Michael J Bird Tribute Website

Frequently Asked Questions

1 : What did the "J" stand for in Michael J. Bird? 2 : Who was the Director on Who Pays The Ferryman?
3 : Where Can I get a DVD of ...? 4 : Where was The Outsider filmed?
5 : How can I get in touch with ...? 6 : Why are you doing all this, what got you started?

What did the "J" stand for in Michael J. Bird?

I always had a suspicion that it may not have stood for anything. Writers, particularly writers with a short surname (like me) often give themselves a middle initial because it looks better on dust jackets.

I was delighted, therefore, when Olive Bird proved me wrong and told me that his full name was actually Michael John Hereford Bird. He adopted the "J" to distinguish himself from an actor with the same name and in television circles he became known as "Michael J".

Who was the Director on "Who Pays The Ferryman?"

This has been something of a mystery. Radio Times listed the director for every episode of every other series, but not Ferryman. The opening and closing credits of the series each week made no mention of the director.

In fact William Slater was contracted to direct the series as well as produce it. However the shoot was fraught with problems and the joint role became too much for Slater, especially when during the location work he put his back out and suffered a lot of pain. Production Assistant Andrew Morgan handled a lot of the location shooting. Morgan says "it was a tremendous experience and helped set me off as a freelance director." Ironically Slater's back injury occurred lifting Morgan's ten year old son, who was on holiday on Crete with the rest of his family.

Olive Bird recalls her husband saying that during the studio work technicians and actors often came to him for direction. Bird later described the series as "particularly horrendous and really badly made, an awful experience." At the wrap party Bird, who had been under a lot of pressure, lost his cool and destroyed part of the set. Olive says the incident gave rise to a story, which hung around the BBC for years, that Bird had gone mad and smashed up a studio!

Where Can I get a DVD of ...?

Probably the most frequently asked question is "Where can I get ... (fill in the title for yourself) ... on DVD ?"

It took a long time but all of Bird's BBC series have now been released commercially on DVD.

  • Early in 2006 Who Pays the Ferryman? appeared on DVD in Holland and Belgium, produced under license from the BBC.
  • Then in October 2006 the BBC themselves released The Lotus Eaters here in the UK.
  • Next came Maelstrom, released in Scandinavia in March 2007.
  • Finally in February 2012 (after everyone who wanted it had already bought Dutch version) Who Pays the Ferryman? was released (at an astronomical price) in the UK. .
It was another three years before the set was complete.

Sadly neither of Bird's YTV series have been released commercially.

For more detail on the availability of a particular series on DVD see the section of the website covering that creation. (They can all be accessed via the 'Scriptwriting' page.)

Or e-mail me, I am always happy to answer enquiries.

Many of the episodes Bird wrote for other drama series (both ITV and BBC) in the 1960s and 1970s are now available on DVD, either as commercial releases, like the examples below, or I have had them transferred to DVD from off air video recordings. If you are interested then e-mail me at the website using the button above for details.

Commercial DVD Release includes Bird's contribution Commercial DVD Release includes Bird's contribution Commercial DVD Release includes Bird's contribution Commercial DVD Release includes Bird's contribution Commercial DVD Release includes Bird's contribution Commercial DVD Release includes Bird's contribution Commercial DVD Release includes Bird's contribution

Where was The Outsider filmed?

I was ages trying to discover the location of "Micklethorpe" the fictional Yorkshire town setting for The Outsider.

Olive Bird couldn't recall the name, though she believed it was not far from Leeds, where all the interiors were shot. Michael Sheard thought it may have been Richmond, but admitted that may have been "where we went to learn how to be printers."

Website visitor Martin Underwood told me it said on the IMDB that it was Appleby, Westmorland/Cumbria but Martin thought the surrounding scenery and the lake "looked more like the Yorkshire Dales than Cumbria which is generally rather rugged and wild." (Having looked at a number of shots of Appleby on the net I tended to agree with Martin.)

Martin also said "the outside shots of Micklethorpe almost certainly aren't Richmond: I'd definitely recognise that. My parents have got a holiday cottage near Leyburn so I know Leyburn and Richmond quite well."

Eventually it was Martin who tracked it down and solved the mystery ... (See
The Outsider section of the site)

How can I get in touch with ...?

It took me a while (and a nudge from Simon Farquar) before I hit on
The Spotlight website. In those days you could enter an actor's name in a little 'Looking for an artist?' box - top left and up popped the name and address of their agent. It brought me a number of successes.

Why are you doing all this, what got you started?

One day I was reminiscing with a friend about The Lotus Eaters. He put me on to the Programme Preservation Society a group of anoraks like me who 'preserved' old TV programmes and pooled their respective video collections. (The PPS is now sadly defunct since the BBC objected to their activities).

I signed up immediately and discovered that they had a quarterly newsletter / magazine called "Radio Tellyscope". Martin Hearn, the editor, was begging for contributions. Since, among other things, I am a freelance writer I decided that I would offer to write something - and since MJB was my reason for joining the group I suggested something about him. Martin was pleased. (At the time he would probably have been pleased with anything, particularly since it was non-paying!).

As part of my research for the article I searched the web and found next to nothing about Michael Bird. I did find his agent and an e-mail to them brought the news that Bird had died. I finished my research - largely consisting of ploughing through back issues of Radio Times at the local library - and wrote my feature.

Around the same time I got to see The Lotus Eaters again courtesy of a member of PPS and decided that all my research needed a home. I had a webpage as a freelance writer and had been itching to do another one but could not think of a suitable subject. It all came together nicely and I decided to put the results of my labours on the web in the hope others might contribute (and boy did they!). I asked if the agent could let Bird's family know about it. Olive Bird wrote to me - and the site took off like a rocket.

Next I started tracking down people Bird had worked with, via the internet, but the next watershed came when one of the friends of the site mentioned that actors' agents' names and addresses were on the web at Spotlight [see question above]. I started bugging all the main actors and to my surprise most of them played ball. I really was impressed by that. An actor works with countless writers and directors over the course of a career. An actor gets loads of begging letters from "fans" - yet time and again these people were taking the trouble to write back to me, ring me, e-mail me - and every one of them said what a gifted storyteller Michael Bird was. It really must be true!

I eventually sold a feature article about Bird to his local county magazine magazine, The Cambridgeshire Journal, (although that had never been the intention) and have since written his Biography, so indirectly he helped further my own writing career.

How did you first discover the website?

Answers Votes Percent
1. Internet Search Engine 64%
2. Link from Cretan Vista site 0%
3. Link from another web site 9%
4. Poster in Elounda 1%
5. Recommendation by a friend 4%
6. Via the Programme Preservation Society 6%
7. Contacted by site manager following an e-bay transaction 7%
8. Other 9%

Total Votes: 85

Which is your favourite Michael Bird Series?

Answers Votes Percent
1. The Lotus Eaters 14%
2. Who Pays The Ferryman? 31%
3. The Aphrodite Inheritance 19%
4. The Dark Side of the Sun 19%
5. Maelstrom 10%
6. The Outsider 1%
7. No preference 6%

Total Votes: 86

How often do you visit the site?

Answers Votes Percent
1. Weekly 23%
2. Monthly 31%
3. Whenever updates are reported in the newsletter 46%

Total Votes: 70

Many thanks to all who took part.

Michael J Bird Tribute Website

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