The Outsider


John Duttine

Frank Scully
(John Duttine)

Carol Royle

Fiona Lytton Neave
(Carol Royle)

Joanna Dunham

Sylvia Harper
(Joanna Dunham)

Pauline Letts

Miss Banner
(Pauline Letts)

Norman Eshley

Donald Harper
(Norman Eshley)

Michael Sheard and Ted Morris

Reuben Flaxman - Michael Sheard
Tom Holliday - Ted Morris
Peter Clay

Lord Wrathdale
(Peter Clay)
Elizabeth Bennett

Lady Wrathdale
(Elizabeth Bennett)
Joan Hickson

Lilian 'Dowager' Lady Wrathdale
(Joan Hickson)

Carol Royle - publicity shot
Fiona Lytton Neave
(Carol Royle)

Carol Royle says she is not sure how she came to be seen for the series. "I had just finished quite a good season with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and I think the head of drama, David Cunliffe, had heard of me.

There were two directors, Frank Smith (and another whose name escapes me!). Frank was lovely. We had such fun on it; all the actors were lovely. Jo Dunham became quite a chum, and Norman Eshley was great, and Peter Clay became a life-long friend, along with his beautiful wife Lilita.

I know that Michael had wanted me to do the next thing he was doing for the box - The Dark Side of the Sun - but I think the director had wanted someone else, so, sadly, that was not to be.

My character in The Outsider was supposed to be an ornithologist. I remember that she had to be looking at a long-eared owl in the script, so before I started work, I did a little research into this bird. I look up 'long-eared owl' in a book on birds, and it said, 'the difference between the long-eared owl and the short-eared owl is that the long-eared owl has long ears.' Armed with this information I took on the role of ornithologist with confidence!

We would rehearse for a short period and then go to Leeds to do the filming, both on location and in the studio. I always stayed at the hotel attached to the station, is it the Midland? (I think the Queens is in Manchester.) Fabulous old fashioned hotel - I adored it."

Carol was born in Blackpool on February 10th, 1954 while her father, the actor Derek Royle, was doing a season there. Her parents had met in Yeovil rep and married three months later; her mother, Jane Royle, giving up acting to become a film makeup artist.

Carol went to Central School of Speech and Drama from 1973 - 76. In 1977, she married Julian Spear, son of actor Bernard Spear and dancer / writer Mary Logan and they have two children - a son Taran, drummer in the band Anonymous Tip and a younger daughter Talitha. Carol has numerous TV and film credits, including that iconic Chanel perfume advertisement in which a girl infiltrates a Gentlemen's Club dressed like a man then whips off her hat to release cascading blond locks.

Given that actor John Duttine, who starred in The Outsider with Carol, became a regular in Heartbeat, it is interesting that Carol also had a recurring role in the series, over several years, playing Lady Patricia Brewster (Lord Ashfordly's sister), though to date she and Duttine have not appeared together.

Carol has her own website -

Joanna Dunham - publicity shot
Sylvia Harper
(Joanna Dunham)

Joanna Dunham said her memories of working on the series were "predominantly happy ones. It was shot over a period of roughly four months including location filming in Yorkshire. Originally the series was to be called "Wrathdale" (suitably north country), but the powers that be in London and Leeds decreed that The Outsider would be preferable if by no means unique.

Towards the end of the last few days shooting in the studio, Norman Eshley and I managed to collect from the props department half a dozen different works of literature, all of which bore the title The Outsider. Eventually in a short scene towards the end of the last episode, Norman and I managed to feature all of them prominently on a convenient bookcase. I don't suppose any of the viewers noticed.

I was lucky enough to have at least two long scenes with Joan Hickson. She was a lovely person, very amusing and a superb actress. She was later to be the definitive Miss Marple. I became very fond of her and also of Pauline Letts with whom I remained friends until her death three years ago."

Sadly Joanna Dunham died on 25th November, 2014 in Saxmundham, Suffolk, England aged 78. Read Dunham's obituary in The Guardian
Elizabeth Bennett - publicity shot
Lady Wrathdale
(Elizabeth Bennett)

Elizabeth Bennett says television series were made very differently in those days. Now "there is rarely the luxury of time that we took for granted then, which made a huge difference to everyone. These days one often only meets the writer briefly at a read through, but I remember Michael Bird being around quite a lot and being constructive and jolly."

Elizabeth recalls one particularly funny incident. "I remember we were returning from a shoot on a bus - at the end of a very long day - and John Duttine and I seeing, simultaneously, the most enormous bit of graffiti we had ever seen. In HUGE 15ft high letters on a wall some distance away someone had written 'Never mind the bomb - who's got the biggest cock?'. It was incredible that anyone would travel ladders and paint and scrawl such a vast and pointless message - a sign of the times then! Of course it became the giggle of the set for some days and was used endlessly - 'never mind the script - who's got etc. etc. ad infinitum all in broad Yorkshire accents."

Joan Hickson - publicity shot
Lillian - Dowager Lady Wrathdale
(Joan Hickson)

Born on 5 August, 1906 in Kingsthorpe, Northampton, Joan Hickson began a long and successful acting career in 1927, appearing regularly on stage as well as on the small and big screens. I first recall her as Mrs Peace, the housekeeper, in the popular ITV sitcom Our Man at St Marks in the early sixties playing opposite Leslie Phillips (later Donald Sinden). She never seemed to change.

Miss Hickson played the role of Lilian, Lord Wrathdale's mother, with great relish and everybody says they found her a joy to work with. Carol Royle remembers them calling at a pub for a drink between takes filming the garden party sequence near the end of the series and laughing when Joan Hickson delved deep into her cleavage to retrieve her money which she kept there during filming!

The following year Hickson played Miss Marple in the first of 12 BBC adaptations of Agatha Christie's novels produced from 1984 to 1992. It was the role she had been born to play, and she received a BAFTA nomination and an OBE. She died died in hospital in Colchester in 1998, aged 92.

Screenshot of Sheard's character

Reuben Flaxman
(Michael Sheard)

Michael Sheard played truculent printer Reuben Flaxman, and says he met Bird for the first time when the writer arrived on the set. They hit it off immediately. Sheard recalls "Michael came up to Yorkshire shortly before the end of shooting and saw the 'rushes'. He invited me for a wee dram in the bar. 'Michael', he said, 'I'm writing a piece for the BBC and there's a part in it, in which you would be excellent. He's the right hand man to the boss: Colonel Von Reitz."

So Sheard went on to appear in Bird's next creation The Dark Side of the Sun.

Sadly Sheard died in August 2005, aged 65. In his autobiography "Yes, Mr Bronson", published in 1997 Sheard recollected his time working with Bird on both series.

Pauline Letts in 1980

Miss Banner
(Pauline Letts)
(Biographical details from the
Coronation Street fandom website)

Pauline Letts, who played Miss Banner, was born on 1st May 1917 in Loughborough. She was the daughter of Harry Letts and Elise Catlow (herself an actress at one time) and attended the Collegiate School for Girls, Leicester. She studied for the stage at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and made her first appearance on the stage with the Coventry Repertory Company in July 1935, as Sally in The Two Mrs Carrolls. In the late 1930s she appeared in several productions at the Stratford Theatre Festival.

Her television career began in 1946 with a production of Androcles and the Lion and she later appeared in many episodic TV seres including Emergency-Ward 10, Skyport, Danger Man, Compact, No Hiding Place, Z Cars, Special Branch, Crown Court, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Minder and Rumpole of the Bailey. Her films included Antony and Cleopatra, Eye of the Devil and Girl on Approval.

She married actor/writer/director Geoffrey Staines in 1936 and was the sister of one time Dr Who Producer Barry Letts himself an actor. Pauline Letts died on 25th June 2001 in Isleworth.

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