Hi-de-hi! readers! Welcome to Maplin’s. For the benefit of newcomers, there’s Jeffrey Fairbrother, the entertainments manager, who used to be a professor at Cambridge. There’s Ted Bovis, your camp host, his assistant, Spike Dixon, and Mr Partridge, the Punch-and-Judy man. There’s Fred Quilly, who looks after the horses, and Yvonne and Barry Stuart-Hargreaves, the stuck-up ballroom dancers. There’s scatterbrained Peggy, the chalet maid, and, of course, there’s Gladys Pugh, the chief yellow coat. Finally, there’s someone you haven’t seen on your screens, Charlie Binns, the senior camper, who knows all the secrets of Maplin’s. He tells you about the night Jeffrey and Gladys were trapped in the Three Bears’ Cottage, about how Ted raised the money for his wife’s alimony, about the Most Popular Girl Yellowcoat Competition and many other things. With this book in your pocket your holiday is bound to be a happy one. And if you read it at home you’ll think that you are on holiday. So hi-de-hi! readers! Welcome back to Maplin’s!
Paul Shane and Su Pollard in rehearsal in 1982.
From the experienced pens of Jimmy Perry and David Croft came the pilot episode of holiday camp comedy series Hi-De-Hi! (originally minus the hyphens and exclamation mark), screened on 1 January 1980. We had quite a while to wait for the first series, which began in February 1981.
Perry and Croft claimed that: “The best television is all about people just talking.” They obviously knew a thing or two, with tremendous TV comedy successes Dad’s Army and It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum already behind them.
Hi-De-Hi! was initially set in 1959, the year in which its creators both did stints in holiday camps themselves - David Croft as a show organiser and Jimmy Perry as a Redcoat.
The fictional holiday camp featured in the series was owned by one Joe Maplin.
“Hi-de hi!” was the jolly catchphrase of Maplin’s staff - to which the holiday makers were supposed to reply with a rousing “Ho-de-ho!”. Rousing? Ragged was more the reality!
“Hi-de hi!” became a major catchphrase of the 1980s, trilled in coy Gladys Pugh tones up and down the land.
Ruth Madoc as the oh-so-Welsh Gladys Pugh, who had a tendency to fall for oh-so-upper-class Englishmen like Jeffrey Fairbrother (Simon Cadell). Ruth and Simon were later to be found whispering about Wispa chocolate.
The original nine central Hi-De-Hi! performers were hand picked by Jimmy Perry and David Croft.
“We see the whole thing through,” explained Jimmy Perry. “Unlike most writers of situation comedy, we do both the writing and casting, and David is the producer. The show is written and cast long before production schedules are even thought of. It took us over a year to get the people we wanted for Hi-De-Hi! because it’s no good having the right words come out of the wrong mouths. Our characters are real, they think what they say, and every situation, however trivial, has a reason behind it. There are a lot of main characters in Hi-De-Hi!, but each has his or her moment in at least one episode. That’s the way we work…"
Ruth Madoc was, of course, the glorious Gladys Pugh - she who trembled with passion for Maplin’s entertainment manager Mr Fairbrother.
Ruth recalled in 1982: “Jimmy rang up and said, ‘Blod,’ - he calls me Blodwen because I’m Welsh - ‘I’ve got just the part for you’.”
Also interviewed in 1982, Paul Shane, Ted Bovis, recalled going to Jimmy Croft’s house to read for the part: “I was frightened to death, but now it’s all happening for me. I’m doing a summer season on the South Pier at Blackpool this year. Who would ever have offered Paul Shane any work there before Hi-De-Hi!? Suddenly I’m a desirable commodity - the show has made household names of people who have been around for years!”
Simon Cadell, Jeffrey Fairbrother, was seen by Perry and Croft in Enemy At The Door. “They telephoned me offering the role before I arrived back home after the reading,” said Simon. “The character of Jeff Fairbrother, the academic Camp Manager, is fascinating. Jeff is gradually learning to manipulate such diverse personalities as Ted and old Partridge, and to ward off the amorous advances of Gladys.”
When Jeffrey left Maplin's, his place as entertainments manager, and in Gladys Pugh's affections, was taken by Squadron Leader Clive Dempster, DFC, played by David Griffin.
Mr Partridge, Maplin’s Punch and Judy man, was not the ideal children’s entertainer - mainly because he didn’t like children. And he drank.
Leslie Dwyer, the actor who played Partridge, was in his seventies when he was cast: “David and Jimmy never forget anybody,” he said in 1982, having first met David Croft over forty years before. “Every artist is compartmentalised in their minds until they dredge us up for the right part.”
Diane Holland, Maplin's Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves, as troubled Sarah Maynard in a 1966 episode of ATV soap opera "Crossroads".
Felix Bowness, Fred Quilly the hapless jockey, had worked for around thirty years as a stand-up comic: “I’ve done 3,000 TV warm-up shows,” he said during an interview in the early 1980s.
“I’m the chap behind the scenes who gets the audience in a good mood before the REAL show begins. But Jimmy and David saw me, talked to me when I was the warm-up for their shows, knew I’d done a lot of riding in my time, and actually wrote the part of Fred with me in mind. I’m a ‘turn’ not an actor, but they’ve been marvellous to me. Jimmy and David, and all the cast give me acting lessons, laugh at me and encourage me.”
Jeffrey Holland, Maplin’s Spike Dixon, was spotted by David and Jimmy when he was appearing in the stage version of Dad’s Army.
Yvonne and Barry Stuart-Hargreaves, the snobby ballroom dancing instructors, were brought to life by Barry Howard and Diane Holland. “We are marvellously bitchy and say all the things husbands and wives would often like to say to each other,” said Barry.
Barry and John Inman had appeared together as two pantomime Ugly Sisters for years. John was hand-picked to play Mr Humphries in Are You Being Served? by David Croft, who wrote the series in association with Jeremy Lloyd of Captain Beaky fame. Barry was promised that one day there would be a part for him, and so there was.
Diane Holland was once in a dancing troupe called the Page-Hatton Trio. Jimmy Perry first saw her dance as part of that act. Years later, she was brilliant as Yvonne. The Stuart-Hargreaves were great favourites of mine.
Nottingham-born Su Pollard was much-loved as chalet maid Peggy Ollerenshaw - who so wanted to be a yellowcoat. Like other members of the cast, Su became an '80s celebrity. One of her non-Maplin's ventures was to sing Starting Together, the theme tune to the 1986 documentary series The Marriage.
Sadly, some of those involved with Hi-De-Hi! are no longer with us.
The series ended in January 1988, and is, in my opinion, one of the BBC's finest sitcoms. It's still guaranteed to get me laughing, and I've been thoroughly enjoying the DVD releases.
"'Allo Campers - Hi-De-Hi!"
All together now:
It's the mid-1980s, c. 1984, and Su Pollard is starring in a TV advertisement for Typhoo tea. The scenario: Su is on the beach, drinking a cup of Typhoo. "Oooh," says she, blissfully...