Watch: Famous People 2 with Magic Grandad

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started3rd Oct 2003
ended17th Oct 2003
last rpt2nd Dec 2008
6 school years
duration15 mins
subject 🏛️HistoryModern History
age rangeAge 5-7
languageenIn English
Magic GrandadHierarchyPrevious.gifPrevious unit: ToysNext unit: Famous People 3HierarchyNext.gif

Famous People 2 with Magic Grandad is a unit of the BBC schools TV series Watch from the 2000s, covering Modern History and Ancient History for primary school pupils.

Peter Armitage as Magic Grandad

Magic Grandad is now capable of travelling thousands of years back in time if he needs to, and he seems to think that his crash landings have improved, although everybody else disagrees. This Grandad takes his various grandchildren to meet famous people from history, who tend to be expecting him and know the names of the child visitors. The children interrogate the famous people about what they do, and how and why they do it, which does not faze the subjects in the least.

At the end of each episode Grandad turns to camera and asks viewers what they will remember about the famous person. The programmes do their job of getting viewers to think about each figure very well, but frankly they seem less imaginative than any of the previous series were able to be!

One of the grandchildren this time looks a lot like one of the previous Grandad's companions, and one of the historical figures they meet looks a lot like Samuel Pepys. But I'm sure that's just a coincidence!

Grandad is played by Peter Armitage.


# Title Broadcast
1. Boudica 3 Oct 2003
2. Dr Jenner 10 Oct 2003
3. Brunel 17 Oct 2003
4. Mary Seacole 17 Oct 2003

Num Title 1st Broadcast
1. Boudica 3 Oct 2003
Magic Grandad Boudica.jpg

Ryan is having a play sword fight. Scarlett wants to join in too but Ryan says that girls can't fight with swords. Grandad arrives and tells them about one women he knows who was a fantastic sword fighter. He takes them back to AD61 to meet Boudica, queen of the Iceni. The children find themselves wearing itchy sheepskin; they explore the camp until Boudica arrives by chariot. Over food Ryan and Scarlett interrogate Boudica and her daughters about why they are fighting.

Magic Grandad Boudica title.jpg

They stay for the night and Ryan dreams of the armies facing each other. The children go exploring again and meet Boudica by a river for another chat. They spot a Roman patrol approaching and Grandad hurridly whisks his grandchildren away, while Boudica prepares to meet the Romans.

  • Absolutely all of the literature accompanying this episode uses the spelling "Boudicca", including the teacher's notes in the DVD Plus Pack and the BBC's TV listings. But on-screen within the episode the spelling "Boudica" is used.
2. Dr Jenner 10 Oct 2003
Magic Grandad Dr Jenner.jpg

Duncan is chasing after his sister Lucy, who does not want to go to the doctor's for a vaccination. Grandad crashes into their garden and says that if anybody can convince her that vaccinations are a good thing it will be Dr Jenner. They travel back to 1800 and arrive in a graveyard where they meet a girl called Phoebe who is putting flowers on the grave of her young brother, a smallpox victim. They all go to Dr Jenner's "temple of vaccine" and, because it is a Thursday, there is a large queue of people waiting for a free vaccination. Dr Jenner greets them and starts talking about his activities.

Magic Grandad Dr Jenner title.jpg

Leaving his nephew to continue with the vaccinations Jenner takes the children to meet Sarah the milkmaid and Blossom the cow, and explains how they inspired his discovery, along with a young boy called James. Then John Raphael Smith, "famous portrait painter" (as he introduces himself) arrives and orders Jenner out into a field to pose.

  • Grandad shows the children a copy of Smith's portrait at the end of the episode, and it is also included as a photocard in the DVD Plus Pack.

3. Brunel 17 Oct 2003
Magic Grandad Brunel.jpg

Maddy and Harry's parents have taken them on a long car journey but they seem to have got lost. The children pass the time by drawing pictures of a huge bridge across Britain and a supersonic car/boat/plane. They show these to Grandad, who tells them about a famous engineer who had brilliant ideas like that, and he takes them back to 1831 to meet Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Brunel is surveying Avon Gorge with his telescope and tells the children of his plans for a bridge across the gorge. They accompany him on his long, horse-drawn journey around the gorge in order to meet the judges of a competition to design the bridge, and on the way he talks confidently about his plans.

Magic Grandad Brunel title.jpg

During a picnic lunch Grandad and Brunel construct a model of a suspension bridge out of a plank, some rope and two chairs and show the children that it supports their weight as they walk across (carefully warning them not to try such a stunt on their own). Brunel talks about some of his other ideas for railways and ships. Eventually they arrive at the castle where Brunel is to present his plans, and Grandad and the children sneak in to hear some of the presentation. Back in the present day Grandad shows them to finished Clifton Suspension Bridge and some of Brunel's other great achievements.

  • The grandchildren in this episode are listed in the end credits and the teacher's notes as Morgan and Jasper (i.e. using the child actors' real names, just as Glasshead have done in most other episode of Magic Grandad that they have made). But throughout the episode they are very clearly referred to as Maddy and Harry. Maybe when they were out on location somebody got the script mixed up with the Victorian Toys episode, which also had children called Maddy and Harry!

4. Mary Seacole 17 Oct 2003
Magic Grandad Mary Seacole.jpg

Scarlett and Ryan are having a battle with toy soldiers (and robots!). Ryan tries to rescue his injured soldiers by various means, but Scarlett insists that there were no helicopters or tanks in the old days so the soldiers will just have to lie on the battlefield groaning! Grandad drops in and tells them about Mary Seacole, who helped rescue injured soldiers during the Crimean War. They travel back to an army camp in 1855 and find Mary accompanying an injured drummer boy called Charlie from the battlefield. She asks the children to call her Mother Seacole like everyone else and enlists their help tending to Charlie while they talk about her work.

Magic Grandad Mary Seacole title.jpg

Mary and the children go to collect fresh medical supplies from a boat man and they talk about her background and how she became a nurse. But the sudden loud noises of battle summon them back to the camp, which seems to be under attack. Mary tells them not to be scared and to always greet the soldiers with a friendly smile, and they all get stuck in to nursing the injured. As the battle intensifies Grandad returns the children to safety. They go to see Mary Seacole's grave and talk about the rest of her life.

  • The Mary Seacole episode comes before the Brunel episode in the DVD Plus Pack of this unit, but this doesn't really make any difference as there is no continuity between episodes. Actually Brunel is a better ending to the series because of Grandad's more unusual appearance in biker gear beneath the Avon Gorge at the end of that episode! Both episodes were originally broadcast on the same day, but Brunel definitely came before Mary Seacole in broadcast order.

Watch Online Update 15th August 2009: Lots of clips from these programmes were available online in the Learning Zone Broadband section of the BBC website, for teachers to embed into their whiteboard presentations and build into lesson plans. Unfortunately they were all removed without warning in late July 2009 and are not currently accessible.

The BBC says that there were "unforeseen issues" with the Magic Grandad clips - presumably this means problems with the rights to show the clips online, but I'm not certain. They are trying to make the clips available again but it is likely to take several months.



Peter Armitage as Magic Grandad

Boudica with

Scarlet Gee as Scarlet
Ryan Watson as Ryan
Samantha Beckinsale as Boudica
Cat McKenzie-Smith as Daughter 1
Rebecca Harding as Daughter 2

Dr Jenner with

Lucy Parry as Lucy
Duncan Harrison as Duncan
John Warnaby as Dr Edward Jenner
Emilie Smith as Phoebe
Ross Harvey as John Raphael Smith
Karen Moss as Sarah

Brunel with

Morgan Sass as Morgan Maddy
Jasper Reed as Jasper Harry
Crispin Letis as Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Phil Hobbis, Paul Stryke as judges

Mary Seacole with

Scarlet Gee as Scarlet
Ryan Watson as Ryan
Beverley Hills as Mary Seacole
Angus Harrison as Charlie

Written by Emma Collins
First Assistant Director Helen Benbow
Second Assistant Director Alan Powell
Third Assistant Director Peter McCann
Location Manager Nick Eastwood
Assistant Location Manager Roger Tonks
Director of Photography David Meadows
Designer Laurence Williams (episodes 1 & 3), Petra Cox (episodes 2 & 4)
Design Assistant Tony Jopia (episodes 1 & 3), Ray Mitchell (episodes 2 & 4)
Graphics Nick Russell (episode 3)
Script Editor Christine Secombe
Production Manager Sue Grant
Production Co-ordinator Mimma Paone
Researcher Claire Ford
Education Consultant John Stringer
Executive Producer Glasshead Lambros Atteshlis
Executive Producer BBC Karen Johnson
Director Christos Georgiou
Producer Hazel Graham
Glasshead production for BBC


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