1 9 7 6 (UK/Australia)
13 x 60 minute episodes
In 1829, following the tragic death of his wife, retired naval officer Jason Firbeck (James Condon) takes his three adult children – two sons and a daughter – from their home in Yorkshire and heads for the new land of Australia, determined to build a new life for themselves in New South Wales – which at the time was also still a penal colony.
Genteel Jason, kind-hearted Samuel (Gerard Maguire), fiery Luke (former Arthur of the Britons star Oliver Tobias) and their sister Jassy (Elisabeth Crosby) are to establish a sheep farm on land which has been bequeathed to Jason.
Arriving in Australia, they discover that due to an administrative error in Whitehall the land they are expecting to farm has already been taken.
Luke forges ahead with a plan to ‘squat’ on 600 acres of vacant land near Sofala and establish a ranch by rounding up stray livestock lost from neighbouring ranches.
Luke’s illegal activities in establishing a squatter’s ranch allow plenty of opportunity for conflict with the penal colony’s governing body who refuse to recognise his claim to the land.
He also has to contend with rustlers, travelling con men, escaped prisoners, aboriginal raids and cut-throat gangs.
Other regular characters included Moll the innkeeper (Shirley Cameron), Kate Bell (Helen Morse), a former inmate of the notorious Female Factory at Parramatta, and former comic Willie Fennell as a shepherd who the Firbeck family befriends.
Guests stars on the show included Jack Thompson, John Meillon (pictured), Peter Sumner, Max Cullen, Cul Cullen, Judy Morris, Colin Croft, Chris Haywood, David Gulpilil and Kate Fitzpatrick.
Unfortunately, the character of Luke, although physically appealing in a smouldering way, was relatively unsympathetic as a leading man.
He displayed a ruthless and decidedly cruel streak and was motivated by just two things – his desire to succeed as a rancher by any means and his quasi-incestuous love for his sister Jassy.
This co-production between Yorkshire Television and the Nine Network (Australia) was based on the novel Pages From a Squatter’s Diary by E.V. Timms, a dramatic exploration of early Australian settlement and the tremendous hardships that helped to shape the nation.
Shot entirely on film in the foothills of the Blue Mountains (west of Sydney) during 1974 and 1975, the series cost $2 million.
Executive producer and former BBC documentary man Tony Essex died 10 days after the series was finished.
Moll the Innkeeper
A Sort of Gentleman | The Land Lovers | The Bait | A Man Worse Than Cormac | A Woman Waiting | The Man from Home | The Surveyor | The King’s Gentleman | The Dam and the Damned | The Hypocrites | The Devil’s Man | An Enemy Too Many | The Prisoner