Jack Of Knaves
BBC 1961
Four Stories Concerning The Lighter Side Of CID Work In The North Of England
The Master Mind
TX : 16th November 1961

Publicity : Jacks And Knaves: In Liverpool they call a detective a "Jack" - and one of the most colourful Jacks who ever nobbled a knave in that windy city was Detective Sergeant William Prendergast. He retired from the police force recently to advise a large banking concern. But Liverpudlians, who nicknamed him "Ace", still swap stories about his exploits. Stories like the one told in The Master Mind, tonight's comedy documentary - the first of four built round Prendergast's cases by the writer Colin Morris and producer Gilchrist Calder. Colin Morris first met the beefy, granite-faced detective four years ago, when he went to Liverpool in search of material for Tearaway, a dramatised documentary about the intimidation of witnesses in a crime-ridden quarter of the city. That programme drew its much-praised authenticity from Prendergast's inside knowledge, as did another Morris-Calder documentary, Who, Me? which was seen twice on BBC Television and has also been seen in other parts of the world. Bill Prendergast was much admired by his colleagues for his skill as an interrogator. By a psychological process of probing deeper and deeper into the mind of a suspect - "Soon," he would say companionably, "we'll be as close as brothers" - he was often able to secure a confession despite an apparently watertight alibi. The dialogue Colin Morris has written for John Barrie who plays Detective Sergeant Tom Hitchin in the new series catches the authentic flavour of Prendergast in action: "a tough character," as Calder describes him, "with a great sense of humour and much humanity". (Radio Times, November 9, 1961).

Synopsis : A young man bails an old burglar to assist him in a brilliantly-planned robbery. The job is "cased", prepared and executed perfectly: it's the proceeds which present problems.

Notes :
Episodes were originally transmitted 8:30pm to 9:15pm on BBC 1.

The Interrogation
TX : 23rd November 1961

Publicity : Jacks And Knaves: "I never took a note when I was interrogating. The moment you got hold of a piece of paper they'd think `ah-hah …' and zonk! they'd button up. I have a photographic memory, so I just used to sit and let them go on talking - till three, five, six o'clock in the morning. I've sat with them through the small hours and watched the moon go down and the sun come up, and suddenly they've made the one slip. And I've said: `D'you remember what you told me at eleven o'clock? And now you say this? All right. Let's start all over again …'". In twenty-eight years with the Liverpool CID Detective Sergeant Bill Prendergast became a specialist in interrogation - so successfully that today, two years after his retirement, the files on his cases are used to train young detectives. He is a big man, heavily built, a man with a formidable air of authority, and as tough as they come. But in interrogation he could be gentle, almost paternal. The technique was civilised, and very deadly. Anyone who knows Prendergast - "Mr P" as they call him in Liverpool - will recognise him instantly in Detective Sergeant Tom Hitchin, played by John Barrie in the comedy-documentary The Interrogation. This is based, like the other programmes in the Jacks And Knaves series, on one of Prendergast's cases. Watch The Interrogation, and you will begin to understand why they say of "Mr P" in Liverpool: "The thieves he put in the dock used to stand up and shout GUILTY!". (Radio Times, November 16, 1961).

Synopsis :
A young suspect is detained for questioning. He refuses to reveal his identity and when interrogated by CID replies: "I've been told that detectives know everything, so no matter what I say, you will twist it round the other way to suit your own ends. Therefore, the best thing is to say nothing".

The Great Art Robbery
TX : 30th November 1961

Publicity : Jacks And Knaves - The Great Art Robbery: Whenever there was easily looted lead to be found in Liverpool the brothers Hancock would appear on the scene with their hand-cart and their sharp knives. Lead pipe was their living, whether it came from the biggest house or the smallest room in the house - preferably the biggest house, for as Frankie explained to Johnnie: "There's yards and yards of piping - those rich fellows never stop washin'". But there came a day when the two knaves innocently wheeled away from such a house a cart-load of trouble, and every "Jack" in Liverpool CID was scouring the city for a daring gang of international art thieves. The result was one of the most comical cases in the career of Detective Sergeant Bill Prendergast, on whose experiences the Jacks And Knaves comedy-documentaries are based: the case of The Great Art Robbery. (Radio Times, November 23, 1961).

Synopsis : When a valuable painting is stolen, the cream of City CID is set to patrolling railway terminals, airports, docks, working at white heat with Interpol. The snag is that the thieves know very little about art.

It Was Doing Nothing
TX : 7th December 1961

Publicity : Jacks And Knaves: A lynch-gate, forty feet of wall and a twenty-foot chimney disappear overnight from a church site, and Detective Sergeant Tom Hitchins finds himself investigating one of Liverpool's strangest crime epidemics. Who on earth could want tons of pillars and walls and tombstones? The City Surveyor gets a call from the Bishop - "He thinks there is a crusade against the Church of England. People are running off with his raw material". The harassed Chief Inspector puts his foot down: "We cannot have religious maniacs knocking off parts of the Established Church"; and the Vicar at Saint Agnes' sums up the general confusion with his plaintive comment: "Everything is for the best, and God moves in such mysterious ways … but it's not the sort of thing that happens every day". "It Was Doing Nothing", tonight's episode in this series by Colin Morris and Gilchrist Calder, is the last. (Radio Times, November 30, 1961).

Synopsis :
Late at night in the CID office, where the detectives are preparing for the morning court, comes the Vicar of Saint Agnes' with a problem. He states: "It's a very singular robbery, and it's been worrying me
a great deal".

Portrayed By
Detective Sergeant Tom Hitchin
John Barrie

The series was created and written by Colin Morris and produced and directed by Gilchrist Calder.

Hailed as the inspiration for the popular series Z-Cars, Jacks And Knaves was devised and created by Colin Morris and based on the personal experiences of retired Detective Sergeant William Prendergast of Liverpool CID - known to the local criminal fraternity as "Ace" and "Mr P". The short-lived series, running to four forty-five-minute episodes, was an exercise in comedy-drama (branded as comedy-documentaries by the Radio Times, in an unusual term rarely applied to television productions since), concerned four notable instances in Prendergast's career in which unusual cases were faced by the Liverpool constabulary.

Prendergast was embodied in the form of Detective Sergeant Tom Hitchin (John Barrie), a master interrogator with a photographic memory (like the man himself) who was able to elicit the truth from suspects through his dogged persistence and wily ability to continually run over the facts until he learned the real story behind events. The title basis itself on the fact that, in the early 1960s, Liverpudlians branded police officers as "Jacks", whilst officers referred to criminals as "Knaves" (quaint for the period, but hardly enthralling).

The programme is basically only notable for being the fore-runner to the highly-successful series
Z-Cars (of which Colin Morris was a contributor), though this series' attempts to sustain some form of authenticity by basing its content on the recollections of a retired police officer and earmarking the series as part-documentary did it no favours. The programme was produced by Gilchrist Calder

Text © Matthew Lee, 2004.

Portrayed By
Detective Sergeant Tom Hitchin
John Barrie

The series was created and written by Colin Morris and produced and directed by Gilchrist Calder.