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Series / When the Boat Comes In

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"Thou shall hev a fishy on a little dishy
Thou shall hev a fishy when the boat comes in."
Extract from the Theme Tune, based on a Northumberland folk song

British drama series, showing on The BBC running from 1976 to 1981 (three seasons from 1976-77 and a fourth in 1981), starring James Bolam as Jack Ford, a First World War veteran who returns to his Tyneside town of Gallowshields.

He falls for Jessie Seaton, a local teacher, but just as they're about to marry, he ends up getting another woman pregnant and has to marry her. They both end up in increasingly loveless marriages.


In the meantime, Jack starts to work his way up in the world of 1920s England. From unemployed fitter, he gets elected local secretary of the fitters trade union. Associating with a rich industrialist, he starts getting into property of his own.

Features a lot of contemporary politics, particularly of the trade union variety.

This show contains examples of:

  • The Chessmaster: Jack himself, who does prison time for theft to get himself elected as head of the local branch of the Amalgamated Union of Fitters, a £400 a year position. He gets industrialist Sir Horatio Manners to give his fitters an increase in one pence on the hourly rate by pointing out that if he goes for not doing it, his successor will strike. When Sir Horatio calls in the favour by asking him to use his union role to slow down a rival machining company, Ford identifies that the company is using unsafe machines- and so is Sir Horatio. So they're both shut down.
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  • No OSHA Compliance: One episode sees someone who is catching red hot rivets in a bucket as they're thrown down to him. It does not end well- he gets hit in the chest by one and dies as a result.
  • Oop North: The fictional town of Gallowshields.
  • Real-Life Relative: Jessie Seaton, who Jack briefly has a relationship with is played by Susan Jameson, who was and still is married to James Bolam.
  • Spanish Civil War: Jack Ford is ultimately killed gun-running for the Republic in the last two episodes.
  • The Roaring '20s: Well they're not that roaring in Tyneside.
  • The Troubles: Two of Jack's old war buddies arrive in Gallowshields. One is a member of the IRA. The other is part of the infamous "Black and Tans". Both end up being killed in a shootout at Gallowshields station.
  • Title Drop: In a subtle way. The episode title is usually worked into dialogue or obviously referenced at some point. When the end credits begin, the episode title appears again, allowing you to go "Ah! So that's what it means!"
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  • A Touch of Class, Ethnicity and Religion: Class differences run very thick through the entire series.

Example of: