Look and Read: Joe and the Sheep Rustlers
Joe and the Sheep Rustlers is a unit of the BBC schools TV series Look and Read from the 1970s, covering Language and Reading for primary school pupils.
The last of Look and Read's original-era stories was told from the point of view of a lad called Joe, who lived in the town of Ten Bridges in the North of England. He and his friend Jill investigate sheep rustling round the local farms and end up in trouble, both from the rustlers who don't like snooping and the local warden who gets fed up with lots of false alarms. Joe also presented the in-between teaching bits from his workshop, with occasional help from some other characters from the story.
In common with writer Leonard Kingston's other two Look and Read plots, Len and the River Mob and Sky Hunter, this features a sort-of villain who seems nice at first, has the hero kidnapped in Episode 8, and ends with a big chase.
Joe and the Sheep Rustlers was the first Look and Read story to be shown in colour, rather than black & white. Fewer than one in five UK primary schools had colour TVs by this point, but it was colour all the same.
Latterly, this was the oldest of all the Look and Read programmes revived and repeated by the CBBC Channel in 2003, 27 years after its previous transmissions. In fact by 2003 the story was so old that the BBC had lost one of the episodes, and they had to edit together a special replacement!
This section gives away the whole story, including the ending!
Joe is the shepherd boy at Castle Farm out on the moors, which is owned by Mrs Sharp and her daughter Jill. A man called Mike Burns also works on the farm, but he resigns in strange circumstances without giving a reason. Mrs Sharp is angry because some of their sheep have been going missing recently, and she blames the residents of the local youth hostel, run by Mr West. Mr West himself is more suspicous of the neighbouring farmers, terrible Ted and dozy Denis Beasley, two nasty brothers. Joe and Jill later see Mike talking to the Beasley brothers, and find part of a burnt message in his room at the farm that mentions blackmail. Joe and Jill go over to the Beasleys' farm to visit Mike but are told that Mike doesn't work there. Joe creeps round the back and sees Mike in the yard, along with a flock of sheep whose painted markings show that they belong to another farm. Joe is almost spotted by the Beasleys, but Mike helps him get away. When Joe fetches Mr West to have a look at the sheep in the Beasley's yard, the markings have been changed to show that they belong to the Beasleys. Ted Beasley says he's going to make Joe very sorry for snooping.
A few weeks later the local sheep shearer comes to Castle Farm and secretly hands Joe a coded note from Mike. Joe soon finds out that the shearer was badly assaulted after giving him the note, and solves the code to discover a warning about sheep rustlers. He and Jill hurry back to Castle Farm, passing a big lorry on the way, and discover Mrs Sharp tied up in the barn and all the sheep missing. They fetch Mr West again and stop the Beasleys' lorry, but find it empty with no sign of any sheep. Joe and Jill go searching on the moors for where the Beasleys could have hidden the sheep but find no trace, so they go back to the Beasleys farm to ask Mike. Jill distracts the Beasleys while Joe sneaks into their farmhouse. He can't find Mike but does see part of a message from Ted Beasley to Mr Burns the butcher, telling him to be ready for a delivery of sheep.
The Beasleys decide to get rid of the stolen sheep immediately. They grab a tin of special marking paint and set off in their Land Rover. Joe jumps in the back and pours the paint onto the road, leaving a trail for Jill to follow. When the Beasleys arrive at their destination, some old houses on the moor, they discover Joe and lock him up in one of the huts, which is already holding Mike as a prisoner. Mike reveals that he had been stealing some sheep from Castle Farm to sell to his father, the butcher, and the Beasleys found out about it. Joe and Mike start hitting the door with an old beam of wood while Jill gets her horse to pull on a rope tied to the other side, and they soon pull the door off. Mike and Joe race off to Ten Bridges and arrive in time to see the Beasleys confronting Mr Burns. They confront the villains and tell them they're surrounded, but Ted is having none of it and pulls out his shotgun. Just then Jill and Mr West screech up in a car with some of the hostellers. Ted shoots Mr Burns in the shoulder then the Beasleys dash off into the town. Mike soon grabs Denis while Joe tackles Ted into the canal. The Beasleys and the Burnses are arrested, Joe is made foreman of the farm and all the sheep rustling is stopped.
The Teaching Middles
Joe himself presented the teaching content of each episode from his "workshop", an old cow shed on Mrs Sharp's farm. He had built several strange contraptions to help with word recognition, including a "picture-stretcher" to display slides and a "type-lighter" to view sentences displayed in very big letters. He was occasionally joined by Jill and Mr West.
According to the credits to final episode Struan Rodger also wrote the teaching script, the teaching segments were directed by Jill Glindon Reed.
Each episode contained a sequence of educational songs with animations spun off from something a character in the story had said, each several minutes long and uninterrupted. The piano-based songs were by John Baker, towards the end of a BBC career which produced several theme tunes for children's TV and radio programmes:
- Suger and Shake - episode 2
- Come Into the Park - episode 3
- Song of the ee's - episode 4
- Song of the oo's - episode 5
- Song of the ea's - episode 6
- Tramping Song - episode 7
- Song of the ai's - episode 8
- ou song - episode 9
- ay song - episode 10
The Theme Tune & Music
The evocative, instrumental theme tune was by Paddy Kingsland.
There are two versions of the title sequence. The first shows Joe and his sheepdog Sweep herding a flock of sheep down a lane. However, after the sheep are stolen from Home Farm in the plot of the story a different sequence is used for the second half of the episodes, with Joe and Sweep ambling down the lane alone with no shhep to herd.
There was also a memorable song in the story, referred to as the "cheering up song". It was sung by the characters in episode 4 and reprised occasionally in later episodes:
Winds may blow in the rain and snow,
Prospects may be fright'ning.
Our sheep may drown,
The house fall down,
And my horse be struck by lightning.
But we've no need to despair, Joe.
Why, why should we care, Joe.
We'll win out,
Yes, we'll win out,
We'll win out in the end.
Myst'ry letters may upset us.
We'll end up seeing double.
Big Ted Beasley
May so easily
Land us in terrible trouble.
But we've no need to despair, Joe...
|16 Jan 1973
|23 Jan 1973
|30 Jan 1973
|One in Three
|6 Feb 1973
|Never Say Die
|13 Feb 1973
|Prisoner in the House
|27 Feb 1973
|The Red Trail
|6 Mar 1973
|Left to Rot
|13 Mar 1973
|Put Up Your Hands
|20 Mar 1973
|27 Mar 1973
|Struan Rodger as Joe Norland
Martine Howard as Jill Sharp
|Joyce M. Morris
BBC Radiophonic Workshops
|Studio script by
|Jill Glindon Reed
|Canty trained by
A 48-page pamphlet containing the text of the story from children to read. Printed in red and black, and illustrated with still photographs taken by Stan Nettle throughout.
The text was still based strongly on the Key Words to Literacy scheme, this time containing 316 of these Key Words, plus 435 words from other key monographs and 58 other words needed for the story, all according to the teacher's notes.
The front cover and whole design of the pamphlet is very reminiscent of that to the Television Club story Roy and the Danelli Job, another Leonard Kingston / Andrée Molyneux collaboration from 2 years earlier.
ISBN 0 563 14130 1
In common with other Look and Read notes of the period, they make very little reference to the actual content of each episode, in particular there is no description of the storyline at all.
ISBN 0 563 19747 1, and originally priced 16p.
Radio Resource Material
There were no radio programmes to accompany the first broadcast of this story - indeed the first Look and Read Radio Resource Material programmes came in autumn 1974 alongside that term's story Cloud Burst.
However, according to the Autumn 1975 teacher's notes to Cloud Burst, there were four radio programmes to be broadcast in the Spring Term 1976 to accompany the repeat of Joe and the Sheep Rustlers. I have not yet tracked down any other information about these radio programmes, including whether they ever actually went out or not.
Joe and the Sheep Rustlers was filmed in February 1972 in the rural, but still industrial, towns of Halifax, Hebden Bridge, the outskirts of Rochdale and in particular Todmorden, on the Yorkshire / Lancashire borders in the north west of England.
The farming content was made as authentic as possible with assistance from several local farmers. Harry Lord of Heights Farm in Shore was the main adviser, and was so involved that he was written in to the story, to play the travelling sheep-shearer Harry Crabtree, who is beaten up (off screen) by the Beasleys in episode 4. Sweep the sheep dog was provided by champion shepherd Len Greenwood of Ramsden Farm, Walsden, who also taught Joe about the whistles and behaviour needed of a farm hand The actors apparently grew to look the part of farm workers expertly, prompting professional onlookers to observe "he does take the part good, that Joe," and Joe would even help the farmer on his days off from filming, while Jill went riding for pleasure.
Other animals seen in the series are the sheep - Lonks and Derbyshire Gritstones; Canty the riding horse, an eight year old English bred hunter gelding, of light chocolate colour and 15.2 hands high, whose real name was Canty; and the two shire horses kept by Mrs Sharp, which actually belonged to Harry Lord's farm.
The story was written by Leonard Kingston based upon true stories and anecdotes told by the real farmers, detectives and sheep rustlers on a trip round the area in January 1972. It sought to give a true view of life in the countryside and inspire the interest of children, without resorting to a style of "the wonderful country life".
In The Archive
All 10 episodes of the serial are listed in BBC archive catalogue (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 & 10), and indeed they have all been repeated several times on the CBBC Channel in the 21st Century, so lots of people have got their own recordings.
However there is a catch - one of the episodes does not exist complete, only the drama sequences and song animations survive, the studio material with Joe telling the viewer about words no longer exists at the BBC. In spite of this, the whole serial has still been repeated. Here's how...
The Missing Episode
Just because a television programme has been made and broadcast, doesn't necessarily mean that it can be shown again whenever anybody fancies. Back in the 1960s and 70s, videotape was ridiculously expensive so the BBC, and all other companies, would routinely "wipe" tapes of programmes once they'd been broadcast and use the video again for a new programme. The original programmes are then lost forever. There is a bit more about this state of affairs on the BBC website , or on the site missing-episodes.co.uk.
As it happens, one episode of Joe and the Sheep Rustlers is missing from the BBC archives - when the schools TV team first trawled the archive to get all the old tapes out and ready to broadcast on the CBBC Channel in 2003, episode 6 Prisoner in the House was nowhere to be found.
Luckily, they kept on searching and discovered a compilation tape, containing just the drama segments from episodes 6 to 10 edited together into a single "movie" format. I don't know where this compilation version came from - the story has never been broadcast in that format, nor have there ever been, as far as I know, any plans to release it as a drama film. The Look and Read dramas were always filmed and edited many months before the teaching segments of the episodes were even written, and the cast of the story were always shown a finished version of their work at a special screening (see Bob and Carol Look for Treasure. Maybe this compilation was made specially to be shown to the cast in that way.
So luckily the filmed segments of the episode did survive, and the story was complete to be shown to a new generation. But first the "missing" bits needed to be extracted and made into a new, separate episode. This took quite a bit of persuasion and a lot of effort on the part of the team since obviously recreating an entire programme does take considerable work, and therefore budget.
In this case, as well some 'cleaning' work and fixing of edits that has been done to all the archive Look and Read stories to make them ready to broadcast again, a whole new set of opening and closing titles needed to be made. These were copied, as much as possible, from the surrounding episodes, simply overlaying the title caption for episode 6 on a paused frame from the title sequence of another episode. The end titles were newly written out with the posh modern computer systems that the BBC uses these days, so you can easily tell that they aren't the same as the roughly overlayed genuine rolls of manually created lettering used in the 1970s. But a lot of effort was taken to make the new credits look passably in the same style as the originals - the same sort of fonts have been used, and in a nice touch they've used one of those old BBC logos with slanty boxes and underlines. Actually, of course, that logo's from the late 1980s and isn't the same plain old BBC logo used on the other episodes from 1973, but still at least it's not the bland corporate modern one!
The "new" version of Episode 6, of course, is only ten minutes long from beginning to end with no break in the middle. But all the other episodes of the story are the full 20 minutes long, so when it's repeated on CBBC now, it is followed by 10 minutes of unrelated filler programmes to make up the time.
The original episode 6 was last seen on Friday 27th February 1976, and the new version premiered over 17 years later, on Wednesday 10th September 2003. There's complete broadcast schedules for every Look and Read story in the schedules section on this site.
Here is some evidence of what was in the original episode 6.
Exhibit A: The Radio Times
The straight-forward and not-very-interesting listing for the first broadcast of the episode in the Radio Times listings magazine, just giving the episode title and cast.
- It lists the actors playing Joe and Jill and the Beasley Brothers, plus Powell Jones who only appeared in this one episode, and must've played the tramp that the kids meet while they're searching the woods.
- Mr West is not credited, so he probably didn't appear in the teaching segment of this episode.
Exhibit B: The Teacher's Notes
Material about episode 6 from the Teacher's Notes accompanying the series' first broadcast. The notes would have been written several months before the final episodes were made, even before the teaching segments themselves has been written, so there's a good chance that plans changed after they were published. But they suggest that the teaching content of this episode included:
- revision (from episode 4) of the 'ee' vowel combination and silent letters like the 't' in castle.
- possibly Joe in his workshop "training ear and eye to note the difference between Beasley and beastly".
Exhibit C: BBC Programme-As-Broadcast Documentation
Most reliable of the lot, though by no means complete, here's a copy of the BBC's original "PasB" typewritten documentation from 1973, recording exactly what was trasmitted on BBC1 that morning. So here's step-by-step what it reveals:
- Only Joe himself appeared in the studio sequences, as could be guessed from the Radio Times. The rest of the cast list also agrees with the magazine, except the BBC have misspelled Paul Humpoletz's name on the PasB.
- Powell Jones did indeed play the tramp - he has a significant speaking role in the filmed story, but strangely isn't credited on the new reconstructed version of the episode -- maybe they just copied the credits over from another episode for the reconstruction, and since the Tramp only appears in this episode, missed him out.
- Jane Carr sang the song for this episode - and that song was "The song of the ea's" by John Baker (who also wrote the rest of the songs for the whole story). Presumably this was related to work on the words "Beasley" and "beastly", so maybe Joe did do that "training" business from the Teacher's Notes after all! The song was 2 minutes 21 seconds long, accompanied by 89 feet of film animation.
- MATHS: The story sequences used in the episode totalled 352 feet of 16mm film. This works out at 9 minutes 23 seconds of footage. Add on 26 seconds each for the opening and closing theme tunes, and you get 10 minutes 15 seconds, which is exactly the length of the reconstructed episode containing only the filmed material, according to the BBC archive catalogue (although there is a chance the BBC information is based on a previous version of this website, so it's not a perfect cross reference).
- MORE MATHS: The whole original episode lasted 20 minutes and 6 seconds. Since those 10'15" survive (assuming the opening & closing titles sort of survive on other episodes, or at least can be easily reconstructed) that means a total of 9 minutes 51 seconds has been lost from repeats. Knock off the length of the song, and there was a total of 7 minutes 24 seconds of studio material, featuring Joe, in the original episode.
Fascinating stuff! And even more interesting, those PasB sheets reveal that the interlude between the previous programme that morning (Science All Around) and Look and Read was filled by three minutes of Bach's Sinfonia to Cantata no. 29, and two minutes of the BBC's Schools Signature Tune . The gap between the end of Look and Read and the start of the next programme (Watch) was so long that transmission was closed down for 13 minutes. Ah the good old days!
Here is a list of all of the broadcasts of this story on the BBC. Unless your teachers managed to get the video recorder to work, this is when you would have seen it in school. See the schedules section for precise dates and times.
Sources & References
Sources used in compiling this page:
- BBC (1973) Look and Read Teacher's Notes, Spring 1973
- Fawdry, Kenneth (1974) Everything But Alf Garnett: A Personal View of BBC School Broadcasting London: BBC ISBN 0 563 12763 5
- Kingston, Leonard (1973) Joe and the Sheep Rustlers, London: BBC, Spring 1973
- Rochdale Observer (2006) 'Nostalgia: Cameras flocked to farmland' in Rochdale Observer 13 May 2006, published at , retrieved 10 July 2007.
- Todmorden and Walsden website at Rootsweb, published at , retrieved 10 July 2007.
- With thanks to Tony Mullen and Alan Gubby for further information.
- Most information and quotes about the production is based on an essay by Andrée Molyneux in Fawdry (1974) pp. 97-98. In particular, the assertion that the drama was shot in January 1972 is based on Molyneux's reference to scouting locations "on a cold January week-end" and the series being broadcast from January 1973.
- Some further details about the filming were given in Rochdale Observer (2006). In relation to the filming dates this cites February 1973. However as the series had already started broadcasting by then, it must be February 1972.
- Some extra details about Len Greenwood from the Todmorden and Walsden website.
- Some agricultural background to the filming from the teacher's notes, BBC (1973).
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