Waggoners Walk was set in a town, very different to Radio 4's The Archers. This was aimed at a younger audience and centered around a Hampstead house that was owned by an aging couple, the Vanghans, and their live-in nephew Rusty who parents had died.
There were three women sharing a flat, Lynne and Tracy who were sisters and Barbara.
There was a second flat which was owned by the Hickeys, Stan ran a shop.
Waggoners's Walk was not an immediate success, so it was given a face lift. Off went the old Vaughans (though Rusty stayed on) and in came in Mike and Claire Nash plus their teenage son. Mike was in PR, but later took over local paper, Hampstead Herald.
Of course, the girls stayed on, and their love life provided a lot of the storylines over the years. Lynn's first husband was Peter Tyson, Tracy married someone rich, and Barbara married the (ex) gay antique shop owner, Colin.
Stan Hickey died, and Gordon Turner took over the shop and then eventually Mrs Hickey. There was a Canadian involved in this somewhere, with a strange alcoholic mother called Bridie Petters, who was one of the characters in the Walk.
For the last month of the series, when the end was in site, the writers abandoned all realism, with aliens appearing on the Heath, and a now widowed Gordon ending up with one of the girls sharing the flat.
The series went for hard storylines such as abortion, child custody, murder, student protest, sexual equality, contraception and hypothermia.
During the early seventies more than 4 million people tuned in (beating rivial Radio 4 soap). However, as part of the BBC's money saving plan, the series was axed in 1980.
The series was far more representative of the 1970s than 'The Archers' which was still stuck in the 1950s, but after Waggoners Walk ended (it was produced in it's later days by Anton Gill, incidentally), radio 2 never produced another serial (Waggoners replaced the long-runnning Mrs Dales Diary/.The Dales (from 1963)
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Trashfiction - Waggoners' Walk
I was delighted to find this site--I, too, loved the show and deeply regretted its demise. The site, however, doesn't seem to have changed, since I last visited---is anyone updating it? Happy to add my 'Waggoners' memories if anyone is.
Sue Gedge - 25/06/06
I've just remembered that Arthur Tyson was played by Lockwood West. father of Timothy West I believe, for most of Waggoners' run. His role was recast as the series drew to a close.
Crossroads co-creator and storyliner Peter Ling was one of the show's writers.
Does anybody else remember Lynn's dippy sister, Tracey, who married an American, Chris Whyatt?
I've read that the pilot was called "The Rope Walk", a single play. It was, apparently, quite daring. Not surprising - Waggoners' was the most enlightened soap of the 1969-1980 era - on radio or TV.
I heard a couple of episodes on BBC digital radio a couple of years back, but it seems that most of them have been wiped! It really is a great shame.
Andrew Brett - 06/01/05
I vividly recall a popular radio actress called Penelope Lee & actor David Troughton (Patrick Troughton's son) falling daringly in love but I cant remember why, was she a lot older than him? Also in the series was Ann Morrish & I believe that Penelope Lee went on to marry a man called Morrish. Was there any connection ?>br> Jill Butler - 04/11/04
I loved Waggoners' Walk!
What people don't remember is that it was still the most popular programme of BBC Radio's drama output when it ended - that fact was well documented at the time. The BBC had been ordered to make cutbacks, the less popular Archers were an English institution, and it seemed the disgruntled Beeb wanted to punish its listeners for their reduced finances. Capital Radio wanted Waggoners' Walk, but Auntie said 'No!'
I remember when Henry Dixon, Lynn Prior's father, had terminal cancer. Having lost my own Dad to this dreadful desease, I felt moved by the sensitivity of Waggoners' portrayal.
There was fun, too - I remember Esther Rantzen guesting in an episode around the time of the Silver Jubilee.
The last episode was actually first broadcast on the 1st of June 1980, and we never had the repeat the following morning. It was the start of the week, a funny time to end. The following weekend, the Radio Two weekly review show stated: 'Nothing very earth shattering ever happened in Waggoners' Walk - no nasty JR type characters getting their timely come-uppances.' But the show swam controversial waters, and was never preachy or patronising.
This section is a great read. It's smashing that an archive of Waggoners' memories now exists.
Richard Noble - 26/01/04
Here are some memories of the Waggoners' Walk characters.
1) Mike and Claire Nash (Edward Cast and Ellen McIntosh) bought number 1, Waggoners' Walk in December 1969. They had a son, Tony, who ran a record company, and a baby girl, Sue. Their niece, Joanna, lived with them. Mike was a freelance journalist who joined the Hampstead Herald in 1972 - becoming editor in 1974. The Nashes endured many dramas including saving Mrs Tandy (Grizelda Hervey) from hypothermia and helping son Tony through his short marriage to loopy hippy Sonia. In 1979, cracks appeared in their marriage with Mike overworking and Claire sailing close to adultery with businessman Bill Ashton (Christian Rodska of Follyfoot fame). In 1980, the Nashes moved to Bath, where Mike edited a crafts magazine.
2) Lynn and Matt Prior (Judy Franklin and Michael Spice): Lynn Dixon shared the top flat at number 1 with sister Tracey and Barbara Watling. She married Peter Tyson, personnel officer at Abercrombie's, a West End store, in 1969. Their son, Jeremy, was born in 1972. Lynn was a natural businesswoman. She ran a home help agency, and fell in love with brash northerner Matt Prior. They married in 1975, and she gave Peter custody of Jeremy. Lynn's crystal clear English accent was balanced by Matt's down to earth Lancashire cries of 'bloody wars, Lynn!' - his catchphrase whenever he disagreed with her! Matt was wheelchair bound after a private plane crash, and employed a young scatterbrained Greek man, Alexis, to assist him. In 1980, Jeremy returned to Lynn.
.3) Alice and Gordon Turner (Hazel Coppen and Will Leighton): Number 1's basement flat occupants, Alice and Stan Hickey, helped Gordon Turner run the local newsagency. Stan died in 1972, and Alice married Gordon a year later, moving into the shop flat. Gordon's Canadian nephew, Jack Munroe (Malcolm Terris), ran the Waggoners pub with his fiery English wife, Kay (Jo Kendall also Peggy Skilbeck in Emmerdale Farm). Alice's daft daughter, Myrna Podmore and her family often visited. The Turners once met the stars of Steptoe And Son after Alice won a competition to create a slogan for a company called Nuts Unlimited: 'A Christmas without nuts is like a cake without icing'. Actress Hazel Coppen died in April 1975. She was sorely missed.
4) The Tysons: Peter Tyson (Basil Moss) married Liz Warner (Ann Morrish), Hampstead Herald woman's page editor, in 1975. They had three daughters (including twins). Peter left Abercrombie's after Gerry Tobin implicated him in fraudulent dealings in 1978. This was the year that Peter had a vasectomy when Liz encountered difficulties with the contraceptive pill. In 1980, Liz became Hampstead Herald editor - after a running battle with the wiley owner Milton Monk (Harry Towb). That year Peter bought shares in Mr Tulley's run down boatyard. Peter's father, Arthur, an upper class Albert Tatlock, moaned for England throughout the show's run. In 1980, Peter and Liz faced the horror of having him live with them, and were highly relieved when he moved into number 1, Waggoners' Walk.
5) Other notables...
1) Cliff and Shirley Edwards (Sion Probert and Carole Boyd - the Archers' Lynda Snell): Number 1's last basement flat occupants, downtrodden Shirley and fiery Welshman Cliff were unable to have a child together. Shirley was devastated when Cliff fathered a son, Sam, on a drunken one night stand in 1979.
2) Debbie Franks/Dickon Firth: Cockney Debbie and upper class Nigel Pargetter prototype Dickon were journalists at the Herald. Debbie was the mother of Cliff's baby, Sam, and lived in a squat. Loud and booze guzzling, Debbie had few friends. But Dickon liked her and their platonic relationship provided the series with some great final moments.
3) Rob Pengelly: Waggoners' Walk touched on the subject of homosexuality in the reactionary 1970s. But the character, Colin Bartley, had 'reformed' and married Barbara Watling. In 1980, the writers tried again with waiter Rob Pengelly announcing: 'Girls don't turn me on at all.' A month later, the show's axing was hot news. 4) George Underdown/Sophie Richmond: George married Shirley Edwards' mother, Kath Miller (Charlotte Mitchell - Amy in the Black Beauty series) in the late 70s. She ran the newsagency and died of a heart attack in 1979. In 1980, fifty-something George bought number 1, and proposed marriage to Sophie Richmond - a twenty-something waitress. Sophie had been brutally raped in 1979 and George promised her a marriage with no sexual demands. She couldn't give him an answer straight away. 'Of course, my dear, you have all the time in the world,' he said rather sadly. And the curtain fell.
Hope you find this useful.
Good luck with everything, Shona McDonald - 13/07/03
I read your article on Waggoners' Walk with great interest. It was a lovely programme, and I remember well the major storylines.
I do not believe that the programme lost touch with reality in 1980. The 'alien on Hampstead Heath' turned out to be an escaped pet monkey, and Gorden was not in the programme at the time you stated.
The oddest thing was character Jessie Brewer commenting to character George Underdown: 'BBC cutbacks! Have you heard about them taking off Waggoners' Walk?!' Mind blowing!
The show ended with mild mannered middle aged George Underdown proposing to twenty something Sophie Richmond - the victim of a rape in 1979. Sophie could not give him an answer right away, and George said sadly: 'Of course, my dear, you have all the time in the world!' The end!
Capital Radio wanted to take the show on, but for some reason this didn't happen. Terry James took the story on in his novel 'The Story Continues...' but the book ended before the saga had reached the end of 1980. And so there it stuck - in a world of Who Shot JR? The Rubik's Cube would not hit Britain until the end of the year. Handheld mobile phones were years away (the first in Britain were in 1985). Even the cordless phone would not arrive until 1983. And as for personal computers... Things were SO different!
Although I spotted a few errors in your article, thank you for writing it. It is lovely to see Waggoners' Walk mentioned. Best wishes,
Andrew Brett - 16/01/03
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