About When the Boat Comes in

James Bolam stars as Jack Ford, a disillusioned First World War veteran returning home to Tyneside. His wartime experiences in France have taken their toll, but there’s no relief back home in Gallowshield for Jack as Britain is in the grip of a recession and work is hard to find.

When the Boat Comes In

With little prospects, Jack falls in with the equally impoverished Seaton family and meets Jessie Seaton (Susan Jameson) who he falls deeply in love with. Suddenly, a man with a mission, Jack sets about improving his fortunes and, with grim determination, aims to make his mark on life despite the desperate circumstances.

Whilst a show that deals with the political struggles of the 1920s and 1930s and the aftermath of the Great War may not sound particularly captivating, this classic period drama was must-watch TV when first broadcast in 1976.

Such was the popularity of the show that after the third series ended in 1977, the BBC felt compelled to revive the show four years later, with the final series telling the story of Jack Ford as he returns to Britain penniless, after six years spent bootlegging in the US, and follows him as he sets up in London.

Show creator and main writer James Mitchell also wrote three popular tie-in books: When the Boat Comes In, When the Boat Comes In: The Hungry Years and When the Boat Comes In: Upwards.

Main Cast

James Bolam as Jack Ford

James Garbutt as Bill Seaton

Jean Heywood as Bella Seaton

John Nightingale as Tom Seaton

Edward Wilson as Billy Seaton

Malcolm Terris as Matt Headley

Susan Jameson as Jessie Ashton née Seaton

Madelaine Newton as Dolly

Basil Henson as Sir Horatio Manners

Geoffrey Rose as Arthur Ashton

Rosalind Bailey as Sarah Headley née Lytton

William Fox as the Duke of Bedlington

Lois Baxter as Lady Caroline