During the run of the ever popular Dad's Army, Arthur Lowe and Ian Lavender could be found at Parley Sidings as well, a back water railway station on the London to Birmingham line. Lowe played the station master (Grade 3), Mr Horace Hepplewhite, with Lavender his son, Bertrand. Also on the station was Kenneth Connor as the porter, Percy Valentine, the signalman, Mr Bradshaw, and Clara the hen, Liz Fraser as Gloria Simpkins, the secretary, and guests included Bill Pertwee, as Mr Trimwick and Roger Delgado (who played The Master in Doctor Who!)
The BBC only originally had two episodes out of the twenty-one originally made in the archive, but thanks to the efforts of the public with the BBC Treasure Hunt scheme, this number was greatly increased. All the surviving episodes have now been broadcast on BBC7. What follows are the details for the two held in broadcast quality by the BBC so that they can be easily identified. If anyone finds any other shows, can they please contact me as we are always on the look out for better quality copies or those that are not known to exist:
:: Goodbye, Parsley Sidings
This episode sees Lowe as the station master sitting his exams as an example to his son. With the retirement of the tea lady, the duties of the station staff are increased, and as a result they all get together and decide to take action. In the meantime, Horace Hepplewhite has been offered promotion in the form of Assistant Station Master at Birmingham, and with the emergence of the trade unionism in the ranks, he decided to take the job.
On the departure of Lowe, the Station Master's job has been taken over by a Mr Trimwick, played by Bill Pertwee, who wants things done differently. First of all he doesn't like slacking, and he also wants sack Bradshaw. The staff decide the only answer is to get Mr Hepplewhite back from Birmingham and replace Trimwick, but when Bertrand goes to see his Dad, they both give off the opposite impression to how things really are, but things do come out great in the end, with Trimwick and Horace Hepplewhite switching jobs, for the sake for the sake of the railway.
An automatic tea machine was also procured whilst Hepplewhite was in Birmingham, so the buffet rota is thrown out of the window and all is the same in Parsley Sidings again.
This episode was first broadcast on Radio 2 on the 6th February 1972 (and recorded on the 9th of January), written by Jim Eldridge and produced by Edward Taylor.
:: The Entente Cordial
The other episode in the BBC archives sees the a weeks exchange visit to a French station, and by the casting vote, Horace Hepplewhite decides he is to go, and takes Gloria as his secretary. Roger Delgado plays the French Station Master, Mr DuPont, and after visiting the station, they meet up with the Head of French Railways (played by Connor). In the meantime, back at Parsley Sidings, Valentine has redirected Hepplewhites assistant and is selling anything that is not nailed down, and renting out an engine shed as a holiday home to make some money.
When Hepplewhite and Simpkins return, everything is set into motion to welcome the arriving French Station Master, with continental food avialable in the buffet and the ballast painted a delicate red, white and blue, but Du Pont is more interested in the glorious Gloria Simpkins and wants to take her back to France with him. On seeing Bradshaw, it would seem that Bradshaw is indeed DuPont's father after a liaison during the First World War!
In order to keep Gloria in the country, it is up to Bert to woo her and give her a reason to stay, however, Gloria finds out that DuPont is married with 9 children, and only wanted her as a tannoy announcer! Before Hepplewhite can tell DuPont what he is, he is told that Parsley Sidings has received great praise from the head of French Rail, so all is overlooked and DuPont is seen onto his train.
This episode was first broadcast on Radio 2 on the 13th October 1973 (and recorded on the 15th of November the previous year), written by Jim Eldridge and produced by Edward Taylor.
:: EPISODE GUIDE
SERIES 1 | 2
A pilot show was broadcast on the 28.2.71 with two series following this over the next couple of years. In all, 21 episodes were made, all went out on Radio 2, and were scripted by Jim Eldridge and produced by Edward Taylor. With the standard practice of keeping a show as a representative of the series, only two have survived in the BBC archives.
Hepplewhite fears that his little station will be closed by British Rail, but when he learns that the Royal Train is to pass through Parsley Sidings, this is the last thing on his mind. Meanwhile, his son Bertrum is trying to pluck up the courage to tell him that he doesn't want to continue working at the station. Trying to earn an 'honest buck' is the Cockney spiv Percy Valentine, and his load of army flares do look like fireworks! All the station employees have been introduced when Gloria and old Bradshaw meet for the first time.
Written by Jim Eldridge, and produced by Edward Taylor, this series of ten half hour episodes was broadcast at 2.30pm on Radio 2, repeated the following Friday evening at 8.00pm.
|Episode Name||TX Date||Notes|
|The Market Special||5.12.71|
|The Postal Express||12.12.71|
|The Beauty Queen Contest||19.12.71|
|The Inspector Calls||31.12.71|
|The 1890 Rocket||2.1.71|
|Cricket, Lovely Cricket||16.1.71|
|Who'll Be Mother?||23.1.71|
|Goodbye, Parsley Sidings||6.2.71||See Above|
The second series was also written by Jim Eldridge, and produced by Edward Taylor, and consisted of a further ten half hour episodes. Broadcast at 1.00pm on Radio 2, they were all repeated the following Friday at 7.00pm.
|Episode Name||TX Date||Notes|
|Pass The Parcel||29.9.73||Bert is put in charge of the left luggage office to keep him out of trouble, but when three packages in plain brown paper wrapping are left for him to attend, the inevitable happens. He gets the packages confused and gives each owner the wrong ones, The package containing Gloria's mothers 'smalls' from the laundry are given to the Brigadier who thinks it's the Reverend Spoon's presentation clock - the parcel containing the clock which the Brigardier should have had is thought to be a bomb, and doused in water - and the package containing a stolen vase is hotly persued by the crook who stole it.|
|The Flower Show||6.10.73|
|The Entente Cordial||13.10.73||See Above|
|A Night Out||20.10.73||Bert has a part in the local drama group's play. He is so keyed up about his first role he mis-announces the last train and a female passenger becomes stranded at Parsley Sidings for the night. Horace decides she can sleep at their home, while he and Bert will have to sleep in the station waiting room so people won't talk. A series of events lead to policeman Inspector McDougal, who is tasked with stamping out a ppate of crime on the line, suspecting rum goings on in the station at night.|
|The Goods Train||27.10.73|
|A Bird In The Hand||3.11.73||Whilst spring cleaning and painting the station, the team from Parsley Sidings discover a rare blue-headed seagull, a species not seen in Britain since 1937, is nesting on their stretch of railway line, right in the way of the trains. When Euston himself tells them to shift the bird and allow the trains through, Hepplewhite leads his team in a rebellion and they decide to blockade the trains, forcing them round the sidings off the main tracks, so the bird can nest in peace. The 'Parsley Echo', the local newspaper, sensationalises the story, and the national press gets hold of the tale about their stand against authority, and soon the staion is a birdwatcher's tourist attraction. But it is soon discovered the blue headed gull is not all it seems, thanks to Bert's stupidity!|
|The Purity League||10.11.73|
|The New Level Crossing||17.11.73|
|The Film Makers||24.11.73|
|The Secret Agent||1.12.73||Prince Abdul of Khazi, in India, is a very important man. He is also on a hit list for terrorists. When is train is due to be passing through Parsley Sidings in a few days, Station Master Hepplewhite is summoned to London to meet a man from MI5. The MI5 agent briefs Hepplewhite on the terrorist threat to the train and deputises Horace as an agency spy. He is charged with preventing anything from happening to the train whilst on his stretch of the line. When Horace returns to the station, he makes secret reconnaisance sorties to see where the station's weaknesses might lie. Whilst carrying out all this cloak and dagger stuff, the other staff believe Horace may have flipped his lid, and they think he himself is planning to attack the train. With this in mind, they spy on him.|
I would like to thank Dave Homewood for additional information about the shows that exist.