tom grattan’s war

Over the past weeks I’ve been preparing a biographical chapter for the Lund Humphries monograph, trawling old diaries and photograph albums to piece together an account of my life before I became a painter. In 1969 when I was seventeen, I appeared in the Yorkshire TV children’s series Tom Grattan’s War. Michael Howe was the eponymous young hero and I played Lord Marcus Beck. In life Michael and I were school friends, both having been pupils at Italia Conti. Peter acquired a boxed set of the series as a surprise for my Christmas stocking. I’d never watched myself when I was a young actor, so seeing this over forty years after the event was quite an experience. (One that left to my own devices I would have quite happily avoided!) The photograph was taken on location in the hills above Middleham. That’s me in the straw boater.

I’m finding all this exploration of my history a tad unnerving, being not at all keen on so much examination of  what once was. However, I offer the picture here on the Artlog in the spirit of it being a curiosity from my distant past, sure that it will bring a smile to the lips of some of you.

29 thoughts on “tom grattan’s war

  1. I am putting together a family history album for my grandchildren and I see that their grandfather is in your photo – the young man with the clapperboard. I remember staying in Middleham at the time and watching some of the filming. It would be lovely to be able to have a copy of that photo. Can you please let me know what is possible.
    Thank you
    Elizabeth Paul

    • Hello Elizabeth. All this was a very long time ago. When I found the photograph I loaded it onto my computer. I’ll have the original somewhere, but I have no idea where. I think your best bet is to use the image that you see in this post and make an inkjet copy.

      • Hello Clive thank you for responding so quickly. I will take your advice and print off the image. Yes it certainly was a long time ago. I am pleased to have found a photograph which captured a moment in that time
        Thank you again and my best wishes

  2. Hi, for anyone that would like to know, on each opening sequence of TGW, the soldiers that were marching up the hill to war, were TA soldiers from the Leeds Rifles. My Father was the Commanding Officer, and is to seen riding the horse at the front of the column. I was his Adjutant, and was riding the horse by his side. I was fourteen at the time.
    David G Jarratt.

  3. I worked for the Cole family who owned the 1st world war Albion truck used in the Terrible Townsend episodes. Does anyone know the filming locations of the railway goods yard and the stately home?

  4. It is now 2013, and here I am (Rødvig Stevns, Denmark) finding remarks written by participants in the series Tom Grattan’s War, filmed nearly 50 years ago (when I watched it first in Australia, probably on a black and white TV) and set in England nearly 100 years ago.

    I sure am glad the series was shot on 16mm film. Seeing it now (on a computer screen), the colour matches my expectation of what the colour should look like for England / Yorkshire in 1915. I am not sure the colour would be as seemingly authentic if it had been recorded on videotape.

    I hope to see all the episodes again some time. I had a chance to seem them all over the weekend and did watch the first two episodes, but missed the chance to see the other 23 episodes (hopefully I will get another chance one day).

    Looking back, the problem I have with it is that being a children’s series it (idealistically of me) should not have concerned the period of World War 1.

    Possibly this series made me the backward-looking person I think I am. (I now spend most of my time helping run a small museum.)

    Another TV series of that time, Maya, while not nearly as well made, and shot on location in India, had rather more effect on my development as a person and career. Maya was also a kind of exotic rural adventure for me, but without the military overtones of Tom Grattan’s War.


  6. Saw your episodes last week and was very impressed – you, like the rest of the cast, were great. I liked the way the kidnapped Marcus hits Julie with the line “I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced” as soon as he sees her.

    I never realised how good TGW was. It is a shame that we don’t have children’s drama of that quality these days.

    I have revisited a lot of old shows from my childhood and I think TGW has stood the test of time better than just about any of them. Although I love old shows like “The Avengers” and “The Saint” I can see they have dated a bit. Not so much with TGW.

    I think it stands up so well because of many things – good, solid stories with believable dialog, authentic locations, no fancy 1960’s camera work, and a expertly chosen cast.

    Great stories, great acting, and great film making never dates.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed re-visiting TGW, Simon, though I can barely look at the episodes I was in. I think I wasn’t a very good actor at that stage in my career. I got better as I matured!

      The series has many merits, and I think you’re right about the cast, which was pretty good. Michael Howe was a natural in front of the camera. And the locations were wonderful. I loved being in the Yorkshire countryside, and did a lot of exploring in my spare time.

  7. Re: Tom Grattan’s War. Can anyone help please, in identifying where in Yorkshire exteriors were likely to have been shot? Could any have been in the Grassington area?
    Many thanks,

  8. Hi Clive. You were in episodes after I left. Don’t be so self effacing old bean.
    I am sure you were great! Cheers David

  9. I wrote and Directed the first three episodes of TGW. The one about the tank that a German Spy tries to steal and Tom stops him. Would love to see them now after all this time. I discovered Micheal and Sally. Lovely kids they were and very talented. In fact the whole cast were just great. Its nice to see that the series was enjoyed and remembered. I would love to see those episodes I directed.

    Sadly I fell out with the producer Tony Essex and left the series.

    If anyone wants to ask me any questions about my episodes please do. I am living in happy retirement now in Thailand.

    • Hello David. Sorry to hear of your bad experience with Tony Essex. (I barely remember him, though I seem to recall he was present at my auditions.) It was a great series and you did a grand job of kick-starting it into life. You might be interested to know that all the episodes are now available on dvd, so you could check that out at Amazon.

      Regarding your comment about self-effacement, I don’t suffer from that as an artist. I just don’t think I was much of an actor back then!

    • Hi David. I noticed you wrote The Terrible Townsends episodes. Do you remember the Albion truck used in the robbery? I worked for the Cole family from Leeds who owned the vehicle. I prepared the truck for the filming but could not get the time off to accompany Douglas Cole on the shoot. Can you remember the location of the goods yard and the stately home.
      Hope you can help! Keith

  10. I’d never seen this series but am currently watching the box set and enjoying it enormously. It seems quite daring in both content and style for a children’s series from the 1960s. I haven’t got to your ep yet but I am definitely going to do a feature in my fanzine turned blog about the series and would like to use your quotes above if I can. Also if you have any further memories of it, I would love to include them. I’ll be looking into all aspects of the series which has not really been done before.

    • Hello John. I’m glad you’re enjoying T G’s W and I’m happy for you to use anything that I’ve written about it on the Artlog. I don’t think I’d have a lot more to contribute. It was all a very long time ago, but if anything comes to mind, I’ll contact you.

      Michael Howe is still acting and we keep in touch. You might leave a message on his Facebook page and if he wants to talk to you about the series, no doubt he could get back to you. Good luck.

      • Thanks, I might do that. I’ve seen all the episodes now, including yours. A shame you had to spend so long tied to a post- it must have been a bit dull! Still, the weather looks a bit better than some episodes.
        The one thing that struck me about the whole series was how well it was made, and at times, even now, quite exciting. Also the stories don’t try to put 60s attitudes into the characters, they are of thier time which works really well.

  11. Hello Clive. Mid-forties here and have tremendously fond memories of Tom Grattan’s War! I believe it was the first series that actually had me glued to the TV (yes, a black & white one at that). We got it in Toronto through the CBC. I’d love to purchase the series but doesn’t seem to be available here in Canada.

    All the best,

    Eric MacMullin.

    • Hello Eric. I never really understand the way these DVD ‘zones’ work. In a world where the Internet makes everything available at the touch of a switch, you’d think that production companies could hammer out international agreements.

      It’s a four-disc set. I’m only in a few episodes. I never saw the series when it was being broadcast, not even the ones I was in. (I once viewed some weekly rushes while on location, and that was enough to put me off doing so again!) So when we watched some episodes on Boxing Day, I was seeing them for the first time. It seems at this distance to be a little ‘stiff’ to me, but my partner Peter, who has a fairly good eye and ear, declared that he thought the series (and me in it) ‘excellent for its age.’! I hated my own performance, but thought Michael Howe very good.

      Hope that a boxed set becomes available for Canadian viewing before too long. Good luck with that Eric.

  12. I am with you–hate unearthing the past, which often gives me an awful, crawling sensation–and yet I enjoy these things from your past so much.

    And I highly approve of fellows wearing hats. My husband has a straw boater that he cracks out when he wears a seersucker suit. Looks positively Southern.

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