Jim Eldridge

There's a very good chance that you haven't have heard of Parsley Sidings - and there's a reason for that. Namely it was one of the comedy shows that fell victim to the BBC's tape wiping policy, which saw many shows being lost.

It's always a shame, but even worse when you learn more about the people involved. The leads are played by Arthur Lowe and Ian Lavender from Dad's Army; the other two regulars were Kenneth Connor and Liz Frazer, both noted Carry On actors; and on top of that, it was written by Jim Eldridge, the creator of the long-running Radio 4 series King Street Junior, the first comedy drama as we would recognise it today.

Luckily for us, most of the episodes have since been rediscovered and Radio 4 Extra is now giving them their first repeat run since their debut back in the early 1970s on Radio 2.

Anyway, back to the show. The series is set in a small railway station managed by station master Horace Hepplewhite (Lowe), whose family have managed the station for generations. He's keen on his idiotic son Bertrand (Lavender) to take over, though he really doesn't want to. The other staff consist of Gloria Simpkins (Frazer) - who is in love with Bertrand - cockney porter Percy Valentine (Connor) and 90-year-old signalman Mr. Bradshaw (Connor again).

Listening back on these missing recordings, there are still some laughs, despite the poor quality of the recordings. However, there's one big problem, which is that because we're so used to everyone involved doing much more famous (and superior) work, this fades in comparison. When you hear Lowe and Lavender acting as the Horace and Bertrand, you can't help but picture Mainwaring and Pike. Shame.

It's worth listening to Parsley Sidings of course, but it doesn't stand up in its own right. You're probably better off watching Dad's Army, a Carry On film, or listening to an episode of King Street Junior (once the BBC eventually get round to releasing it commercially, which they haven't yet).

Ian Wolf, Giggle Beats, 5th November 2012

Most episodes of this early 1970s sitcom by Jim Eldridge had been wiped and lost for good until a listener sent in some home recordings. Fans of Dad's Army or the Carry On films will want to tune in: Arthur Lowe plays the station master at a hopeless backwater railway stop where the trains always run late, with Ian Lavender as his son!

Kenneth Connor and Liz Fraser also star. It's Lowe's show, as he reprises his signature comic persona of a pompous bumbler authoring his own embarrassment, with a fair bit of help from his unreliable underlings.

Jack Seale, Radio Times, 1st November 2012

Here's a surprise. This is a Seventies sitcom by Jim Eldridge (who went on to write the peerless King Street Junior). It's about a sleepy backwater railway station where all the trains run late and it had a marvellous cast: Arthur Lowe, Ian Lavender, Kenneth Connor, Liz Fraser. All the episodes were thought to have been lost. Or hiding under someone's bed. Then a listener wrote in, sending the missing programmes and Keith Skues, the original BBC announcer on the series, came in to recreate the original opening and closing announcements (seems they are still missing). Worth hearing and not just out of historic interest (it's repeated throughout the day, in true Radio 4 Extra form).

Gillian Reynolds, The Telegraph, 26th October 2012

King Street Junior (11.30am, Radio 4) has fallen to the enemy. A new series of Jim Eldridge's drama sees the school preparing for its 100th anniversary; but there is a fly in the ointment, a spanner in the works, a pain in the ar- well, maybe not. The new head teacher turns out to be a brusque, no-nonsense, stick-first-carrot-later kind of manager. Everyone naturally hates her.

Phil Daoust, The Guardian, 1st April 2005

Since 1985 Radio 4's King Street Junior has become a radio classic. Its author, Jim Eldridge, has fitered life among Junior School teahcers to produce a genuine essence. It feels real because in many ways it is. Each wave of change in state education - curriculum reform, parental governors, strikes, budget cuts - has ripped into King Street Junior. The proramme gets fan mail from teachers, all of whom believe it must have been based on their schools. If that is the situation, the comedy is bred deeper, good writing so well performed that it creates another world.

Gillian Reynolds, The Telegraph, 12th May 1990