1 9 7 3 – 1 9 7 6 (UK)
39 x 60 minute episodes
This 39-part saga from Granada told the story of Sam Wilson – a boy growing to manhood in the grim and impoverished Yorkshire mining village of Skellerton.
The first series opened in 1934 when Sam was a 10-year-old fatherless schoolboy in the poor Yorkshire village and traced his inevitable descent to the pit in 1938, at the age of 14.
Hundreds of Yorkshire schoolboys were interviewed before 14-year-old Kevin Moreton from Pontefract (pictured) was chosen to play the lead in the first 13 episodes as the young Sam.
The second series ranged from 1947 to 1952 with Sam now in his 20s (now played by Mark McManus), rebelling against the mines and escaping to the sea – and then returning to inherit property, sow his wild oats and go to work in an engineering factory.
The third series began in 1960, with Sam aged 36 and now married to the middle-class Sarah Corby (Jennifer Hilary), acquiring a 12-year-old son from her previous marriage and fathering two children of his own.
Facing the problems of their schooling and experiencing the itches of middle age, Sam now had a management role at the engineering works, a new Hillman Minx and some extra-marital interest in the shape of secretary Liz (Carol Drinkwater).
Finally, the series jumped seven years from 1963 to 1970.
The series won the TV Critics’ award for the best series of 1973 and an award from Mary Whitehouse‘s National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association as the year’s “outstanding family entertainment”.
Creator John Finch won the Writers’ Guild award for the best series writer of 1974.
Written and acted with conviction, it made glum viewing, especially when the action shifted from the adult Sam – played by Mark McManus (later to become Taggart), and Barbara Ewing and Ray Smith as his parents – to the grim-faced stoical grandfather Jack, the sharp-tongued, embittered, unbending ex-miner played by Michael Goodliffe.
This was certainly trooble-at-t’mill territory . . .
Kevin Moreton (1)
Mark McManus (2)
Sarah Wilson (nee Corby)