Trinity Tales

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This photograph of Alan Plater’s, Trinity Tales, (BBC2, 1975) includes, left to right: Bill Maynard, David Rose, Gaye Brown. It was taken on location at Wembley for the Rugby League Final. David, although the producer, obviously also wanted a Hitchcockian moment.

The following comment was left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

Steve Saunderson: ‘I did a couple of days as Focus Puller on this series. John Williams was the Cameraman and all I remember was that the “in vision” old mini-bus kept breaking down. I was lodging at the legendary “Mrs Meakings Theatrical Boarding House” at the time and so was Gaye Brown and one or two other cast members.’

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All Memories Great and Small – part 5 John Williams

John Williams, cameraman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excerpt from “All Memories Great & Small” by Oliver Crocker

Memories from John Williams (Film Cameraman):

‘For the lambing scenes, Wardrobe came up with the wonderful idea of mobile hand warmers, bags of something or other that stayed warm for long periods. Wardrobe never let the cast down, hence Peter Davison’s scarf wrapped around his head in the opening scenes. Christopher Barry was a good director who knew and understood the scripts, so he would work out the structure of what we had to get in the can and we had a relationship where he trusted me to get on with it. We couldn’t expect the animals to perform as directed, so I had to be aware of what specific shots were needed and just get them. Robert Hardy was very good, he had his work cut out working with these live wild animals, which could be difficult as they weren’t very predictable, so he didn’t have an easy time.’

60 cast and crew have shared their memories for this new book, which is available to preorder now from Miwk – http://bit.ly/2d7p5ts

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Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

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John Williams has also published his own memoirs, Shoot First, No Ordinary Life, which is A4, 216 pages full colour, 96,500 words; it is being sold at cost £14, plus postage or can be collected.If you would like a copy please contact John on john@willbriar.myzen.co

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Pebble Mill on Midlands Today

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b081m154

There was a moving item on Midlands Today tonight (10th Nov 2016), with Nick Owen interviewing Pebble Mill series editor, Steve Weddle, about the campaign to erect a blue plaque to commemorate BBC Pebble Mill. The campaign seems to be building a momentum, and fingers crossed, the plaque will soon become a reality.

Nick also interviewed cameraman, John Williams, who shot a wealth of dramas and factual series during his long career at Pebble Mill. John has just published an autobiography about his life as a cameraman entitled, Shoot First – No Ordinary Life.

John's book: Shoot First

John’s book: Shoot First

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coincidentally, today marks the 45th anniversary of Princess Anne officially opening BBC Pebble Mill in 1971!

Princess Anne opening Pebble Mill 10th Nov 1971. Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission.

Princess Anne opening Pebble Mill 10th Nov 1971. Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annie Gumbley adds that:

‘Steve Weddle did a brilliant interview with Adrian Goldberg on Radio WM this morning. At 4.15pm today Nick Owen will be on Radio WM talking about Pebble Mill & at 6.30 tonight on Midlands Today John Williams will be interviewed by Nick Owen talking about his book & Pebble Mill. The amazing thing is that today is the 45th Anniversary of the official opening of Pebble Mill Studios, opened by Princess Anne who arrived at 12 noon, on 10th November 1971. The photo shows John Williams, myself, Ivor Williams and Nick Owen where Ivor and myself (+Molly Dog) met up with them to pass on some photos of the event in 1971.’

John Williams, Annie Gumbley-Williams, Ivor Williams, Nick Owen

John Williams, Annie Gumbley-Williams, Ivor Williams, Nick Owen. Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission.

 

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Danger in the Ice – John Williams

danger-in-the-ice-jw danger-in-the-ice-1-jw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright, John Williams, no reproduction without permission.

The article above is from John Williams memoirs, Shoot First, No Ordinary Life. It tells the story of a dangerous and highly memoriable shoot in Antarctica, for a Pebble Mill at One documentary, Langley South. It was published in the October 2016 issue of the BBC pensioners online magazine – Prospero. The link to the article is here: http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/mypension/en/prospero_oct_2016.pdf

The documentary was transmitted as inserts in 1981, as part of Pebble Mill at One, and as a four part documentary series on BBC2 in April 1982. Here are the Radio Times entries, courtesy of the BBC Genome project:

Monday 19th April 1982

“The first of four films in which
Bob Langley journeys to the White continent of Antarctica and examines its potential for mankind. The Falkland Islands are his first staging post. a last outpost of the British Empire in the South Atlantic. In recent weeks this tiny colony has been the centre of world attention as neighbouring Argentina has laid claim to the islands.
Against this background some of the 1,800 islanders talk of their hopes for the future.
Editor PETER HERCOMBE”

Tuesday 20th April 1982

“On the second leg of his journey to the Antarctic, Bob Langley embarks on the Royal Navy’s Ice Patrol Ship Endurance for the voyage from the Falkland Islands to the southern ice cap. The journey takes him across the notorious Drake Passage off the tip of Cape Horn, through a mine-field of icebergs and after a brief respite at an abandoned whaling station, onward to a dangerous and uncharted corner of the Antarctic peninsula.”

Wednesday 21st April 1982

“In the third film report from British Antarctica Bob Langley, aboard the Royal Navy’s Ice Patrol ship Endurance, becomes trapped in the ice in the Weddell Sea. It is like history repeating itself. In 1915 another Endurance, under the command of Sir Ernest Shackleton , was trapped in these very waters, triggering off a feat of survival which rates as one of the greatest of all escape stories”

Thursday 22nd April 1982

“In this final film report from Antarctica, Bob Langley visits British and American scientific bases and meets the. modern pioneers. Antarctica is known to contain vast mineral riches. Its seas are teeming with protein. It could be vital to our future as other continents exhaust their own resources.”

John’s book is A4, 216 pages full colour, 96,500 words; it is being sold at cost £14, plus postage or can be collected.If you would like a copy please contact John on john@willbriar.myzen.co

 

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Howards’ Way – John Williams

John shooting on Howards'Way

John shooting on Howards’ Way. Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

John filming on the crane

John filming on the crane. Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

 

John filming whilst sailing

John filming whilst sailing. Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

Cast and crew on Howards' Way

Cast and crew of Howards’ Way. Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below is an excerpt from cameraman, John Williams’ memoirs, Shoot First: No Ordinary Life. The Book is A4, 216 pages full colour, 96,500 words; it is being sold at cost £14, plus postage or can be collected.

If you would like a copy please contact John on

john@willbriar.myzen.co

“Howards’ Way was a very popular series, so much so that one entrepreneurial chap ran boat trips from Southampton water up the Hamble to come and see us when we were in action at Burseldon. This was lovely but we would have to stop filming because the noise of the boats engine chugging towards us drove our sound recordists mad, we would look up to see hundreds of smiling faces all leaning over the side of the boat waving. This we called the ‘Howards’ Way Wave’, there wasn’t much we could do except to wave back and smile and stop for coffee. All through this series people were very friendly and support came from everywhere, not only the sailing fraternity. Stately homes like Waddesdon manor near Aylesbury and the beautiful Somerley house just north of Southampton, home of Lord Normanton and his family, threw open their doors as ideal make believe residences for some of the well heeled members of the cast. Even Cowes, with its famous Royal yacht Club, gave us time during their great events so I can only imagine we didn’t get it too badly wrong.

I loved every bit of the sailing possibly because I had gone from a twelve foot dinghy to finding myself on and off beautiful thirty plus foot yachts, I was in my element. The drama part of Howard’s Way was pure soap opera but the sailing was very real and came accompanied by excitement and its associated dangers. I have from a very early age a healthy respect for water, and especially the sea, my father having been to sea in his younger days. Knowing Bob Fisher from Top Sailing helped, he knew me and knew that I could sail and although we had a great unit and cast, few if any, had done any real sailing. I think a couple of days’ course was all they had, no wonder we had a few mishaps like throwing parts of lighting equipment overboard or people making innocent mistakes by trying to walk on the water. All survived but costume and makeup were not impressed nor I with the lights for that matter although, much to everyone’s surprise, once they had dried out they did work again. The lights that is, I’m not so sure about the artists!

It wasn’t only sailing yachts we used, large motor cruisers were often part of the scene. I thoroughly enjoyed all of it, Southampton was my second home on and off for five months of the year and, rather than go into the production hotel where I knew we would never get any peace, I plus my camera assistants David, Ian Churchill, Sue Cane or whoever was working with me at the time, would book into bedsits we had found for a more comfortable life.

The only down side to this was when a certain member was on the crew! Each evening after filming and after we had got safely back to our rooms, normally between seven and eight, he would insist on taking us to “The Duke Of Wellington” a pub around the corner. This had a sign outside and paintings on the walls inside of a gentleman that looked remarkably like one of our gaffer sparks, Arthur Haywood. He was dressed in the 1827 army uniform of a British General and we would comment on the likeness. There were two choices with an evening like this, suffer a lock-in at the pub and continue drinking after hours and paying the penalty of a hangover in the morning, or leave on the stroke of ten, the one that David and I used to try for, and go to the nearest Indian restaurant for a large curry and be prepared to suffer the consequences.

Thinking back I wonder that I am still here to tell these tales but perhaps outings like this made my constitution strong. That must be the answer, perhaps I should be grateful!!

Sue Cane a camera assistant often worked with me, not once complaining, unlike some of the others. One episode just before we were due to be filming in Malta, not the night shoot, David my operator fell ill and was replaced by Patti Musicaro, an assistant from BBC Ealing. It was all done at the last minute so we had not worked together before and, apart from Jimmy Monks my grip, I arrived much to everyone’s surprise with an all girl crew. It was a hectic shoot and all went well, but I do remember disappearing off most nights with Jimmy for a quiet drink in a local bar, only when we had finished filming did Patti tell me she had never operated on a drama before. Last I heard of her was, after being a very successful photographer, she was running her own Polygraph company and operates all over the world. Sue is still busy.

I enjoyed the experience of shooting “Howards’ Way” as did the millions of viewers that watched every Sunday night but it was not without its own tragedy. Maurice Colbourne, our leading actor, collapsed and died in France over one weekend. We had been filming in Burseldon on the Friday expecting him back on the Monday, I was told of his death when I arrived on the set on Sunday. Everyone was in shock but this was a genuine case where the show must go on and on it went. We carried on filming with the writers rewriting scripts but it was not the same. Finally London made the decision we would finish the series, but it would not be renewed.”

John Williams

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