The Eagle of the Ninth


This was first broadcast in ‘Children's Hour’ on the Home Service and billed For Older Children and was an adaptation, by Felix Felton, of the book by Rosemary Sutcliff.

It is the story of a mystery - the mystery of a lost legion. Somewhere about AD 117 a Roman legion, the Ninth Hispana, stationed at Eburacum (which is where York now stands) was alerted to deal with a rising among the Caledonian tribes. They marched off, five-thousand strong, into the Scottish mists, and were never heard of again.

When the young Roman centurion Marcus Aquila came to Great Britain in his first military command he hoped to solve the mystery of the Ninth Hispana Legion. Badly wounded in defending his fort against a British attack, he was now staying with his Uncle Aquila at Silchester. At the Saturnalia Games there he had seen and persuaded his uncle to purchase for him a young British slave, by name Esca, who had taken part in a gladiatorial duel. It was from Esca that Marcus learned more about the lost Ninth Legion.

One evening at dinner at his Uncle Aquila's, young Marcus Flavius heard some more about the lost Legion, which had disappeared into the northern mists, and to which his father had belonged. His uncle's guests were his old friend Claudius Hieronimianus, legate of the Sixth Legion, and a young tribune he had brought with him.

Disguised as a wandering Greek oculist (Demetrius of Alexandria) and his servant, Marcus and Esca came north of the Wall into the now abandoned province of Valentia, hoping to learn how the Ninth Legion had met its end, and, if it still existed, to recover its lost Eagle. After many months they met a hunter called Guern, who admitted to them that he had been a Roman Legionary of the Ninth, and from him they heard of the Legion's last days.

Marcus Flavius Aquila Marius Goring
His father William Eedle
His mother Murna, Guern's wife Janet Bruce
Drusillus, 2nd-in-command Geoffrey Wincott
Quintus Hilarion Peter Howell
A duty centurion John Clarke-Smith
Aulus, the fort surgeon Richard Williams
Cradoc, a young Briton
Dergdian, Epidail chieftain Peter Claughton
Clodius Maximus Lewis Stringer
Cassius Lionel Gamlin
Uncle Aquila Laidman Browne
Esca, a young Briton Martin Starkie
Cottia Ann Totten
Narcissa, her nurse Mary Morrell
Rufrius Galarius, a surgeon John Glyn-Jones
Claudius Hieronimianus Ralph Truman
Placidus Robert Bernal
Guern, the hunter Felix Fenton
Tradui, his grandfather Cyril Shaps
Liathan, his brother Duncan McIntyre
An Old Headman Ralph de Rohan
Production was by David Davis

1. The Attack On The Fort
5.0 - 5.50 Wednesday, 27 February 1957
Rpt 5.0-5.55 Sunday 7 Sept 1958

2. The Saturnalia Games
5.0- 5.50 Wednesday, 6 March 1957
Rpt 5.0-5.55 Sunday 14 Sept 1958

3. Marching Orders
5.0-5.50 Wednesday, 13 March 1957
Rpt 5.0-5.55 Sunday 21 Sept 1958

4. Across The Frontier
5.0-5.50 Wednesday, 20 March 1957
Rpt 5.0-5.55 Sunday 28 Sept 1958

5. In Enemy Country
5.0-5.50 Wednesday, 27 March 1957
Rpt 5.0-5.55 Sunday 5 Oct 1958

6. Tradui's Gift
5.0-5.50 Wednesday, 3 April 1957
Rpt 5.0-5.55 Sunday 12 Oct 1958

It seems that the 6-part serial was subsequently
edited into a 90 minute play broadcast on the Home

8.30-10.00 Saturday Night Theatre Saturday 8 June 1963

Rpt 3.00-4.30 Afternoon Theatre Monday 10 June 1963

Neither the serial, or the edited play version are held by the BBC Sound Archive and there is no information about it being issued by Transcription Services.

Does anyone have a recording?

It was remade in the mid-90s and subsequently issued on cassette by BBCWorldwide.

Roger Bickerton, VRPCC

(reproduced by permission - many thanks – N.D.)


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