The story of a boy in a mining village in the 30s with poverty, death, desertion and politics as the background doesn’t sound like much fun but in 1973 I was hooked on this television series about the fortunes of a 10-year-old boy called Sam.
As the series starts, we see Sam and his mother on a bus heading back to the Yorkshire mining village where his grandparents and uncles live. Sam’s father has left with another woman leaving his mother with no choice but to return to the family fold. This upheaval in Sam’s life is the spine of the story as he spends the whole series hoping that his dad will return and his life will go back to normal.
Michael Goodliffe played the grandfather as a stern, unforgiving man who believed that love is best hidden if children are to grow up able to cope in a harsh world. He is also the powerful member of the family and while others may not agree with him they never contradict him or disagree publicly. He is also a proud man and it is this, we are led to believe, that caused him to lose his job at the mine. Throughout the first series, job losses or promises of jobs keep the men in their place.
As events turn out, Sam never does make it back ‘home’ to his normal life and his granddad plays an even bigger part in his life by the end of the series. Kevin Moreton played the young Sam. Two other series followed, with Sam as an adult played by actor Mark McManus. I watched them but they did not make the impression on me that the first series did. Kevin Moreton was in a few other television series in the 70s but then obviously took a different path in life.
I remember the series with great affection. Maybe it was because I was only a bit older than the main character but maybe,too, because I watched it at an age when ideas of fairness, justice and a political sense were starting to form in my mind.
‘Sam’ would not get made today or, if it did, it would have a completely different style. It would be what we now call ‘warm bath telly’. There would be a soft glow to the scenes of poverty so that we wouldn’t be too put off by it. There would be a solution offered to every problem and all within the hour. Fortunately, this series was harder edged. In the 70s, we were not afraid of drama that told real stories.
‘Sam’ is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?