee Daddy, sing to thee Mammy
dance to thee Daddy, to thee Mammy sing
Thou shalt hev a fishy on a little dishy
thou shalt hev a fishy when the boat comes in

Here’s thy mother humming
like a canny woman
Yonder comes thy fatha
drunk – he cannat stand

Dance to thee Daddy, sing to thee Mammy
dance to thee Daddy, to thee Mammy sing
Thou shalt hev a fishy on a little dishy
thou shalt hev a haddock when the boat comes in

Our Tommy’s always fuddling
he’s so fond of ale
but he’s kind to me
I hope he’ll never fail

Dance to thee Daddy, sing to thee Mammy
dance to thee Daddy, to thee Mammy sing
Thou shalt hev a fishy on a little dishy
thou shalt hev a Bloater when the boat comes in

I like a drop mesel’,
when I can get it sly
and thou, my bonny bairn
will like’t as well as I

Dance to thee Daddy, sing to thee Mammy
dance to thee Daddy, to thee Mammy sing
Thou shalt hev a fishy on a little dishy
thou shalt hev a Mackerel when the boat comes in

May we get a drop
oft as we stand in need
and weel may the keel row
that brings the bairns tha breed

Dance to thee Daddy, sing to thee Mammy
dance to thee Daddy, to thee Mammy sing
Thou shalt hev a fishy on a little dishy
thou shalt hev a Salmon when the boat comes in

Jack Ford 
James Bolam
Bill Seaton 

James Garbutt
Jessie Seaton 

Susan Jameson
Billy Seaton 

Edward Wilson
Bella Seaton 

Jean Heywood
Tom Seaton 

John Nightingale
Sarah Lytton 

Rosalind Bailey
Lady Caroline 

Lois Baxter (1)
Isla Blair (2)
Channing 

Christopher Benjamin
Geordie Watson 

Ian Cullen
Duke of Bedlington 

William Fox
Sir Horatio Manners 

Basil Henson
Dolly 

Madelaine Newton
Ashton 

Geoffrey Rose
Matt 

Malcolm Terris