1 9 8 0 (UK)
5 x 30 minute episodes
Times are bad for Davy Halliday (Antony Manuel) and his deaf and dumb younger brother John Willie (David Burke). They have been lucky enough to escape the flood in the pits but their father has been killed.
Without a mother, and deprived of their pit worker’s cottage, the two boys find themselves orphaned and homeless.
They set up temporary shelter in one of the mines and Davy hopes to earn food at the local workhouse. John Willie, however, is too frail for the hard labour and David only earns one small loaf of bread for a full day’s work.
The boys are then threatened by the Coxons, a local family who delight in tormenting them because of John Willie’s condition and are forced to flee the mine.
They take refuge in the dilapidated summerhouse of Miss Peamarsh (Madeleine Cannon), a strange woman who hides herself away in her manor.
Davy has had unfavourable meetings with the woman on a couple of occasions and therefore expects the worst when she discovers they have been squatting in her grounds.
To his amazement Miss Peamarsh allows them to stay in her house so that John Willie can be nursed back to health. Furthermore, Davy cannot believe his luck when she offers him a wage to run errands and maintain the house.
Then, to his horror, he discovers that Miss Peamarsh is being blackmailed by her former gardener, Dan Potter (John Malcolm). When Davy’s dog Snuffy unearths human bones in the garden, it seems likely that Miss Peamarsh may well have murdered her brother.
Set in nineteenth-century North England, Catherine Cookson’s period story is primarily one of human endurance across the social classes but works equally well as a mystery.
John Willie Halliday