1 9 8 0 – 1 9 8 8 (UK)
58 x 30 minute episodes
The show was quite obviously modelled on Butlin’s or Pontins holiday camps with the legendary redcoats replaced in the series with yellowcoats. Perry had indeed once served as a Butlin’s Red Coat.
The pilot episode set the scene, with the entertainers returning for the 1959 holiday season only to find that the Maplins holiday camp at Crimpton-on-Sea now being run by a former college professor, the well-meaning but dreamy academic Jeffrey Fairbrother (Simon Cadell).
He is a character in stark contrast to his team: the bluff, ale-guzzling working-class comic and camp host Ted Bovis (Paul Shane), and his hapless understudy Spike (Jeffrey Holland); the boozy, child-hating Punch And Judy Man, Mr Partridge (Leslie Dwyer); the snooty ballroom dance instructors Barry and Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves (Barry Howard and Diane Holland); the diminutive, sour-faced jockey Fred Quilly (Felix Bowness); and the gormless, nervy Peggy Ollerenshaw (Su Pollard), a lowly chalet maid with a burning ambition to become a Yellowcoat (pictured below right).
Fairbrother was a Cambridge archaeologist who decided to seek pastures new when his wife left him. His assistant was valleys girl Gladys Pugh (Ruth Madoc) who also served as Radio Maplin announcer, rousing campers from their slumbers with a lilting “morning campers”.
Fairbrother instantly warmed her frigid heart, although her smouldering advances were never welcomed.
Always in the background, issuing edicts (but never showing his face) was the all-powerful but illiterate boss, Joe Maplin.
In later shows, ex-RAF man Squadron Leader Clive Dempster DFC (David Griffin) replaced Fairbrother in the entertainments hot seat.
Two years later, Kenneth Connor joined the regular cast as the children’s entertainer Uncle Sammy, who seemed to have a strange hold over Joe Maplin, but otherwise, things continued much as before, with the 1959 holiday season eventually giving way to the 1960 holiday season.
Unfortunately for real-life holiday camps who were trying to live down their primitive past, the series – filmed at the real Warners Holiday Camp in Dovercourt near Harwich – was a huge hit and ran for eight years.
Action centred on the glorious coarseness of everyday holiday camp life. In the daytime, campers gathered around the swimming pool to witness beauty contests and various slapstick competitions. In the evening they repaired to the Hawaiian Ballroom to be entertained by Ted’s vulgar jokes and Spike’s silly costumes.
Nostalgia was the prime key to its success, but so was authenticity. Plots became somewhat outlandish during the latter episodes – there was even a murder mystery when Mr Partridge was found dead in the camp – and by the time the BBC called it a day in 1988, it is arguable that the series had already outstayed its welcome by a good couple of years.
Sqdn Ldr Clive Dempster DFC
Uncle Sammy Morris