Blue Hills (radio serial)

Blue Hills, created and written by Gwen Meredith, is an Australian radio serial about the lives of families, set in a fictional typical Australian country town called Tanimbla. The title "Blue Hills" itself derives from the residence of Dr. Gordon, the town's doctor.

Blue Hills
Running time15 minutes
Country of originAustralia
Home stationABC
StarringQueenie Ashton
Created byGwen Meredith
Produced byFrank Harvey, Robert Montgomery, Eric John
Original release28 February 1949 – 30 September 1976
No. of episodes5,795
Opening themePastorale by Ronald Hanmer

Blue Hills was broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) for 27 years, from 28 February 1949 to 30 September 1976. It ran for a total of 5,795 episodes, and was at one time the world's longest-running radio serial. Each episode lasted 15 minutes. It succeeded another Gwen Meredith serial The Lawsons, with many of the same themes and characters, and which ran for 1,299 episodes.[1]

History: backgroundEdit

The Lawsons was the brainchild of play editor Leslie Rees and Frank Clewlow of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (then Commission), which had been approached by Government in 1943 to publicise the need for farmers to grow more soya beans as part of the war effort. They reasoned that a popular radio programme would be more effective than ordinary propaganda, and approached Gwen Meredith to write a radio drama. She was an unlikely choice as she lived in Melbourne and production was to be in Sydney, and she was a city girl with little knowledge of primary production. But she accepted the contract from the ABC's Rural Department and spent some weeks on a sheep station in Gunnedah to gather background. The show went to air on 21 February 1944[2] and slowly achieved a loyal country audience. The story revolved around the farmer John Lawson (Vivian Edwards), his wife Ellen (Ailsa Grahame), and their 19-year-old daughter Sue, played by Jane Holland. The original remit was extended to enable modern farming methods and seasonal information to be passed on to farmers, as well as the usual fare of soap operas. As the war ended, Grahame and Holland left for England, and were replaced by Ethel Lang and Joan Lord. Under producer Charles Wheeler, who insisted of actors that they use a natural conversation style rather than stage voices,[3] the show lasted five years before it was terminated, at Meredith's request, to make way for a similar program of greater scope.[4] The last episode of The Lawsons was aired on 25 February 1949, a Friday, and Blue Hills commenced the following Monday, 28 February 1949.[3]

Production and broadcastEdit

Blue Hills was broadcast from the ABC's capital city stations 2FC, 3AR, 4QG, 5CL, 7ZL and their regional networks at 1 pm AET and repeated, for city listeners, at 6:45 pm, Monday to Friday, though the Friday episode was dropped in 1954. Due to limitations imposed by the telecommunications of the time (and no doubt also the two-hour time difference), it was initially broadcast only in the Eastern States and South Australia. 5DR Darwin (later 8DR) began broadcasting the program in September 1952, and 6WF Perth and Western Australian regional stations began in January 1955, using transcription discs and, later, magnetic tape sourced from Sydney. The duration of each episode was 15 minutes apart from the finale, which needed 30 minutes to round up each character."The sun sets over 'Blue Hills'". The Canberra Times. Vol. 51, no. 14, 498. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 1 October 1976. p. 7. Retrieved 7 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia. The first words spoken in the first episode were by Queenie Ashton as Mrs Gordon, and as Granny Bishop the last words ("good bye") in the final episode some 27 years later.[3]

ActorsEdit

Among the many Sydney actors, perhaps hundreds, who played in Blue Hills were:

Name Role From To Notes/Ref
Alexander Archdale Richard Darbyshire [5]
Queenie Ashton Lee Gordon (married to Dr Gordon) 1949 [6]
Queenie Ashton Rose Bishop (married to Ed) 1964 [7][8]
Queenie Ashton Grannie Bishop (mother of Ed and Meg) 1976 [7][8]
Philippa Baker a Scottish nurse [citation needed]
John Barnes [9]
Ray Barrett [10][9]
Lola Brooks Fanny [11]
Lola Brooks Judy Macarthur [9]
Barbara Brunton Sally Howard 1952 [12]
Keith Buckley Nick Macarthur (son of Jim) [8]
Alma Butterfield Mrs Jenkins 1950 [13]
Neva Carr Glynn [14]
Amber-Mae Cecil Jackie Macarthur[9] replaced Myrna Dodd
Amber-Mae Cecil Emmie Lawson (married Ted in 1951)[15] replaced Sheila Sewell[3]
Rupert Chance Ted Lawson (married Emmie in 1951) [16]
Peg Christensen Emmie Lawson [17]
Marie Clarke Mary Howard (love affair with Peter Macarthur)[18] [19]
Reg Collins Joe Walters the original Joe Walters[8][20][15]
Reg Collins Ned Walters (Joe's brother) [8][20][15]
Ruth Cracknell Ruth Lawson [9][21]
Patti Crocker Mandy Gordon (younger daughter of Dr Gordon, married Dr Frobisher) 1949 1952[a] [9]
Patti Crocker Meg Macarthur [9]
Patti Crocker Anne (Meg's daughter) 1976 [9]
Marshall Crosby Josh Roberts [22]
Therese Desmond Amelia [23]
Ed Devereaux [9]
Myrna Dodd Jackie Macarthur [24]
Maiva Drummond Jean Lawson [25]
Maiva Drummond Rose Bishop (married to Ed) 1964 1976 [8]
Tom Farley Jim Macarthur (married to Meg) [8]
Winifred Green Martha Walters [8]
Gordon Grimsdale Dr Neil Gordon Dec. 1949 [26]
Anne Haddy Elizabeth Ross-Ingham [8]
Marcia Hathaway hospital nurse [27]
Madelaine Howell [28]
Nellie Lamport Hilda (the Lawsons' cook, aunt of Emmie) married Joe Walters late in life[15] 1949 [8]
Ethel Lang[b] Dr Gordon's charlady 1949 [29]
Ethel Lang Meg Macarthur (married to Jim Macarthur) 1976 [8]
Hal Lashwood Chris Lawson [25]
Camilla Lay Maisie Jenkins 1949 [20]
Nigel Lovell a Polish airman [30]
Paul Maclay [20]
Charles McCallum Ed Bishop (son of Granny, married to Rose) [8][31]
John McCallum [10]
Robert McDarra [32]
John Meillon [4]
Coralie Neville[c] Trixie Gordon (daughter of Dr Gordon) 1949 [20][26]
Ida Newton Auntie Gertie 1949 [33]
John Norman Jerry Walters [8]
John Nugent-Hayward Dr Neil Gordon March 1949 [d] [34]
Max Osbiston Dr Frobisher (married Mandy Gordon) 1976 [9]
Pat Pearson Judy Macarthur [9]
Gwen Plumb Emmie Lawson (niece of Hilda;[15] married Ted in 1951[25]) 1953 [8][35]
Madge Ryan [4]
June Salter Sally Howard 1952 [36]
Thelma Scott Aunt Laura [20][37]
Sheila Sewell Emmie Lawson (married Ted Lawson in 1951)[15] 1953 [3]
Georgie Sterling Claire Throsby (love affair with Anderson Roberts) [38]
Nancye Stewart Mabel Ross [8]
Rod Taylor Anderson Roberts (love affair with Sally Howard) [39]
Ngaire Thompson Jenny Roberts [40]
Morris Unicomb Bruce Gordon (son of Dr Gordon) [30]
Lou Vernon Col. Ross-Ingham [8]

Producers included:

  • Frank Harvey[3]
  • Robert Montgomery[41]
  • Eric John, to whom Gwen Meredith credited much of the show's success.[8]

Signature tuneEdit

The famous opening signature tune was taken from a short orchestral piece called Pastorale by the British composer Ronald Hanmer.[42] Until Hanmer moved to Australia in 1975, he had no idea that his work had been used by the ABC and had become so famous in Australia (although few Australians could have identified its composer). He later re-worked this short piece into a longer orchestral work titled Blue Hills Rhapsody, which he recorded with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. The recording first used was played by the New Century Orchestra.[43]

BooksEdit

 
Book cover, First edition 1950

Several books based on the show were written by Gwen Meredith:

  • The Lawsons (1948)
  • Blue Hills, Angus and Robertson (1950)
  • Beyond Blue Hills (1953)
  • Into the Sun (1961)[10]

In preparing the radio serial Blue Hills for publication I have not been set such a formidable task as faced me with The Lawsons, since up to the present date Blue Hills has been presented by the Australian Broadcasting Commission for little more than a year. This means a mere half million words to contend with! But since the publisher sets a defensive maximum of eighty thousand words, intending readers should be warned—and perhaps heartened by the warning—that in that editing, a great deal has perforce been discarded. However, I think the main elements and characters have survived the massacre and the book brings the story to the point reached on air at the time of writing. GWEN MEREDITH. (Author's note, Blue Hills (1950))

See alsoEdit

  • The Archers – the present 'world's longest running radio soap opera' (it has broadcast over 19,200 episodes up to 2019).

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Crocker returned much later to play minor parts, and was a member of the final cast, as was Osbiston[9]
  2. ^ Also known as Ethel Gibb, Lang played Mrs Lawson in The Lawsons
  3. ^ Coralie Neville was married to Gordon Grimsdale
  4. ^ According to Patti Crocker's memoirs, Grimsdale took over the part when Nugent-Howard died — definitely after 1955 and possibly 22 January 1958

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "There's Gold in Those... "Blue Hills"". The Sun-Herald. Sydney. 1 August 1954. p. 46. Retrieved 6 May 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  2. ^ "End in Sight For 'Lawsons'". The Sydney Morning Herald. 11 January 1949. p. 3. Retrieved 7 May 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Lane, Richard The Golden Age of Australian Radio Drama 1994 Melbourne University Press ISBN 0 522 84556 8
  4. ^ a b c "Gwen Meredith Says Goodbye to 'Blue Hills'". The Australian Women's Weekly. 19 May 1976. p. 9. Retrieved 7 May 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  5. ^ "ABC promo". The Macleay Argus. No. 10, 039. New South Wales, Australia. 10 February 1954. p. 5. Retrieved 7 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  6. ^ "ABC promo". Kilmore Free Press. No. 1589. Victoria, Australia. 28 April 1949. p. 8. Retrieved 7 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  7. ^ a b "Queenie Ashton". Kilmore Free Press. Kilmore, Vic. 28 April 1949. p. 8. Retrieved 7 May 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "Twenty years with the good folk of 'Blue Hills'". The Australian Women's Weekly. 24 June 1964. p. 4. Retrieved 6 May 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Crocker, Patti (1989). Radio Days. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7318-0098-2.
  10. ^ a b c Wilde, William H., Hooton, Joy and Andrews, Barry The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature 2nd edition, Oxford University Press ISBN 0 19 553381 X
  11. ^ "Radio Star's Energetic Existence". The Sydney Morning Herald. 3 June 1954. p. 5 Section: Women's Section. Retrieved 7 May 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  12. ^ "Backstage Colourful Career". Queensland Times. No. 25, 100. Queensland, Australia. 25 August 1954. p. 2. Retrieved 7 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  13. ^ "Stars of the Air". Kilmore Free Press. Kilmore, Vic. 23 February 1950. p. 6. Retrieved 6 May 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  14. ^ "Actress dies". The Canberra Times. Vol. 49, no. 14, 141. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 11 August 1975. p. 1. Retrieved 7 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  15. ^ a b c d e f "There's Gold in Those... "Blue Hills"". The Sun-herald. New South Wales, Australia. 1 August 1954. p. 46. Retrieved 7 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  16. ^ "Deborah and her mother in law". The Australian Women's Weekly. Vol. 40, no. 22. 1 November 1972. p. 46A. Retrieved 5 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  17. ^ "There's Gold In Those... "Blue Hills"". The Sun-herald. New South Wales, Australia. 1 August 1954. p. 46. Retrieved 7 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  18. ^ "Unconscious Radio Humour". The Sunday Mail (Brisbane). Queensland, Australia. 29 August 1954. p. 24. Retrieved 7 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  19. ^ "Marie Clarke". The Charleville Times. Brisbane. 5 February 1953. p. 15. Retrieved 7 May 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  20. ^ a b c d e f "Radio Personalities On Parade for Smith's". Smith's Weekly. New South Wales, Australia. 5 November 1949. p. 14. Retrieved 13 January 2020 – via Trove.
  21. ^ "Brief answers to short questions". The Weekly Times (Melbourne). No. 4415. Victoria, Australia. 3 February 1954. p. 55. Retrieved 7 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  22. ^ "Death of Marshall Crosby". South Coast Times and Wollongong Argus. Vol. LIV, no. 7. New South Wales, Australia. 25 January 1954. p. 4 (Women's Magazine). Retrieved 18 March 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
  23. ^ "A True Soap Opera". The Sunday Mail (Brisbane). Queensland, Australia. 17 January 1954. p. 20. Retrieved 7 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  24. ^ "Full turn of wheel for actress". The Canberra Times. Vol. 39, no. 11, 153. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 12 May 1965. p. 19. Retrieved 5 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  25. ^ a b c "RSVP Blue Hills". South Coast Times and Wollongong Argus. Vol. LI, no. 89. New South Wales, Australia. 19 November 1951. p. 2. Retrieved 7 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  26. ^ a b "Stars of the Air". The Muswellbrook Chronicle. Vol. 29, no. 94. New South Wales, Australia. 30 December 1949. p. 6. Retrieved 5 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  27. ^ "500 Pay Tribute to Shark Victim". The Canberra Times. 1 February 1963. p. 3. Retrieved 21 March 2014 – via National Library of Australia.
  28. ^ "Television sets in UK homes". The Sun (Sydney). No. 12, 612. New South Wales, Australia. 30 June 1950. p. 19. Retrieved 5 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  29. ^ "Tea with Aunt Jenny". The Australian Women's Weekly. Vol. 38, no. 17. 23 September 1970. p. 7. Retrieved 7 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  30. ^ a b "Uncommon Knowledge". The Canberra Times. Vol. 64, no. 20, 172. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 5 July 1990. p. 12. Retrieved 5 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  31. ^ "'Blue Hills' actor dies". The Canberra Times. Vol. 66, no. 20, 764. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 18 February 1992. p. 12. Retrieved 8 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  32. ^ "Sydney actor dies". The Canberra Times. Vol. 50, no. 14, 258. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 26 December 1975. p. 9. Retrieved 6 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  33. ^ "New Personality in 'Blue Hills'". Centralian Advocate. Alice Springs, NT. 2 September 1949. p. 14. Retrieved 6 May 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  34. ^ "John Nugent Hayward". Wodonga and Towong Sentinel. Vic. 11 March 1949. p. 4. Retrieved 7 May 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  35. ^ "Sydney Actress Gwen Plumb". Centralian Advocate. Alice Springs, NT. 30 November 1951. p. 3. Retrieved 7 May 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  36. ^ "A Typist in Radio". The Sydney Morning Herald. No. 36, 315. New South Wales, Australia. 13 May 1954. p. 7 (Women). Retrieved 7 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  37. ^ "In the Good Old Summer Time". Border Chronicle. Vol. 43, no. 2177. South Australia. 2 November 1950. p. 6. Retrieved 7 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  38. ^ "Radio". The Age. No. 31, 006. Victoria, Australia. 17 September 1954. p. 8. Retrieved 7 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  39. ^ "Speaking for Women". Nambour Chronicle and North Coast Advertiser. Queensland, Australia. 1 October 1954. p. 6. Retrieved 7 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  40. ^ "Ngaire Thompson". Gippsland Times. Vic. 4 January 1954. p. 3. Retrieved 7 May 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  41. ^ "Young Tasmanian Producer of 'Blue Hills'". Centralian Advocate. Alice Springs, NT. 17 June 1949. p. 10. Retrieved 6 May 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  42. ^ [1] National Film and Sound Archive
  43. ^ "Queries". The Daily News (Perth). Vol. LXVII, no. 23, 186. Western Australia. 4 August 1949. p. 5. Retrieved 7 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.

External linksEdit