The Radio 4 Gordon Murray Interview
For the final episode "Pugwash, Windy
and Barney McGrew" Fred Harris took a look at "Mr. Benn", "Captain Pugwash",
"Fingerbobs" and the Trumptonshire trilogy, interviewing the key figures
from these programmes. The excerpt featuring Gordon Murray clarified many
points of discussion and is included here:
Gordon Murray created not just one character
but a whole village full, and eventually a whole shire-full.
Whereabouts is Trumptonshire ? Is it
Kent or Sussex ?
Which were your favourite characters
I always assumed he had got hit but
you just didn't show us those shots.
[Captain Flack answering phone from Chimney episode]
The rhyme everybody remembers is the
Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grub. Where did that come
Did you have to play around with the
names until you got that little formula ?
I've got a complaint to make about Barney
McGrew. Everybody else turned their head as their name was spoken and Barney
McGrew (lazy sod) didn't. Why ?
[Firemen on parade: Pugh Pugh Barney McGrew, Cuthbert Dibble Grub...]
Brian Cant is Brian Cant and I thought, well that young man (because we were all that much younger at the time!) had the right sort of tone as a young father, really. And he did terribly well. He was terribly good in the recording studio because he was shut up in a sort of sound proof cupboard. And he always took his shoes off before recording so that there wouldn't be any extraneous effects.
[Cuthbert Dibble Grub]
What became of all those wonderful puppets
and the models and everything ? What happened to them?
How did that feel, seeing them all go
up in flames ?
There's no crime you know in Trumptonshire,
it's a happy world, and a lot of people say "Well you shouldn't encourage
children to think that the world's like that". Some people throw their
children into the deep end of the swimming bath at an early age and say
"Swim". You know, that's the way to learn, life's hard. Hard things are
coming to you. I don't believe in that. I believe that you must protect
your children while they are children for as long as possible, from this
dreadful world we're living in.
[laughs at his own seriousness].
Fred Harris sums-up:
So what's the secret of creating a cult TV children's programme ? What have all those shows got in common ? Well , not a lot really. You don't have baddies or you do. You have outrageous character voices or you don't . You inject a bit of sixties' surrealism, or you keep it simple and old fashioned. So what is the secret?
Well, in fact there is one factor that all those shows have in common, along with The Herbs, The Woodentops, The Magic Roundabout, Thunderbirds and all the others. The people involved cared. They knew that it mattered. Why does it matter ? Gordon Murray puts it much better than I could:
I am very upset, because I'm an old man
now, at the short length of childhood, that children have. They don't have
childhood for long and I think that's a wicked shame, because childhood
is the most marvelous thing you've got to remember for the rest of your
This is a transcription of an interview heard on the BBC Radio 4 programme "Trumpton Riots", produced by Laura Druce, and originally broadcast at Christmas 1995.