Watch: Famous People 3 with Magic Grandad

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started11th Jun 2009
ended18th Jun 2009
1 school year
duration15 mins
subject 🏛️HistoryModern History
age rangeAge 5-7
languageenIn English
Magic GrandadHierarchyPrevious.gifPrevious unit: Famous People 2

Famous People 3 with Magic Grandad is a unit of the BBC schools TV series Watch from the 2000s, covering Modern History for primary school pupils.

Sam Kelly as Magic Grandad

This Magic Grandad is a well-seasoned time traveller with no sign of any crash landings, he appears in a simple flash of bright light with a bit of lip quivering. He can also take his grandchildren on more than one journey at a time, visiting famous people at different times in their lives. This means that each episode can be neatly divided into two individual "clips", the preferred method for disseminating video material in schools these days. The full episodes were available on the BBC's Class Clips website, with the second part of each story preceded by extra narration from Grandad explaining the story so far.

Grandad has a new magical device, a pocket watch in which he can show old film footage about his subject. He also gives extra information in a voice-over during some episodes. And for the first time there is a Magic Grandad title sequence at the start of each episode, but no references to the programmes being part of Watch. In fact they were listed on the BBC iPlayer as part of Primary History (which they are not, Primary History is always used to be a series for key stage 2, not key stage 1). The unit has also never officially been billed as Famous People 3, but since it is the third unit about famous people, and the last one was called Famous People 2, I think that title is reasonable.

Most of this series was filmed at Shugborough Hall, but the Amy Johnson episode was filmed at The Shuttleworth Collection aircraft museum. Grandad is played by Sam Kelly.

This unit has never been repeated since its original transmission in Summer 2009, and in fact a planned repeat broadcast in the Autumn 2009 was cancelled. The online clips from this unit, and all other Magic Grandad programmes have also been removed from the BBC website, suggesting that there is some sort of problem with the rights to show it.


Quick episode list

# Title Broadcast
1. Amy Johnson 11 Jun 2009
2. Mrs Beeton 11 Jun 2009
3. The Unknown Warrior 18 Jun 2009
4. Charles Darwin 18 Jun 2009

Num Title 1st Broadcast
1. Amy Johnson 11 Jun 2009
Magic Grandad Amy Johnson.jpg

Yasmin and Harry are getting ready for a flight to Spain - Yasmin wants to be a pilot, but Harry doesn't think women can fly planes. Grandad arrives and tells them about Amy Johnson, one of the first women ever to fly a plane. He takes them back to meet her so they can ask why she did it. They meet Amy and a young girl called Jo, daughter of one of the mechanics, who shows them round the tiny plane "Jason". They compare it to a modern jumbo jet, and are astonished at the small pack of rations that Amy is planning to take to Australia.

Magic Grandad Amy Johnson title.jpg

They return to the present, where Grandad shows them footage of the voyage to Australia, and then go back to meet Amy again after she returned back home. She now has her choice of designer dresses and hundreds of letters from fans which the children read. Amy and Jo, who has turned up again, tell the children about the perils of the journey and they all dance to the song Amy, Wonderful Amy. Amy has to go to the Palace to collect her CBE so the travellers return home. Grandad tells the children the rest of Amy's story including her death, and they think about the impact of what she did.

2. Mrs Beeton 11 Jun 2009
Magic Grandad Mrs Beeton.jpg

Milly and Jamie are arguing in a messy kitchen trying to cook the tea. Grandad suggests that Mrs Isabella Beeton would be able to help them clean up the mess and make the tea, and he takes them back to Victorian times to meet her, and some of her 20 brothers and sisters. Two of the children, Francis and Eliza, show the modern children around the gardens and talk about home-making, and Victorian games and toys. They go in to enjoy afternoon tea, and hear about Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management and why it was written.

Magic Grandad Mrs Beeton title.jpg

Back in the present they hurry to clean the kitchen and make Mrs Beeton's recipe for "Hidden Mountain". But they still need to set the table so they go back to the kitchens of a Victorian house, where the men help to beat the rugs and dig the vegetables, and the women prepare the food, then learn how to put everything on the table properly. Mrs Beeton inspects the layout of utensils with a tape measure and when they get back to their own time Jamie intends to do the same.

3. The Unknown Warrior 18 Jun 2009
Magic Grandad Unknown Warrior.jpg

When Grandad arrives Millie and Jamie are making a feeble attempt to play with a frisbee in their back garden. They are interested in the poppy he is wearing, so he takes them back almost 100 years (when his Grandad was alive) to a battlefield of the First World War. They see Rev David Railton and a Scottish soldier (with a kilt) looking over the grave of an unknown soldier. They also meet a blinded soldier with a guide dog - a local boy called Sebastien helps them look after the dog. Railton explains his idea for a grave to all of the soldiers who were killed but never found.

Magic Grandad Unknown Warrior title.jpg

Grandad next takes the children to a peace party at the end of the war. They meet Railton again and a girl called Mary, whose father was lost in action, who shows them how to make paper chains and talks about what it was like during the war. Railton's plans for a tomb in Westminster Abbey are now being realised and they all go to the Abbey to have a look around. They return to the present and Grandad shows them the funeral of the unknown soldier in his pocket watch, then takes them to the Abbey (by bus!) to see the tomb. Grandad explains why the tomb is dedicated to the "unknown warrior".

4. Charles Darwin 18 Jun 2009
Magic Grandad Charles Darwin.jpg

Harry and Yasmin are mucking about in the garden, and when Grandad hears that they want to find out more about animals he tells them about the famous scientist Charles Darwin and shows them film of the Galapagos Islands. They go back in time to Darwin's house when he had just returned from the voyage and meet him and his assistant, which is full of specimens of animals including a giant tortoise's shell, a case full of beetles, and a tarantula. A boy called Henry arrives asking for Darwin's help with a small garden snake, which turns out to be a slow-worm, a type of lizard. Darwin explains what makes a snake a snake, but he doesn't yet have an answer for why this lizard does not have legs.

Magic Grandad Charles Darwin title.jpg

They travel forward to meet Darwin again as an old man, after his famous book has been published. Darwin and his grandson Bernard are trying to make worms emerge from flowerpots by making a lot of noise. Even when everybody joins in the worms do not come out. Bernard defends his grandfather against an accusation of animal cruelty and takes the visitors out to the garden to see Darwin's worm stone. A game of hide and seek gives Darwin an opportunity to point out that Yasmin's green clothes helped her hide amongst the green leaves.



Sam Kelly as Magic Grandad

Amy Johnson with

Vanessa Mallinson as Amy Johnson
Shyanne Sanders as Yasmin
Bobbie Brown as Harry
Joanna Cunningham as Jo

Mrs Beeton with

Joanna Dunn as Mrs Beeton
Georgia Paterson as Millie
Timon Greaves as Jamie
Adrianna Bertola as Eliza
Richard Linnell as Francis

The Unknown Warrior with

Dominic Cazenove as Rev Railton
Georgia Paterson as Millie
Timon Greaves as Jamie
Thomas Dennis as Sebastien
Holly Jeffery as Mary
Paul-James Corrigan as Private MacGregor
Sandy Batchelor as Private Macleod

Charles Darwin with

Rod Hallett as Charles Darwin
Shyanne Sanders as Yasmin
Bobbie Brown as Harry
Lee Turnbull as Syms
Ryan Heenan as Henry
Ben Greaves-Neal as Bernard

Written by Emma Collins (episodes 1, 2 & 3)
Sharon Miller (episode 4)
Anne Ross Muir (episodes 2, 3 & 4)
Consultants John Stringer
David Marchant (episode 1), Kay Fairfax (episode 2), Mary Wilkinson (episode 3), Bob Bloomfield (episode 4), Jane Mainwaring (episode 4)
Director of Photography Paul Riley
Production Designer Tim Sykes
First Assistant Director Jane Ashmore
Second Assistant Director Diane Kasperowicz
Third Assistant Director Ian Hughes
Production Co-ordinator Juliana Schuch
Production Manager Maggie Swinfen
Executive Producer for the BBC Kristin Mason
Executive Producer Lambros Atteshlis
Produced by Hazel Graham
Directed by Anne Ross Muir
Glasshead production for BBC