Saturday, 17 September 2016

The Witches and the Grinnygog (1983)

Made in 1983 and based on the novel of the same name by Dorothy Edwards published two years earlier, 'The Witches and the Grinnygog' is a 6 episode supernatural, time-slip story for children made by TVS (the ITV channel for south east England).

The story tells of five very nice kids, Colin and Nan Sogood and Essie and Dave Firkettle (who grew up to be Eastenders' Ian Beale) and their little brother Jimmy who, whilst setting up the local museum (see, I told you they were nice), start to notice strange things happening in their quiet little village all of which seem to be connected the Firkettle's Grandad's (John Barrard) garden ornament, an odd, gargoyle-like statue that quite literally falls off the back of a lorry just missing Mrs. Firkettle's head.

Things get increasingly unusual for the quartet with the arrival of an enigmatic African anthropologist, Twebele Alabaster (Olu Jacobs), three eccentric and seemingly magical old ladies Mrs. Ems (Sheila Grant), Edie Possett (Anna Wing - who later became Ian Beale's great aunt Lou) and Miss Bendybones (Patricia Hayes) and finally a lost and lonely young girl called both Margaret and Daisy (Eva Griffith - who some of you will recognise as the young blind girl who tries to convince Bill Mason to stay and carry on looking after 'his' group of blind people in the brilliant 1981 BBC TV version of 'The Day of the Triffids').

'The Witches and the Grinnygog' is a very well mannered sort of affair lacking the air of disquiet and menace that is palpable in many of the more well known supernatural shows like 'Children of the Stones'.  Unfortunately, there's no actual jeopardy in the plot.  The kids run around trying to solve the secret of the statue and village's unpleasant past even though Miss Bendybones tells them (and others) on several occasions that everything is fine and its all going to work out on the day.  Kudos to the makers for not falling in the trap of 'demonising' any one here, followers of all the religions featured - both orthodox and less so - are portrayed as well intentioned and kind and contributes towards making a show that is, in almost every way possible, nice and which probably goes some way to explain why 'The Witches and the Grinnygog' is considerably less well known than many other TV shows of this ilk.

It is though still an intriguing and enjoyable watch.



  1. John Barrard the gandfather with the glasses also appeard as the wise elf Dooley in Santa Claus The Movie. He also did One Foot in the Grave by playing a character called Harold and a house owner in Keeping Up Appearances. His ashes were interred at Golders Green. His wikipedia page says.

    1. His Wyrd Britain pedigree is strong with appearences in (a very early) Doctor Who, The Saint, The Avengers and Survivors.