Parsley Sidings. Copyright: BBC.

Parsley Sidings

BBC Radio 2 sitcom about a railway station. 21 episodes (pilot + 2 series), 1971 - 1973. Stars Arthur Lowe, Ian Lavender, Kenneth Connor and Liz Fraser.

A Journey to Parsley Sidings

Parsley Sidings is a now long-forgotten radio sitcom broadcast on BBC Radio 2. It is however particularly notable for featuring two of the stars from the sitcom Dad's Army; Arthur Lowe and Ian Lavender. This was also the first sitcom to be written by Jim Eldridge, who is now perhaps better known for his sitcom King Street Junior.

About the Series

The series is set in Parsley Sidings, a small railway station located in the Midlands, on the main line between Euston in London and Birmingham New Street. However, most of the trains pass straight through Parsley Sidings: only six trains stop there each day, most of which are late. As a result the threat of closure always hangs over the station.

The man in charge of Parsley Sidings is the proud, old fashioned and pompous Mr. Horace Hepplewhite (Lowe). He is one in a long line of Hepplewhites who have been in charge of the station ever since ancestor Hosiah Hepplewhite. Horace's father Oberdyer and his grandfather Jeremiah were station masters before him. Jeremiah used to spell 'Victoria' with flowers in the vain hope that Queen Victoria would visit him. This plan tended to backfire as passengers would get off the train thinking they were at Victoria station!

Ideally, Horace would like his son Bertrand (Lavender) to take over from him. However, Bert is quite stupid, and would much rather be an actor. He is so gormless that he fails to notice that the station's secretary and tannoy announcer Gloria Simpkins (Liz Fraser) is in love with him. The other staff in the station include the elderly deaf signalman Mr Bradshaw and the cockney money-making porter Percy Valentine (both placed by Kenneth Connor).

History of the Series

The programme was first broadcast as a pilot as part of Radio 2's Comedy Parade strand of pilots. Out of these trial episodes only Parsley Sidings was given a full series. There were two series made, each ten episodes long.

However, cost-cutting measures at the BBC led to the arguably-premature end of the show. It was decided that almost all scripted comedy should be removed from Radio 2. They were largely replaced by phone-in shows and music programming.

At this stage, writer Jim Eldridge decided to transfer the series to television. He put forward the programme to ITV, but they turned the series down in favour of a home-grown railway-station sitcom; The Train Now Standing.

To add insult to injury, the BBC only retained two episodes in their archive. These were the final episode of Series 1, Goodbye Parsley Sidings, and the third episode of Series 2, entitled The Entente Cordiale. Most of the other episodes have since been recovered from private collections, but episodes 8 and 9 from the second series are still missing. (As of September 2008.)