1 9 8 8 (UK)
3 x 30 minute episodes
This three-part BBC-1 children’s dramatisation of Robert Westall’s ghost story focused on 15-year-old Anne (Diana Morrison), miserable and rebellious at her parents’ recent separation and deposited on an elderly Tyneside couple, Arthur (James Garbutt) and Prudie (Sheri Shepstone), by her stuck-up townie mother, Fiona (Lynette Davies).
Arthur is the keeper of the coastal Watch House – once the home of the defunct Garmouth Volunteer Life Brigade, now in a state of some decrepitude – and he regales Anne with scary stories of the briny.
In no time she is seeing messages scrawled in the dust, and stumbling over skeletons swathed in cobwebs.
She soon discovers the Watchhouse is haunted by the spirit of the “old feller” Henry Cookson (Allen Dale), the man who founded the brigade.
Unfortunately, the place is also haunted by the more malevolent presence of Scobie Hague (Ying Tong John), a shipwrecked – and Anne is periodically possessed by one or the other of them as she tries to get to the bottom of the mystery of what – or who – killed Cookson.
Along the way she befriends local girl, Pat (Linda Huntley) – after cycling into her when her brakes fail – and her boyfriend Timmo (Michael Nicholson).
It is all very nicely photographed (the old couple’s blue wooden cottage on the seafront is especially photogenic) and Ian Keill’s direction opts for a leisurely yet assured pace. Nothing is overstated or trampled underfoot by blaring incidental music.
As the fresh-faced, windswept heroine, Diana Morrison has the kind of naturalness and intelligence the camera loves. You feel if anyone can make us believe the kind of hokum that is unfolding, she can.
The series was filmed mostly in Tynemouth.
Peter Van Gaver
Old Feller (Henry Cookson)
Ying Tong John