1 9 7 0 (UK)
8 x 30 minute episodes
In 18th-century England, Smith (Ian Ramsey) is a young London street urchin, a pickpocket, and apprentice highwayman (albeit sweetly innocent) who is hunted, hounded and homeless and on the run from the law with a mysterious document which he purloined from a gentleman’s pocket and which – he senses – is of great value.
It transpires that the man has since been killed for the very document now in Smith’s possession.
Three mysterious men – Mr Black (George Innes), Mr Grey (Michael Goldie) and Mr Brown (Leon Collins) – want the document and Smith now knows full well what they will do to obtain it.
Smith can’t read but his sisters are sure that it promises a fortune to the bearer of the deed. Smith finds a blind magistrate with a claim to the papers and finds himself helping him, hoping to earn his share of the spoils while trying to stay alive and out of Newgate jail.
Smith lives in constant fear of the Tyburn hangman and is in mortal danger from other, secret, enemies.
This 1970 Thames Television adventures series, adapted from the Phoenix Award-winning children’s novel by Leon Garfield and directed by Michael Currer-Briggs, offered a vivid depiction of the precarious, marginal existence of the eighteenth-century highwayman.
A fun production with its tongue firmly in its cheek, it was also exciting, not just for its use of a bad boy hero but also for hinted-at gore and the threat of imminent violence and murder.
Tragically, star Ian Ramsey died on 11 November 1978, aged just 27, when his minivan was struck from behind by another car on the fogbound A2 in Swanscombe, Kent. His eleven-week-old baby daughter was flung clear and escaped serious injury.
Meg Wynn Owen
Not Nubbed Yet | Finders’ Keepers | Live and Learn | Blind Justice | A Long Spoon | The Newgate Star | The Black Angel | God Save the King!