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"When the Boat Comes In" is a British television period-drama produced by the BBC between 1976 and 1981.The series stars James Bolam as Jack Ford, a First World War veteran who returns to his poverty-stricken (fictional) town of Gallowshield in the North East of England. The series dramatises the political struggles of the 1920s and 1930s and explores the impact of national and international politics upon Ford and the people around him.The memorable traditional tune "When The Boat Comes In" was adapted by David Fanshawe and sung by Alex Glasgow for the title theme of the series. Fanshawe also composed the incidental music.The BBC revived the series in 1981, with the fourth series telling the story of Jack Ford as he returns to Britain penniless, after six years spent bootlegging in the United States, and follows him as he sets up in London.

Genres: Drama
Station: BBC One (UK)
Rating: 0/10 from 0 users
Status: Ended
Start: 1976-01-08

When the Boat Comes In Season 1 Air Dates


S01E01 - A Land Fit for Heroes and Idiots Air Date: 08 January 1976 00:00 -

In 1919 Sergeant Jack Ford returns to Gallowshield on discharge leave from the army. He meets Jessie Seaton, a schoolteacher, her brother Tom and his fiancée Mary. Later, Jack meets Jessie's brother, Billy a medical student and her parents – Bill, a miner, and Bella. Will Scrimgour, a shell-shocked ex-soldier, beats a child who was tormenting him. He is arrested and committed for trial despite Jack's evidence about his condition. The magistrate, Major Pinner, who is standing for election as a Liberal, is bitter that he never won a medal. Pinner wins the election, but Jack humiliates him by arranging for local veterans to throw their own medals at him.


S01E02 - Say Hello... ...Say Tirra Air Date: 15 January 1976 00:00 -

Bella takes in Harry, a young boy whose mother has died. Harry steals 10 shillings from a fruit seller. Father Keenley, a local priest, arranges for the boy to be sent on an emigration scheme to Australia; Bella reluctantly agrees.


S01E03 - Fish in Woolly Jumpers Air Date: 22 January 1976 00:00 -

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Times are hard as the miners strike. Jack, who is now engaged to Jessie, still has money. Tom is desperate for money because Mary is suffering from tuberculosis. He borrows from Jack. Jack sleeps with Dolly, the widowed sister of his war comrade, Matt Headley. Tom threatens to expose him unless he can join Jack's sheep-rustling gang. Jack agrees. Tom is almost caught, but Jack knocks out the policeman. Against Jack's expectations, Jessie condones his activities.


S01E04 - Swords and Pick Handles Air Date: 29 January 1976 00:00 -

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Jack visits Sir Horatio Manners, father of his late commanding officer and gives him a present of a sword. Manners offers him a job. Tom is scabbing to get money for Mary. Jack saves him from a beating. Tom then turns to theft.


S01E05 - Coal Comfort Air Date: 05 February 1976 00:00 -

As the strike continues, Bill works out that an abandoned coal seam runs under his house and digs for coal in the front room. Tom pursues two children who have stolen leeks from his allotment, but takes pity on them when he discovers that their mother is a war widow with no pension.


S01E06 - Empire Day on the Slag Heap Air Date: 12 February 1976 00:00 -

The strike ends with no concessions won by the miners. Jessie's headmaster, Arthur Ashton, proposes to her. Matt tells Jack that Dolly is pregnant and he agrees to marry her. Bill is crippled in an accident at the pit. Jack prevents the mine owner from defrauding him of proper compensation. Jack tells Jessie that he has to marry Dolly. After he leaves, she breaks down in tears.


S01E07 - A First Time for Everything Air Date: 19 February 1976 00:00 -

Bella turns the front of the house into a shop using Bill's compensation. Bill, confined to a wheelchair, is initially hostile to the plan. Jessie is impressed by the talent and intelligence of fourteen-year-old pupil, Ronnie Fairburn, and tries to dissuade him from working in the mines. But his widowed mother needs the money and Ronnie wants to become a man. Ronnie is killed on his first day in the pit. Jessie gets engaged to Arthur and Jack marries Dolly at the Registry Office.


S01E08 - Paddy Boyle's Discharge Air Date: 26 February 1976 00:00 -

Mary has died. Jack meets an old comrade, Sid Hepburn, who is still in the army. Hepburn is with the Black and Tans in Ireland on very good pay. Hepburn and his colleague, Harry Bartram take Jack to see Captain Leslie who tries to recruit him. Paddy Boyle, an Irish member of Jack's sheep-stealing gang, is a member of Sinn Féin. Hepburn and Bartram are shot by Paddy and his Sinn Féin boss, Michael Lynch. Despite a warning cry from Jack, Paddy and Lynch are shot by Captain Leslie.


S01E09 - Angel on Horseback Air Date: 03 March 1976 00:00 -

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Tom falls for a nurse, Rosie Trotter. Just before he dies, Mick Murphy, Bella's uncle, places a bet in Bella's name with his nephew, Ralph, a bookie's runner. Mick's funeral is well-attended, but the winning bet was never placed because Ralph was arrested.


S01E10 - King for a Day Air Date: 11 March 1976 00:00 -

Jack agreed to help Manners buy a house from Lord Calderbeck by acting as front man. At Calderbeck's house, he meets his nephew Freddy who wants to marry Jane Cromer, a wealthy young widow. Jane sleeps with Jack, but eventually decides to marry Freddy. Billy, who is working on a nearby farm, helps Jack obtain inside information, and Jack negotiates a good deal with Freddy and a large commission from Manners. He learns that Dolly has had a miscarriage.


S01E11 - Happy New Year, Some Say Air Date: 18 March 1976 00:00 -

Jack is looking after Glaswegian socialist lecturer, Sandy Lewis, who is speaking at the Co-Op Hall. There is also a Tory meeting at the George Hotel, and Tom avoids capture having stolen from the cloakroom. Billy takes Bill to a New Year's party at Jessie's against his will. Jack turns up with Sandy who needs somewhere to stay the night. Bill is summonsed for keeping the shop open too late. He suspects a rival shopkeeper of reporting him, and Sandy throws a brick through his window.


S01E12 - Heads You Win, Tails I Lose Air Date: 24 March 1976 23:00 -

Tom is threatened by two local ruffians from whom he has won money. Jessie tries to persuade widow, Lizzie Armstrong, to let her son, Robert, take up a grammar school scholarship, but Lizzie needs him to leave school to earn money. Matt proposes to Lizzie who refuses him. Jack helps Tom take on the ruffians, who are then humiliated by a 'tin-panning' by local women arranged by Lizzie.


S01E13 - Kind Hearted Rat with a Lifebelt Air Date: 31 March 1976 23:00 -

Les Mallow, the local branch chairman, asks Jack to help him become district secretary of the fitters union. Jack refuses. He then persuades the branch to vote against a strike and to provide financial help to Mrs Downey, the widow of union member. Tom is awaiting trial for theft. Widow Downey - who informed on Tom - is evicted. Jack helps her recover her furniture by breaking into her flat. He then lets himself be arrested. Both he and Tom are sent to Durham jail. A month later, Jack is released to a hero's welcome. As planned, he is now favourite to beat Mallow in the election for district secretary, a post with a salary of £400 a year.

When the Boat Comes In Actors

John Nightingale(Tom Seaton)

James Bolam(Jack Ford)

Susan Jameson(Jessie Ashton née Seaton)

Malcolm Terris(Matt Headley)

Jean Heywood(Bella Seaton)

James Garbutt(Bill Seaton)

Edward Wilson(Billy Seaton)

Madelaine Newton(Dolly)



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