All Gas And Gaiters. Image shows from L to R: The Rev Mervyn Noote (Derek Nimmo), Henry - the Archdeacon (Robertson Hare), The Bishop (William Mervyn), Lionel Pugh Critchley - The Dean (John Barron). Image credit: British Broadcasting Corporation.

All Gas And Gaiters

The fictional St. Ogg's Cathedral is the setting for a good natured look at life among the clergy

Strand:
Comedy Playhouse
Genre:
Sitcom
Broadcast:
1966 - 1971  (BBC One)
Episodes:
34 (pilot + 5 series)
Starring:
William Mervyn, Robertson Hare, Derek Nimmo, John Barron, Ernest Clark, Joan Sanderson
Writers:
Pauline Devaney, Edwin Apps
Production:
British Broadcasting Corporation

The 13th Century St. Ogg's Cathedral is home to Bishop Hubert Cleaver and his support staff: Henry, the Archdeacon is prone to a tipple, whilst the Rev. Mervyn Noote, as his chaplain, provides support in his own naive, bumbling manner. Their life would be a fairly cosy affair if it were not for the officious Dean, Lionel Pugh-Critchley, who never tires of telling the Bishop where he is going wrong.

Our Review: A whimsical series that enabled us to laugh gently at the church and its foibles and, indeed, many of its fans were from that walk of life. Written by husband and wife team, Pauline Devaney and Edwin Apps, it was initially inspired by producer Stuart Allen. In order not to place undue pressure on their friend, Frank Muir (who was head of comedy at the BBC at the time), they wrote the pilot script under the pseudonym John Wraith. However, before it was even transmitted in the Comedy Playhouse strand, a 6 episode series was commissioned.

The faith shown in the show was justified as viewers and critics loved it, not least for the wonderful performances of the cast. William Mervyn was already popular in the drama series It's Dark Outside (later Mr Rose) and he was joined by veteran stage actor and septuagenarian, Robertson Hare who appeared on screen for the very first time. The show also enabled Derek Nimmo to prosper in other ecclesiastic roles with Oh Brother! running concurrently during the latter stages of this series.

Although transmitted in black and white, the third series was made in colour - initially for the export market but also for the likelihood of repeat viewing. It is ironic, then, that it should be completely wiped some years later during the farcical 'spring cleaning' of the BBC archives.