Plenty in the news just now about the new children’s programme ‘Katy Morag’, recently filmed on the Isle of Lewis. But it’s not the first popular and iconic children’s show to have been produced on the island. Readers of a certain vintage will no doubt fondly remember the children’s programme Camberwick Green, and its spin offs Trumpton and Chigley.
Created in the mid 1960′s by Gordon Murray and narrated by Brian Cant, the programme entertained generations of children with its catchy songs, clever animation and hard hitting story lines about crime, drugs and teenage pregnancy (oh, hang on, that was Grange Hill).
However, many people will be unaware that the series was originally shown on BBC Alba in the 1960′s. It was only after the success of the show in the Gaidhealtachd that the BBC commissioned it for wider broadcast. The original BBC Alba show portrayed everyday life in the village of Sanderwick Green, through the medium of puppets filmed in stop-motion. Sanderwick Green was losely based on the gentile rustic charms of Sandwick, a village near Stornoway.
The BBC Alba show was narrated by Brian Fank, who replaced Brian Ceard, who had replaced Brian Wont. Brain Fank also sang all of the songs.
Each programme would start with a shot of an upturned fishbox on the Stornoway pier. As the music played, the featured character of that particular episode would rise up, spinning out of the fishbox to a voice-over of;
‘Here is a fishbox, a musical fishbox, wound up and ready to play. But this box can hide a bleigard inside. Can you guess who’s in it today?’
The characters of Sandwick Green included;
Windy Miller- an eco-warrior who lived in a windturbine
Dr Mawp -the village Doctor who drove about in a vintage tractor
Roger Barley- the chimney sweep/butcher
Mrs Bun-yman- the FP village gossip
Mr Carloway -the paranoid Fishmonger who sold his wares from inside an ancient stone fortress
Willie Johnathan Bell-owner of a ‘modren mechanical farm’ just outside the town, who had a barn full of shiny IDP machinery but drove around on a rusty old traction engine. PC MacGarry-Beach- the village Bobby constantly on the search for sheep rustlers and underage drinkers.
Each character had their own wee song, such as PC McGarrybeach’s
‘Here comes the policeman, the big friendly policeman
Pc MacGarry-Beach number 452
Under-agers, druggie-takers, if you don’t know what to do Just call the policeman, the big friendly policeman
Pc MacGarry-Beach no 452′
Sanderwick Green is probably best known for the Army Cadets at Bobban Fort, under the command of Captain Snortofwhisky. Ably assisted by Sergeant Major Crowdie, the Cadets could be expected to roll into action in every episode to help out with a problem.
As they assembled in their army truck, they would be accompanied by the ‘Driving Along….’ song, which could be adapted for almost any vehicle required to meet the needs of that episodes storyline.
Hence you had;
‘Driving Along in an army truck, in a humpity, bumpity army truck’ for the soldiers,
and for the episode about the Free Church Sunday School picnic descending into anarchy when the rival FP Church Sunday school were spotted arriving on a Mitchell’s bus at the other end of Coll Beach ‘Driving Along in a Mitchell’s Bus, in a humpity, bumpity Mitchell’s Bus’
or indeed, the famous episode where Dr Mawp had to find the serum to stop the Zombie plague by borrowing the only working vehicle; ‘Driving Along in Al Craes hearse, in a humpity, bumpity Al Craes hearse’ only to be cruelly killed by a zombie who’d been hiding in the coffin behind him.
Close to Sanderwick Green was the town of Donaldtrumpton. But this is for another day.