‘When The Boat Comes In’ has to be one my favourite television shows of all time. I was too young to watch it when it first came to our television screens back in January 1976, but now because of the DVDs, I am an avid fan. I am also a big fan of ‘The Walking Dead’ and ‘Breaking Bad’. More recently, Showtime’s ‘Billions’. In these shows, the protagonists lose everything but refuse to stay beaten, they fight back with everything they have. Bobby Axelrod like Jack Ford bounce back because it is in their very nature to do so.

The television series spanned four seasons which ran between 1976 and 1981. It was set in the mythical north east town of Gallow Shields. The story centred mostly around the exploits of ex Sergeant Jack ford played by James Bolam and the Seaton Family. The Seaton family were a poor mining family and consisted of the father Bill Seaton (James Garbutt), the mother Bella Seaton (Jean Heywood) and their three children Jessie Seaton (Susan Jameson), Tom Seaton (John Nightingale) and Billy Seaton (Edward Wilson).

The backdrop to the program was the aftermath of the first world war and the period before the second world war. The north east of England at that time was poverty stricken and many of the soldiers were returning home either shell shocked (PTSD) injured and maimed. Gallow Shields was a place of severe deprivation and the dark and dangerous coal mines were the normal destination for the local schoolboys. There was also the local port but employment was sparse and many of the people were suffering from hunger and the diseases of poverty such as tuberculosis were rife.

The very first episode of Season 1 aired on BBC1, Thursday 8th January 1976 at 8.10pm, before the BBC1 news at 9pm. The show was shown weekly until the season finale on 1st April 1976. There were thirteen episodes, each lasting fifty minutes each.

Episode 1 aired 8th January 1976: A Land Fit for Heroes and Idiots

Episode 2 aired 15th January 1976: Say Hello…Say Tirra

Episode 3 aired 22nd January 1976: Fish in Woolly Jumpers

Episode 4 aired 29th January 1976: Swords and Pick Handles

Episode 5 aired 5th February 1976: Coal Comfort

Episode 6 aired 12th February 1976: Empire Day on the Slag Heap

Episode 7 aired 19th February 1976: A First Time for Everything

Episode 8 aired 26th February 1976: Paddy Boyle’s Discharge

Episode 9 aired 4th March 1976: Angel on Horseback

Episode 10 aired 11th March 1976: King for a Day

Episode 11 aired 18th March 1976: Happy New Year, Some Say

Episode 12 aired 25th March 1976: Heads You Win, Tails I Lose

Episode 13 aired 1st April 1976: Kind Hearted Rat with a Lifebelt

Due to the popularity of the 1st season, the 2nd season moved to a prime time television slot on Friday nights at 8.10pm. The 1st episode of the new season aired on BBC1, Friday 29 October 1976. The show was shown weekly until the season finale on 4th February 1977. There were thirteen episodes, each lasting fifty minutes each.

Episode 1 aired 29th October 1976: Ask for Twopence, Take a Penny

Episode 2 aired 5th November 1976: Tram Ride to the Bluebell

Episode 3 aired 12th November 1976: A Pillowful of Buttercups

Episode 4 aired 19th November 1976: Roubles for the Promised Land

Episode 5 aired 26th November 1976: Some Bulbs to Keep the Garden Bright

Episode 6 aired 3rd December 1976: God & Love & Wellesley Stree

Episode 7 aired 10th December 1976: Whatever Made You Think the War Was Over?

Episode 8 aired 17th December 1976: Ladies, Women, Sweethearts & Wives

Episode 9 aired 7th January 1977: After the Bonfire

Episode 10 aired 14th January 1977: A Wreath with Our Names On

Episode 11 aired 21st January 1977: The Way It Was in Murmansk

Episode 12 aired 28th January 1977: In the Front Line You Get Shot At

Episode 13 aired 4th February 1977: The Simple Pleasures of the Rich

Season 3 returned to Thursday evenings and the first episode appeared 8th September 1977 at 8.10pm, before the BBC1 news at 9pm. The show was shown weekly until the season finale on 15th December 1977. There were fifteen episodes, two more episodes than previous seasons, each lasting fifty minutes each.

Episode 1 aired 8th September 1977: A House Divided

Episode 2 aired 15th September 1977: A Tiger, a Lamb & a Basket… of Fruit

Episode 3 aired 22nd September 1977: My Bonnie Lass, Goodbye

Episode 4 aired 29th September 1977: A Ticket to Care for the Wounded

Episode 5 aired 6th October 1977: Travel Light, Travel Far

Episode 6 aired 13th October 1977: Requiem for a Loser

Episode 7 aired 20th October 1977: Debts Owed, Debts Paid

Episode 8 aired 27th October 1977: The Empire Builders

Episode 9 aired 3rd November 1977: Look Up & See the Sky

Episode 10 aired 10th November 1977: Letters from Afar

Episode 11 aired 17th November 1977: The Father of Lies

Episode 12 aired 24th November 1977: Diamond Cut Diamond

Episode 13 aired 1st December 1977: A Marriage & a Massacre

Episode 14 aired 8th December 1977: High Life & Hunger

Episode 15 aired 15th December 1977: Please Say Goodbye Before You Go

After a hiatus of just over 3 years, the show returned for its last season. The first episode of Season 4 aired on BBC1, Tuesday 17th February 1981 at 8.10pm, before the news at 9pm. The show was shown weekly until the season’s and show’s finale on 21st April 1981. There were ten episodes, each lasting fifty minutes each.

Episode 1 aired 17th February 1981: Back to Dear Old Blighty

Episode 2 aired 24th February 1981: A Gift from Heaven

Episode 3 aired 3rd March 1981: A Medal for the Argentine

Episode 4 aired 10th March 1981: Flies & Spiders

Episode 5 aired 17th March 1981: Oh, My Charming Billy Boy

Episode 6 aired 24th March 1981: Friends, Romans, Countrymen

Episode 7 aired 31st March 1981: The Bright Young Things

Episode 8 aired 7th April 1981: Action!

Episode 9 aired 14th April 1981: Comrades in Arms

Episode 10 aired 21st April 1981: Roll of Honour

James Mitchell

The writer was James Mitchell who wrote over seventy books and was also famous for being the writer of ‘Callan’ which starred Edward Woodward. ‘When the Boat Come In’ speaks to the author’s past as Mitchell himself was the son of a shipyard worker in the north east of England in a town called South Shields. The books and television series are set in the mythical town of Gallow Shields also in the North of England and its not difficult to come to the conclusion that he was writing about the people and places of his childhood.

Callan The Colour Years DVD 1970Mitchell was born 12th March 1926 which is about a decade later than the television series was set. After studying at South Shields grammar school he went onto to received both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from St Edmund Hall, Oxford. He also gained a DipEd from King’s College, Newcastle. A DipEd is a Diploma of Education, a postgraduate qualification which allows the recipient to teach. He then proceeded to teach for the next fifteen years in a number of schools and colleges including secondary moderns and art colleges.

His contribution to television as a writer was quite prolific. He devised, adapted and or created screenplays for numerous shows and films including: Kraft Mystery Theater (Television Series) 1959, ITV Play of the Week (Television Series) 1961, Z Cars (Television Series) 1962, The Avengers (Television Series) 1961 – 1963, Armchair Mystery Theatre (Television Series) 1960 – 1964, Crane (Television Series) 1965, This Man Craig (Television Series) 1966, Armchair Theatre (Television Series) 1961 – 1967, Mogul (Television Series) 1965 – 1967, Frontier (Television Series) 1968, The Last Grenade (adaptation) 1970, Justice (Television Series) 1971-1972 , Callan (Film) 1974, Innocent Bystanders (Film) 1972, Goodbye Darling (Television Series) 1981, When the Boat Comes In (Television Series) 1976 – 1981, Wet Job (Television Movie) 1981, Spyship (Television Mini-Series) 1983, Anzacs (Television Mini-Series) 1985 and Confessional (Television Series) 1989.

Mitchell married in 1968 to his wife Delia with whom he had two sons. Towards the end of his life, he returned to his beloved north east and lived in Jesmond, Newcastle. Delia passed away in 1990 and he died himself twelve years later in 2002, in the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle from cancer. Mitchell left a legacy that will live on.

The Song
The theme tune for ‘When The Boat Comes In’ was derived from an old folk song ‘Dance Ti Thy Daddy’ from the north of England. The origins of the song are a little unclear as Joseph Robson’s published ‘Songs of the bards of the Tyne’ in 1849 but stated that the song’s lyrics were written by another song writer, William Watson in 1826.
The song for the television show was from the composer David Fanshawe. More recently the song returned to our television screens in an advert for Young’s fish.

‘Dance Ti Thy Daddy’
Dance to your Daddy, my little laddie
Dance to your Daddy, my little man
Thou shalt have a fish and thou shalt have a fin
Thou shalt have a codlin when the boat comes in
Thou shalt have haddock baked in a pan
Dance to your Daddy, my little man

Dance to your Daddy, my little laddie
Dance to your Daddy, my little man
When thou art a young boy, you must sing and play
Go along the shore and cast your shells away
Build yourself a castle, watch the tide roll in
Dance to your Daddy, my little man.

Dance to your Daddy, my little laddie
Dance to your Daddy, my little man
When thou art a young man, go unto the trades
Find yourself a skill, and wages you’ll be paid
Then with all your wages, buy yourself some land
Dance to your Daddy, my little man

Dance to your Daddy, my little laddie
Dance to your Daddy, my little man
When thou art a man and go to take a wife
Find yourself a lass and love her all your life
She shall be your wife and thou shalt be her man
Dance to your Daddy, my little man

Dance to your Daddy, my little laddie
Dance to your Daddy, my little man
When thou art an old man, father to a son
Sing to him the old songs, sing of all you’ve done
Pass along the old ways, then let his song begin
Dance to your Daddy, my little man

‘When The Boat Comes In’
(with slightly different lyrics)
Theme Tune Sung by Alex Glasgow

Dance to your Daddy my little laddie
Dance to your Daddy my little man
Dance to your Daddy sing to your mommy
Dance to your Daddy my little man

You shall have a fishy on a little dishy
You shall have a fishy when the boat comes in
You shall have a herring on a little dishy
You shall have a herring when the boat comes in

Come here me little Jacky
Now aw’ve smoked mi backy
Have a bit o’ cracky
Till the boat comes in

Dance to your Daddy sing to your mammy
Dance to your Daddy my little man
You shall have a fishy on a little dishy
You shall have a fishy when the boat comes in
You shall have a mackerel on a little dishy
You shall have a mackerel when the boat comes in

Dance to your Daddy my little laddie
Dance to your Daddy my little man
Dance to your Daddy sing to your mommy
Dance to your Daddy my little man

You shall have a fishy on a little dishy
You shall have a fishy when the boat comes in
You shall have a herring on a little dishy
You shall have a herring when the boat comes in

By Darren

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