King Of The River
BBC 1966 - 1967
Foreign Invasion
TX : 6th July 1966
Director : Eric Hills
Script : Colin Morris

Cast : Richard Marner (The Russian Captain), David Spenser (Leonov), Frazer Hines (Bob Elliot), Glynn Edwards (Jack Elliot), Patrick Scanlan (Red Elliot), George A Cooper (The Reverend Ackroyd), Peter Madden (George Elliot), Ann Way (Judy), Bart Allison (Tom), Michael Wynne (Peter Salt), Wally Patch (Charlie), Kenneth Keeling (Henry), Douglas Blackwell (The Police Constable), Matthew Robertson (The Visitor) and Denis Cleary (The Radio Operator).

Publicity : King Of The River - Meet The Main Characters - Introduced By Their Author Colin Morris: This series is about the King family who love, live, fight, and work around a harbour in the Thames estuary. They inhabit a roaring outspoken community which feels itself vastly superior to nine-to-five office squatters. The chief character is Joss King (Bernard Lee), last skipper of a barge trading under sail. To the rest of Salthaven his ship belongs to the Greenwich Nautical Museum. His wife died six years ago, and when he speaks of her his voice breaks. His recreation ashore is the pub, where his tough, warm-hearted friend Nel (Sandra Dorne) calls time with a belaying pin. His elder daughter is Ruth (Meg Wynn Owen), a modern-language teacher at the local grammar school. Ruth loathes the sea; it has brought tragedy to the family and she strives to wean from it her young brother Saul (Richard James), an arch-investigator of cargoes carried in other ships. Susanna, the other daughter (Geraldine Sherman), is eighteen, and has just left school. She has three A-levels, but doesn't know what to do with them. Various admirers with sports cars come and go, not having enough courage to handle her. If she had her way she would like to go fishing with her Uncle Ben (Robert Brown). There is no single mood in the stories, except that they take you out of doors. If you can watch them all, you will see the characters and develop, as in a novel. (Radio Times, June 30, 1966).

Notes :
The premiere of King Of The River coincided with the repeat of twelve selected editions of The Wednesday Play. The series was originally transmitted 8:00pm to 8:50pm.

Sunset For A Sailorman
TX : 12th July 1966
Director : Brian Parker
Script : Colin Morris

Cast : Katharine Schofield (Betty), John Graham (Gelder), Charles Carson (Brigham), Joe Gibbons (The Docker), Anthony Colby (The Young Doctor), Leslie Dwyer (The Ganger), George Tovey (Jim), Iain Anders (The Detective), Paul Williamson (Cedric), Will Stampe (Clem), Brian Cant (Tom), Peter Blair-Stewart (Susanna's Boyfriend) and Robert Dean (Stonehouse).

Publicity : King Of The River - Power versus Sail - When Rival Skippers Meet There Are No Holds Barred: A trip to the City is an ordeal for sailing barge skipper Joss King (Bernard Lee). He hates the rush and the concrete; to Joss cities "are places where you stand in queues for your dinners and shove each other off Tubes to get home to your coronaries". But in the second story in this series, called "Sunset For A Sailorman", Joss must visit the ship-owners Brigham and Gelder in London. The problem is freight. His sailing barge the Margaret May has had little freight for weeks and Joss is convinced that the junior partner at the shipping office is slowly squeezing him out in favour of the motor-powered vessels. The senior man Gelder is ailing - but he is a great admirer of Joss, his barge, and his way of life. He happens to be at the office the day Joss calls. A cargo of one-hundred-and-fifty tons of flour has to be taken to a mill near King's Lynn, Norfolk, by Monday. If the deadline is not met the miller will lose his contract and the company a customer. Joss is offered the cargo by Gelder - but just to be safe his partner arranges for a motor vessel to carry an identical cargo "just in case he doesn't make it". So the race is on - power versus sail. Battle commences and where Joss and his son Saul are concerned there are no holds barred. After all the stakes are the highest - survival. (Radio Times, July 7, 1966).

Notes :
This episode was moved from its original Wednesday transmission day and broadcast on Tuesdays (as with the following week's episode, Shipwreck, owing to BBC Television commitment to the broadcast of the 1966 World Cup).

TX : 19th July 1966
Director : Gerard Glaister
Script : Colin Morris

Cast : Eric McCaine (The Radio Operator), Kenneth Keeling (Henry), Peter Madden (George Elliot), Frazer Hines (Bob Elliot), George A Cooper (The Reverend Ackroyd), Bart Allison (Tom), Stacy Davies (Joe), Michael Wynne (Peter Salt), Jeffrey Segal (The Italian Captain), Gino Melvazzi (The Italian Sailor), Tony Goodson (The Italian Radio Operator) and Toni Kanal (The Italian Girl).

Publicity : King Of The River - Shipwreck - Tonight's Episode Recalls A Peril Which Colin Morris Its Author Almost Experienced Himself: Joss King (Bernard Lee), last of the sailing barge skippers, tonight finds himself - rather uneasily - at the wheel of a motor-powered barge. The trip made with his son Saul (Richard James) is not without danger, and it also threatens to split the King family from top to bottom. Creator of the King family is Colin Morris who has had a life-long interest in the sea. Born on Merseyside, he dreamed about going to sea. He says "the only way to look there was out to sea, away from the soot and the squalor. It was a way to escape the dinginess". He did not go to sea though - he went fishing instead. Except for two afternoons on Regent's Park lake, Morris' affection for the sea remained a memory until 1956. His play Reluctant Heroes was having a successful run at the Whitehall Threatre when he was offered the use of a yacht - providing he took someone along who was a fully experienced seaman. "A chap turned up at the theatre dressed in pom-pom hat and thigh-length boots. He satisfied me - and the owner - that he was a fine mariner. So we set sail from Ipswich". From then on the voyage became a nightmare in which they ran aground, got hopelessly lost, saw the anchor disappear overboard because it was unsecured at the end, had the sails blow away - and were finally - and ignominiously - towed in by the Walton-on-Naze lifeboat. Since then he has become more expert. He has sailed to many places including Africa. And in his travels he has met and known a host of rich, colourful characters - many of whom he has drawn upon in creating King Of The River. (Radio Times, July 14, 1966 - Article by Russell Twisk).

Synopsis :
Joss is at the wheel of a motor-powered barge in dangerous sea conditions. Saul is on board with him, which has caused a serious rift in the family.

Notes : This episode was the highest rating in the series, attracting 4.5 million viewers and becoming the sixteenth most popular programme of the week.

What Shall We Do With A Drunken Sailor?
TX : 27th June 1967
Director : Peter Cregeen
Script : Elaine Morgan

Cast : Carlos Pierre (Etienne), Freddie Foot (The Small Boy), David Beale (Roger), Guido Adorni (Pierre), Louis Raynes, Tony Maddison, Harry Tierney, Ernest Jennings and Ian Gray (The French Sailors), Edward Kelsey, Fred Hugh and Sidney Gatchum (The Regulars In The Pub), Harold Bennett (The Old Cockney) and Bridget Terry (The Blonde).

Publicity : King Of The River - BBC-1 At 8:00pm: The finances of the King family are becoming desperate. Joss King, the last barge skipper trading under sail, cannot get cargoes. His elder daughter Ruth has taken on extra work marking G.C.E examination papers, while his son Saul is endeavouring to win money gambling. Joss' favourite and youngest daughter Susanna (Geraldine Sherman) is persuaded to help out behind the bar at the local pub when a French ship comes into dock. She uses her elementary French to help serve them, but at closing time one of the young sailors is waiting in the shadow…(Radio Times, July 21, 1966).

It's An Ill Wind
TX : 2nd August 1966
Director : Gerard Glaister
Script : Donald Bull

Cast : Esmond Knight (Donner), Paul Dawkins (Mather), Clive Blackwell (Derek), Martin Kendle (Willy), Eve Pearce (Molly Stoker), Denis Cleary (Dan), Peter Hager (Captain Van Der Donk) and Fred Ferris (The Waterguard).

By Guess And By God
TX : 9th August 1966
Director : Peter Sasdy
Script : Anthony Coburn

Cast : Leslie Sands (Captain Abel Gasser), Reg Lye (Nat), Edwin Brown (Bristow), Kenneth Watson (Plater), John Graham (Gelder), Donald Pickering (Skinner), Jane Walker (The Secretary), Barry Wilsher (Jock Craig) and Michael Earl (The Van Driver).

Down River To Glory
TX : 16th August 1966
Director : Peter Cregeen
Script : Donald Bull

Cast : Kenneth J Warren (Rowlands), Jane Walker (The Secretary), John Graham (Gelder), Elisabeth Murray (Angela Brigham), Mary Chirgwin (Barmaid), John Tate (Butters), Mona Bruce (Alice King), Donald Pelmear (Prosser), Patrick Scanlan (Red Elliot), Theo Agar (Charlie), Michael Bird (Wentworth), Jimmy Gardner (Baldy) and Stan Jay (The Duty Officer).

Publicity : King Of The River: In tonight's story "Down River To Glory", Joss' sailing barge Maggie May is threatened. His employers wish to sell it because motor-powered barges are more efficient. His relations muster to help him buy it, but even their combined resources are not enough. Then Joss meets his employer's grand-daughter, and she is struck by the devotion of Joss to his craft and his way of life. She offers to lend him the rest of the money he needs, but by this time a new danger is threatening the Maggie May…(Radio Times, August 11, 1966).

Once Aboard A Lugger
TX : 23rd August 1966
Director : Eric Price
Script : Elaine Morgan

Cast : Paul Williamson (Cedric), Wally Patch (Charlie), Artro Morris (Sam), Fred Hugh (Joe), Sean Arnold (Tim) and Veronica Purcell (Annie).

Publicity :
King Of The River - BBC-1 Tonight At 8:00pm: All is far from plain sailing in tonight's tale of the sea, "Once Aboard The Lugger". The trouble starts when Saul is confined to his bed with bronchitis and Joss needs help to deliver a yacht. When help is offered by Ruth's boyfriend, Cedric, who has just arrived in Salthaven in his own yacht, Joss turns him down - for he has reservations about the young man. Eventually Joss finds someone to go with him but the arrangement results in Ruth and her boyfriend spending the evening together at the Kings' house - and before long the young couple have some news to break, which leaves Joss and the rest of the King family gasping…(Radio Times, August 18, 1966).

Sling Your Hook
TX : 30th August 1966
Director : Eric Hills
Script : Alistair Bell

Cast : Erik Chitty (Captain Dan Farley), Donald Morley (Councillor Riches), Diana King (Sarah Shelley), Malcolm Patten (Joe Giles), Walter Horsbrugh (Ralph Quenell), Paul Bacon (Julian Pratt), Julian Somers (Councillor Bigelow), Malcolm Watson (Councillor Todman), Wally Patch (Charlie), Donald McKillop (MacArthur), Tom Bowman (Sam Giles), Simon Taylor (The Reporter), Van Boolen (Barton), Katherine Parr (Harriet) and Anthony Sheppard (The Chauffeur).

A Beautiful Pea-Green Boat
TX : 7th September 1966
Director : Peter Sasdy
Script : Donald Bull

Cast : Derek Francis (Malory), Reg Lye (Nat), Ivor Salter (Alf), Mona Bruce (Alice King), Paul Williamson (Cedric), Sydney Arnold (Charlie), Hal Jeayes and Billy Cornelius (The Reporters), John Boyd-Brent (Les), Declan Mulholland (Sam), Geoffrey Denton (Beaumont), Anthony Dawes (The Secretary), Richard Davies (The Steward), Christopher Banks (Lancing) and Gerald Rowland (Willie).

Keeping The Old Spirit Alive
TX : 14th September 1966
Director : Peter Cregeen
Script : Fred Watson

Cast : Eddie Byrne (Sam Pelham), Tony Selby (Jag), Roland Curram (Western), Julian Holloway (Mick), Harry Towb (The Irishman), David Daker (Jack Flynn), Christopher Stephens (The Young Man), Joe Quigley, Henry Manning and Ron Welling (The Dockers).

Publicity : King Of The River - Tonight At 8:00pm: Susanna meets two boys on their way to start a contract for roofing warehouses at Salthaven where the harbour is being redeveloped. The roofers hope that a third man Jack Flynn (David Daker) will leave his job as a docker and join them on this profitable contract. But they are disappointed in this - as is Joss by the way the work in the harbour is preventing him from loading his barge. (Radio Times, September 8, 1966).

Flash Point
TX : 28th September 1966
Director : Eric Hills
Script : Cyril Abraham

Cast : Patrick McAlinney (Dominic), Bill Kenwright (Sammy), Dyson Lovell (Lofty), Richard Shaw (The Bosun), Robert Dean (Mr Poole), Edwin Brown (Mr Maybrick), Peter Thomas (The Tally Clerk), Ralph Nossek (The Pilot), Patrick Milner (The Quartermaster), Howard Lang (Captain Friar) and Denis Cleary (The R/T Operator).

Publicity : The King's Daughter - Geraldine Sherman, One Of The "King Of The River" Regulars, Talks To Russell Twisk: Dark-haired and black-eyed Susanna King is the apple of her father's eye. At eighteen she has left school with three A-levels and no ambition. For the time being she is using her wild, laughing talents as a barmaid at the local pub. But while Susanna wonders about her future, Geraldine Sherman - the girl who plays the part in the series - has no doubts about where she's going. "I'm a career actress," she says intensely, "acting comes first with me. When I marry, my husband will have to understand that I'll be totally involved with my career. I'd expect him to be really involved with his work, too". At twenty-two she has had a varied and interesting career outside acting. She spent two years in Canada working in an advertising agency, writing plays, appearing on television, and teaching. Though she stipulated in all her jobs that if an acting opportunity came up she would leave immediately. Finally it happened. A wire from her agent in London arrived in Montreal offering her a part in Up The Junction. She accepted immediately. "I wanted to leave anyway," she says. "It was the part of Rube, the girl who has the abortion and causes all the trouble". She recalls rather touchingly the moment she decided to become an actress. At the age of six she was taken to see a big American musical in London. She had a broken collar bone at the time, and her arm was tucked in a sling so that one arm of the coat was flopping by the side. Her parents took her round to the stage door where there were crowds waiting for the star's autograph. "Suddenly she spotted me and asked the crowd to make way `For the little girl with one arm'. Everyone ooed and ahhed and I thought how wonderful to be an actress". In between the cynicism and toughness which is the currency of the acting profession Geraldine Sherman still retains some of that childlike innocence. (Radio Times, September 22, 1966 - Article by Russell Twisk).

The Great Albert Mystery
TX : 5th October 1966
Director : Philip Dudley
Script : Donald Bull

Cast : Joseph Brady (Andrew), James Ellis (The Visitor), Wally Patch (Charlie), Artro Morris (Fred), Joe Gladwin (Ted), Edward Higgins (Joe), Mona Bruce (Alice King) and Laurie Webb (Sam).

Publicity : Queen Of The Anchor - Sandra Dorne Appears With Joseph Brady And James Ellis In Tonight's Dramatic Story: Tonight's story - intriguingly titled "The Great Albert Mystery" - gives Sandra Dorne by far the biggest and most strenuous part she has played so far in King Of The River. During rehearsals she had a temperature of one-hundred-and-two, but in the best theatrical tradition she soldiered on after a brief rest from rehearsals. With her temperature back to normal she turned in the barn-storming performance you can see tonight when a series of almost catastrophic difficulties beset the warm-hearted Nel at "the Anchor". When I saw her at her flat in North London she was enjoying the relative relaxation of a light week with few lines to learn. "I thought cabaret was the toughest thing I'd done until I began King Of The River. Only Sunday is totally free, and we usually go down to the country. Sometimes we drive down and have lunch with Diana Dors. Or we play tennis or just take the dog for a walk". Born in the Bronte country in Yorkshire Sandra Dorne's career began when she was about three. "I got up on a stage and did a Charleston. At school I wanted the lead in plays - or I wasn't going to be in them". She went into repertory and then became one of the famous Rank starlets. She has had many film roles, but she remembers with particular pleasure appearing in The Iron Petticoat with Hope and Hepburn and Sir Laurence Olivier in The Beggar's Opera. (Radio Times, September 29, 1966 - Article by Bernard Adams).

Teacher's Honeymoon
TX : 12th October 1966
Director : Unknown
Script : Unknown

Cast : Unknown.

Susanna Goes Fishing
TX : 19th October 1966
Director : Paul Ciappessoni
Script : Donald Bull

Cast : David Bauer (Jason), John Slater (Jack Elliot), Paul Whitsun-Jones (Mr Jones), Mona Bruce (Alice King), Paul Thompson (Ronnie Binns), Frazer Hines (Bob Elliott), John Slater (Jack Elliott), Douglas Blackwell (Red Elliott), Walter Sparrow (Binns), John Halstead (The Waiter), Christopher Hodge (Sid), George A Cooper (The Reverend Ackroyd) and Peter Braham (The Truck Driver).

The End Of The Voyage
TX : 26th October 1966
Director : Peter Cregreen
Script : Colin Morris

Cast : Jack Smethurst (Peter), John Gill (Mr Bell), Frazer Hines (Bob Elliot), Terry Bale (Joe Atkinson), Jean Marlow (Betty), Wally Patch (Charlie), John Graham (Gelder), Elaine Paige (Nancy), George A Cooper (The Reverend Ackroyd), John Warden (Sam), Derek Smee (The Doctor) and Laurie Webb (The Engineer).

The Romantic Dentist
TX : 19th February 1967
Director : Terence Williams
Script : Fred Watson

Cast : Iris Russell (Elspeth Conway), Bernadette Milnes (Sandra), Meredith Edwards (Dick Conway), Georgina Patterson (Joanne Conway), Arnold Bell (Doctor Wirrel), Wally Patch (Charlie), Frederic Lees (Terry), Robert McBain (Peak), Royston Tickner (Crown) and Malcolm Kaye (The First Mod).

Notes : This episode was postponed from its original transmission date of October 12th, 1966. Teacher's Honeymoon was transmitted in place of this episode, which was delayed for four months before mid-afternoon transmission. This unofficial final episode was transmitted on BBC-1 from 2:55pm to 3:45pm.

Set in the fictitious coastal village of Salthaven, King Of The River concerned itself with the life and times of widower Joss King (Bernard Lee), the skipper of a sail-driven barge, and his family - brother Ben (Robert Brown), son Saul (Richard James) and daughters Ruth (Meg Wynn Owen) and Susanna (Geraldine Sherman). Despite his guilt at putting his work upon the barge ahead of his wife (who died whilst he was away from home), he is determined to continue his career despite the introduction and cost-effective appeal of motorized barges.

The London-based firm for which he works is strongly considering pursuing deliveries via the latter, and Joss has to accept that he may be phased out of barging completely if he does not move with the times.

Struggling to keep the right balance between his work and family commitments, he is troubled by the regularity with which his eldest daughter Ruth submerges herself in her work as a modern-language teacher, and is concerned that his youngest daughter Susanna lacks direction in her life having completed her education.

Pleased that his son may follow in his footsteps and continue barging from Salthaven, he soon learns that Ruth does not want her brother to work in the business as she has seen what it has done to her relationship with her father and will not let him follow suit.

The series itself was effectively seventeen individual episodes bearing preciously few links to previous events: each story dealt with a different issue relative to barging - whether it be modernization, suspicious goods and packages, or local developments creating headaches for Joss' transport service aboard the Margaret May. A short-lived series, the programme featured notable performances from Frazer Hines, George A Cooper and Leslie Sands.

The postponement of the fourteenth episode, The Romantic Dentist, resulted in the episode being replaced with Teacher's Honeymoon, and the former was not re-scheduled for another four months, eventually finding transmission as a mid-afternoon Sunday diversion in February 1967. This incident, coupled with re-scheduling to a different timeslot for two early episodes in the series (to make way for transmission of 1966 World Cup matches), failed to cultivate a steady following and the programme can to an end after a little over three months on air. King Of The River is a rare instance in which Bernard Lee committed himself to a series whilst engaged in the James Bond franchise as "M". The series was never commercially exploited.

Portrayed By
Joss King
Bernard Lee
Ben King
Robert Brown
Saul King (Parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)
Richard James
Saul King (Parts 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17)
Gregory Phillips
Ruth King
Meg Wynn Owen
Susanna King
Geraldine Sherman
Sandra Dorne

The series was devised, created and produced by Colin Morris.

Text © Matthew Lee, 2004.