John Kirkmorris is one of the enigmas of radio drama, the author of nearly forty plays broadcast in the 1970s and 1980s, but now virtually forgotten (except perhaps by grateful listeners with accurate memories). He won a Giles Cooper award for COXCOMB, a theatrical piece set in the dressing room of a leading actor. This may be found in BEST RADIO PLAYS OF 1979, published by Methuen in 1980. Otherwise, only three of his plays are known to us: two thrillers, DEADWEIGHT (1975) and A FULL ACCOUNT (1981), and a drama of the Great War, THE INVESTITURE (1978). All three are excellent, the thrillers clever and absorbing; the war play bitter and poignant.

DEADWEIGHT has the advantage of a sterling performance by Clive Swift as Walsh, an ex-policeman turned private detective, shrewd but modest, with a gift for handling people. He investigates a supposed suicide by hanging - but the dead man suffered from vertigo, so how did he climb the ladderto throw the rope over the beam? He didn't, of course- there's more to it than that, as Walsh establishes with the help of the dead man's prickly daughter and a co-operative senior policeman.

A FULL ACCOUNT is set on a rural estate, where the squire is found shot dead in the woods. It's both a mystery and an examination of personal relations among the dead man's immediate circle. At the centre is an estate agent, an impressive man played with authority by Jeffry Wickham. The truth of the matter is long delayed, emerging gradually from the interaction of sharply drawn characters, including those of the two investigating policemen. The play is subtle, arresting and satisfying - and finally we get the full account.

THE INVESTITURE concerns an intelligent, honourable man caught in the toils of the Great War, the horros of which are austerely and economically suggested. His personal life fails him and the 'mincing machine' of the war treats him with contempt, despite the D.S.O he receives from George V. Offered a chance of escape, he comes near to taking it, but circumstances and his moral code combine to return him to the trenches. The play enlists our heartfelt sympathy for its protagonist, whose bewildered decency and bitter confusion are beautifully conveyed by Philip Sully.

On the evidence of these plays John Kirkmorris is deserving of serious consideration and a revival of interest in his work. For that to happen, we have to hear it. BBC-7? Yes, please.

Barry Pike, 2003

Note from RB: only 3 of his plays seem to have been archived by the BBC. These are :- "Dancing Dolly", "Find Tony and " Uncle Moon". Many more of his plays have been located by VRPCC since the above piece was written.

14.08.71 Threepenny Joey 75m
09.10.71 The Reckoning 60m
18.11.72 Hungarian Wheat 60m r. 23.3.77
21.05.73 Saxons and Strangers r.19.10.75
02.06.73 Bloodlines* 60m r. 4.8.76
28.07.73 Unquiet Hill*
09.02.74 Find Tony* (SNT)
02.03.74 The healing Arts 60m
03.04.74 Conservatory Tea 30m r. 26.6.76
27.04.74 The Light Thread of Summer 60m
10.07.74 Just One More Time* 30m
10.03.75 Westerman Flat*
25.06.75 Five Little Flowers*
17.09.75 Gooseberry 60m
20.09.75 Marnie (Winston Graham, dram)
10.11.75 A Sabbatical
13.12.75 Deadweight* (SNT)
19.05.76 Death of a Pig* 60m
21.10.76 Monk 60m r. 10.3.78
02.02.77 Caring Incorporated 60m
19.04.78 Mushrooms and Serpents 45m r.9.7.79
05.05.78 Vicki* 60m r.10.11.79
23.09 78 Janus (SNT)
13.11.78 The Investiture*
27.02.79 Coxcomb 30m
23.03.79 Uncle Moon 60m
18.11.79 Dancing Dolly 75m
29.12.79 Wilaya 7* (SNT)
25.07.81 A Full Account* (SNT)
16.12.81 Turret before Sunset 45m
10.02.83 The War for Chantry Fields* 60m
11.06.83 Two on a balcony 30m
08.11.83 August Rose 60m
31.05.84 Rimer in Residence 60m
08.12.84 Intimations of a Raid* (SNT)
26.02.86 By a Roman Road 45m r. 10.6.87
11.07.87 Humanity Farm (SNT)
01.02.90 Ways and Means* 60m

Asterisked items exist in VRPCC collections

-compiled by Barry Pike


14 August 1971, 13:45, Afternoon Theatre. With Dudley Jones , Malcolm Terris and Denise Buckley 'And that reminds me; steer clear of the scriptural nonsense. I mean this, Potter. A Biblical text has a more harmful effect on you than five grains of morphine in the bloodstream.' Producer Susanna Capon. (note from SA)

9 October 1971, 14:00, Afternoon Theatre. Ken Bryant finds that there are more valuable prizes in life than winning a steeple-chase. Geoffrey Beevers, with Douglas Blackwell and David Gooderson. Produced by Archie Campbell.

18 November 1972, 14:00 Afternoon Theatre. With Cyril Shaps, Denise Bryer, Nigel Anthony. ' ...You are the first to hear the uncut version of the " Saga of Meir Press." I was born in January 1906 in Kracow - part of Poland that was Russian in those days. My father, Herschel. was a Lithuanian who had married a Rhineland German lady from Odessa. Am I confusing you? No? .... Producer Ian Cotterell.

21 May 1973, 20:00; The Monday Play. Having a Welsh mother and an Italian father scarcely makes one qualify as a Saxon, but Peter Casati with a minor public school and national service behind him feels as English as anyone. He doesn't care about relations and roots, and he goes to Wales because there's a chance an inheritance. Richard Kay, William Squire, Peter Egan, Diana Olsson, Anthony Hall, Illona Linthwaite, Terry Scully; producer Jane Graham.

2 June 1973, 14:00 Afternoon Theatre. Arthur: "I came here today with a proposal. Joe can tell you about it. Go on, say your piece..." Joe "We haven't made a brilliant start, have we? Right. The short way of saying it is to tell you that your father-in-law wishes to make Christopher his eventual heir"....... Produced by Richard Wortley.

28 July 1973, 20:30, Saturday-Night Theatre. With John Challis , Geoffrey Matthews and Caroline John. Helen lives alone until a man bursts unexpectedly into her life. There is, she finds, a blood-stained shovel in the boot of the car. Producer Gerry Jones.

FIND TONY....1973
With Clive Swift. 9 Feb 74; Saturday Night Theatre.Tony's mother is understandably worried when her son suddenly goes away without as much as a postcard to let her know where he is. She finds the thought of listing him as a missing person is alarming, so she contacts a private detective instead. Producer Jane Graham.

With John Rowe, Joan Matheson, Elizabeth Proud and Sion Probert. 30m. 1130 am. In a quiet bar in a seaside resort at the end of the season, the members of a band argue about their future.

By Winston Graham [published 1961]. Adapted for radio by John Kirkmorris. Broadcast 20th September 1975, Saturday Night Theatre. The stunning blonde Marnie Elmer poses as a secretary in order to steal from her employers and fund her mother's existence in Torquay.
Marnie.............Julie Hallam
Mark..............Michael Spice
Strutt...........Jonathan Scott
Mrs Denby..........Anne Jameson
Receptionist.......Norma Ronald
Collett........Trader Faulkener
Lucy................Betty Hardy
Edith............Kathleen Helme
Ward..............Malcolm Hayes
Terry.......Christopher Bidmead
Dawn.............Rosalind Adams
Gloria...........Kate Coleridge
Mrs Leonard......Katherine Parr
Roman..............Garard Green
Mrs Rutland..........Maddi Hedd
With Susan Denny. Produced by Richard Wortley.

BBC Radio 3: Drama Now, 21 Oct76. They've had no proper Spring with all the rain and if that wasn't enough, Brian's lawn is under two feet of water, slopping over the top of the swimming pool as it seems the outlet valve is plugged with dead leaves. Alone at home, Brian, a 31-year-old Rock guitarist, has got a cold coming and hopes it's the flu. Brian plans to talk into a tape recorder. It's something he does when he's alone, which is more often than not. He speaks to the tape recorder because it doesn't yawn or pick its nose or condemn him. When he finishes, he puts the tape in a box and forgets about it. In ten years time, he'll play it again and give himself a good laugh. As he talks into the tape recorder, Brian reminisces on his rise (and how he got to be known as B. "Monk" Sims, the sizzling friar") and fall in the music industry.... Special music composed and realised by Ron Geesin. With Nigel Anthony [Brian "Monk" Sims, 31-year-old Rock Guitarist] and Liza Ross [The Girl]. Producer Richard Wortley. Repeated by NPR (National Public Radio), 17 Jun 79; Earplay series, in USA.

DEATH OF A PIG....1976
60m. Two elderly sisters living on a smallholding; one runs it and the other watches. BBC R4; rebroadcast by NPR 'Earplay', USA, 3 May 78: "Kirkmorris lives in Sussex, England, and wrote his first radio play in 1970". With Elizabeth Spriggs, Avril Elgar, Malcolm Reed, David Graham, Peter Craze, Douglas Blackwell."(notes from the American broadcast)

WILAYA 7 ....1979
By John Kirkmorris. Saturday Night Theatre, 29 Dec 79; 8.30 pm. Rpt. Afternoon Theatre, 28 January 1980 and 12 April 1981. As the Algerian War winds down in 1962, Captain Leger is chosen for a dangerous, unarmed mission to escort a French emissary into hostile territory. Cast: Michael Jayston [Captain Leger], Caroline Blakiston [Nadia Destouches], Patrick Troughton [Colonel Fer], John Bott [The General], Jane Wenham [CÚcile], David Daker [Picquot] and Michael N. Harbour [Rossy]. With Rod Beacham, Philip Voss, Valerie Sarruf, Elizabeth Rider, John Church, John Bull and Michael McStay. Directed by Cherry Cookson. (...Jim)

Intimations of a Raid....1984
8 Dec 84; SNT with Bill Wallis and Angela Phillips; directed in Bristol by Shaun McLaughlin. A rumour about the takeover of a privately held industrial firm is published. Such a thing shouldn't be possible, but are all the principal shareholders playing for the same side? (GL)

Produced by Andy Jordan. 1 Feb 1990, afternoon play. Victor, successful estate agent and local councillor, is on the make, but someone shops him to the D.T.I.
Cast: Chris EMMETT ...............Victor Wicks
Bill WALLIS ................Densby Gurd
Caroline GRUBER ............Alison Wicks
Donald GEE .................Stebbins
Anna CROPPER ...............Stone
Ian TARGETT ................Neville Jolly
Hetty BAYNES ...............Reba Knutt
Denise BRIARS ..............Bella Crockmore

Compiled by Nigel Deacon / Diversity website.

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