Nicholas McInerny
BBC Radio Plays

Nicholas is a scriptwriter based in London. He was educated at Christ's Hospital, Horsham, Oxford University and St Martin’s College of Art. He has written for radio, television, theatre and film, and is a well-known lecturer and tutor. He is one of the organizes of the International Radio Drama Festival in Canterbury which takes place each year (but which, in 2020, had to go online because of the lockdown). He was chairman of the judges for the 2019 Tinniswood Award.

R4 unless indicated otherwise.
27.01.94 THE DEATH OF IVAN ILYICH rpt. 1.1.95
25.12.95 THE NUTCRACKER CHRISTMAS; rpt. 28.12.1996.
29.03.00 NEVERMORE
05.12.01 SIGNS OF LIFE Series 2: BATTLE CRY
25.03.02 EARTH SONG
27.03.02 THE END OF TIME
01.01.03 NOT SO TINY TIM
??.03/04.05 PRISONERS OF ALBION (3 PLAYS/contribution)
30.12.05 EX LIBRIS
04.03.06 GOLD MUFFLER; for THE VERB, Radio 3
21.09.07 WHO WON THE ELECTION? Ep. 3 of NUMBER 10
21.09.09 and 22.09.09 BLAME THE PARENTS Two plays with Jonathan Myerson
12.08.13 HOW TO HAVE A PERFECT MARRIAGE, 5x15m drama
10.08.15 HOW TO HAVE A PERFECT MARRIAGE, 5x15m drama,2
27.06.16 HOW TO HAVE A PERFECT MARRIAGE, 5x15m drama,3
26.06.17 HOW TO HAVE A PERFECT MARRIAGE, 5x15m drama,4
01.06.20 TOGETHERNESS (with Jack Klaff)
24.08.20 BREAK OF DAY (Colette, dram NM)


A Ghastly Mistake, by Nicholas McInerny (R4, 1500, 1 Jul 2023), is the story of Sir Ewan Forbes, a Scottish nobleman, general practitioner and farmer. But Ewan was a trans man; he was christened Elizabeth Forbes-Sempill and officially registered as the youngest daughter of John, Lord Sempill. After an uncomfortable upbringing, he began presenting as a man in the 1930s, following a course of medical treatments in Germany. He formally re-registered his birth as male in 1952, changing his name to Ewan, and was married a month later.

In 1965, he stood to inherit the baronetcy of his elder brother William, Lord Sempill, together with a large estate. But the inheritance was challenged by his cousin, who argued that the re-registration was invalid; under this interpretation, Forbes would legally be considered a woman, and thus unable to inherit the baronetcy. The legal position was unclear.

Drawing on Ewan’s autobiography and press reports from the time, this drama explores the court case, telling the story of a man who was intent on living a quiet life as a GP and a farmer, but was resolute about affirming his identity, the validity of his marriage, and his family reputation through the confirmation of his inherited title.

Cast: Ewan Forbes: Kit Green, Margaret: Lesley Harcourt, Gwendolen: Frances barber, Patty: Pippa Hinchley, Judge: Jack Hunter: John Dougal, Professor Strong: John Kay Steel, William Grieve: Michael Wilson, Charles Jauncey: Finlay Robertson, John Sempill: Robert Cavanah, Auld Laird: Jonathan Keeble. Producers: Jonathan Banatvala and Melanie Nock. Indie (International Arts partnership). 55m.

This is another cracking production by International Arts for Radio 4.

The picture (used by permission) shows Patty and Ewan during the trial.

Patty and Ewan at the trial

    A Ghastly Mistake

    Trans rights continue to be subject to culture conflict but who knew the upper classes were involved in a battle for recognition back in the sixties? Dr Ewan Forbes stood to inherit the Scottish baronetcy of Craigiever after denouncing his assigned gender as a girl at birth but the line only allowed for male heirs. His cousin John Forbes Sempill challenged the succession on the grounds Ewan, born Elizabeth, was ineligible.

    If the issue causes division now, imagine what it would have been like in the mid-sixties. As it happens the legal case was held ‘in camera’ and although it became widely known after Forbes' death in 1991 the full documentation was only released in 2021.

    The story has been revived by writer Nicholas McInerny and will surely resonate given the times we are in. Although set at the time of the court hearing, he uses the device of introducing Forbes deceased mother Gwendolyn as a voice from beyond the grave.

    It still seems extraordinary in such times that she embraced her offspring’s transition from female to male, a situation he insisted on from the age of six and made legal on his birth certificate years later in 1952. The title of the tale, ‘A Ghastly Mistake’, refers to Forbes anger that he was registered a girl at birth.

    The dialogue does detail the technicalities of male and female physical attributes and it may be that the actual issue here is not a trans one but that of DSD (Disorders of Sex Development). It's possible that Ewan was a hermaphrodite and frustrated that he wasn't born with the full male attributes more than someone wishing to transition but also angry he had to prove who he was.

    Much of the story is told from the point of view of Judge Hunter with observations from Gwendolyn and with further comments from people identifying as trans this swerves slightly into docu drama territory.

    And of course underlying the drama of the legal case is the issue of women being denied the right to succession. An intriguing story.

    Listen on BBC Sounds to find out what happens.

    Harry Turnbull

      ...and finally, a few words taken from Nicholas's piece in RT, 1-7 Jul 2023, reproduced by permission...(..thanks, David Crawford)...

      ... there did exist a process back in Scotland to discreetly change your gender by requesting a warrant for birth re-registration...... in 1952, Ewan Forbes-Sempill, landowner, dancer and popular GP, did just that.

      .... I never expected to discover a trial held in secret in the Court of Session in May 1968, where Ewan was taken to court by his cousin... who claimed that because Ewan had been born female, he couldn't inherit the title of 11th Baronet of Craigievar from his late brother under the laws of male primogeniture.

      Normally I go to producers with an idea, but this time they came to me with this incredible story..... I started with "The Hidden Case of Ewan Forbes" (Bloomsbury, 2021) and complemented that with contemporary press accounts, the transcript of the trial, and Ewan's own two memoirs that he wrote towards the end of his life. My producer (Melanie Nock) and I spent a day in the National Recods of Scotland in Edinburgh, reading 537 pages of transcript. It's predictably horrifying in places - especially the cross-examination of Patty. But in all the expert witness arguments about Ewan's physical appearance there is perhaps, for the first time in a UK court, a recognition of the psychological dimensions of gender.

      It feels hugely important to be writing this now, a story from the 1960s, that resonates today."

      Kit Green was cast as Ewan, and Frances barber as Patty. Here's Kit Green:

      ....."Ewan's story is so specific to his time, his country, his class and his privilege, and yet his experiences of the love of a supportive mother and partner, and personal determination feel very relevant to my life .... I loved playing this man and for a while being zoomed out of the complexities of being a trans person in 2023."

24 Aug 2020: Break of Day
By Colette, dram. Nicholas McInerny. This largely biographical story, written in 1928, charts French author Colette’s retreat from her Parisian life for her first summer alone, in her Provencal home. She needs to lick her wounds after a messy second divorce and to be back in the garden, held in the arms of the natural world, with her animals and at peace, and she means to renounce love forever. She's 55 and, for the first time since she was 16, will live without her life depending on love. But the temptation presented by a beautiful neighbour, Vial, 20 years her junior, tests Colette's resolve to the full. She could have him. She creates a ‘cover’ as matchmaker, setting Vial up with the pretty Helene, but in reality she is toying with them both as she considers her options. Abstention is alien to her. . Cast includes: Colette...………...Frances Barber, Sidonie…………..Siân Phillips, Helene...………...Elle McAlpine, Vial...……………...Timothy George. Director: Marina Caldarone. Sound Engineer and Design: David Thomas. Prod Co-ordinator: Sarah Tombling. Indie (Pier Productions). The play was recorded remotely, with some of the cast in their own homes in England; one member of the cast in France!

By Jack Klaff and Nicholas McInerny. Produced by International Arts Partnership, 'Togetherness' has been hailed 'a work of genius' by Susie at Star Inn, Old Heathfield. A short form work inspired by the Covid-19 pandemic, this 7 minute drama gives a snapshot response to England's wave of community volunteers. Recorded in lockdown, via Zoom, this recording reflects the versatility and determination of producers and teams across the world who have worked creatively to form their entries into The Speak Softly Shop. Ed: Clive Perrot, Bea: Jackie Stirling, Samuel Pepys: Jonathan Keeble, Kathrine Mansfield: Mufrida Hayes, Giovanni Boccaccio: Jack Klaff, Franz Kafka: Peter Svatik, Daniel Defoe: Cavin Cornwell. Directed by Jonathan Banatvala, edited and mixed by Justin Farndale, production coordination by Jimmy Fay: created for the The Speak Softly Shop; producer Melanie Nock, Artistic Director Jonathan Banatvala.

Nicholas McInerny's autobiographical look at modern relationships. This is a revealing look at a situation which must occur many times; a married man with a family gradually comes to the realization that he is gay. What happens next? (Note that I have attempted to give the episodes separate titles outlining the narrative without providing spoilers.) This story of a family surviving an emotional earthquake has been broadcast as 5x15-minute episodes over four series. It has become extremely popular and has struck a chord with the public; Nicholas has even appeared on Woman's Hour to talk about it.

    12-16 Aug 2013 - How to Have a Perfect Marriage
    5 x 15m. Karen is a busy mum with teenage girls; happy in her life. Then she finds an odd text on her husband's phone. Everything starts to change. Jack and Karen are nothing out of the ordinary; they have been happily married for years and are convinced every problem can be worked through. This is until Jack realises he is gay. Karen .... Julia Ford, Naomi .... Katriona Perrett, Ella .... Ellie Bindman, Cecily .... Liza Sadovy, Miranda .... Liza Sadovy, Malcolm ....Toby Sawyer, Jack .... Greg Wise, Ben .... Con O'Neill. Music by Greg Wise; singer Amy Liptrott. Sound design: Eloise Whitmore. Producer: Melanie Harris. Indie (Sparklab).

    1. The text
    2. Denial
    3. Storms and a first date
    4. Turmoil
    5. Wedding anniversary

    10-14 Aug 2015 - How to Have a Perfect Marriage, series 2
    By Nicholas McInerny. 5x15m. Karen knows her much-loved husband of 19 years is gay. A new normality is established. Jack stays with his boyfriend Tom on agreed nights away and slips back into the house before the children get up. Jack has come out to his wife Karen but not to the kids. Now he wants to tell the girls. Karen .... Julia Ford, Jack .... Greg Wise, Naomi .... Katriona Perrett, Ella .... Ellie Bindman, Ben .... John Sessions, Tom .... Daniel Crowder. Music by Greg Wise. Sound designer: Eloise Whitmore. Producer: Melanie Harris. Executive Producer: Jo Meek. Indie (Sparklab).

    1. A new normality
    2. Unravelling
    3. Karen's new date
    4. Trouble at School
    5. United in Adversity

    27 Jun - 1 Jul 2016 - How to Have a Perfect Marriage, series 3
    By Nicholas McInerny. 5x15m. Can Karen and Jack stay married, even though he's openly gay? Two years after he came out, they're still close, have a regular date night each week and are both involved in steering their girls through their teenage years.Then Jack says he wants to buy his own flat. This means the family house must be sold. Jack .... Greg Wise, Karen .... Julia Ford, Ella .... Izzy Watts, Tom .... Daniel Crowder, Miranda .... Mary Doherty, Naomi .... Katriona Perrett. Producer: Melanie Harris. Executive Producer: Jo Meek. Indie (Sparklab).

    1. Crossroads
    2. The new book
    3. Health scare
    4. Fun
    5. Possible Futures

    26-30 Jun 2017 - How to Have a Perfect Marriage, series 4
    By Nicholas McInerny. 5x15m. Karen and gay husband Jack are called to account by their surprisingly grown-up teenagers. In the first episode, Naomi and Ella receive a legacy of £10,000 from Ben, Jack's best friend. Naomi (18) and Ella (16) have had to deal with seismic changes to their lives inflicted on them by their gay dad. Under the circumstances, they are remarkably sane. Now we explore the next chapter, which is mainly about them. Jack .... Greg Wise, Karen .... Julia Ford, Ella .... Izzy Watts, Naomi .... Katriona Perrett, Miranda .... Dona Croll. Sound Designer: Eloise Whitmore. Producer: Melanie Harris. Executive Producer ..... Jo Meek. Indie (Sparklab).

    1. Legacy
    2. The Big Spend
    3. Naomi's Party
    4. Online Buddy and an arrest
    5. Pulling together

Blame the Parents Episode 1 ....2009
21 Sep 09. Drama by Nicholas McInerny and Jonathan Myerson about teenagers caught up in a violent crime outside their school. How much do parents really know about what their teenagers are up to? As far as the parents of Ben; Rory and Kris are concerned; their children have the world at their feet. But behind the promise of university and sporting achievement lies a much darker reality. Lekha Balaji ...... Bharti Patel, Nitin Balaji ...... Paul Bhattacharjee, Kris Balaji ...... Ashwin Bolar, Millie Balaji ...... Chandeep Uppal, Shona Peattie ...... Deborah McAndrew, Malcolm Peattie ...... Tom Roberts, Rory Peattie ...... James Rastall, Linda Swann ...... Claire Benedict, Ben Swann ...... Daniel Anderson. Directed by Steven Canny and Peter Leslie Wild.

Blame the Parents Episode 2....2009
22 Sep 09. By Nicholas McInerny and Jonathan Myerson. In the days after the knifing; the three sets of parents try to comprehend how their children could have become involved. Cast - as Ep. 1.

A Good Read....2009
17 Feb 09. Discussion programme: Kate Mosse talks to director and playwright Jonathan Holloway and playwright Nicholas McInerny about their favourite books.

Friday Play, 'Number 10', episode 3 of 5: Series of plays depicting life inside Downing Street. As the government prepares for a major cancer screening initiative with a private American company, a leaked letter between the Prince and the Prime Minister appears to advocate legalising cannabis. Prime Minister ...... Antony Sher, Polly Cairns ...... Haydn Gwynne, Monica Smith ...... Sasha Behar, Steve McKie ...... Stephen Mangan, Colin Brenner ...... Colin McFarlane, Lord Cairns ...... James Laurenson, Jasmine ...... Elizabeth McGovern, Hannah ...... Kelly Hunter, Norman Johnson ...... Shaun Prendergast, George ...... Nicholas Grace, Giles ...... Nicholas Woodeson, Anita ...... Carol McReady, Chrissie ...... Marcella Riordan. Producer - Clive Brill. Indie: Pacificus.

    Background: A drama series for BBC Radio 4 about a fictional British Prime Minister and his staff. Series created by Jonathan Myerson and produced by Clive Brill of Pacificus Productions; Peter Hyman as Political Adviser. Another series went out in 2008.

    7 sep 07 Good News Day, by Jonathan Myerson
    14 sep 07 And raise them to Eternal Life, by Jonathan Myerson
    21 Sep 07 Who won the Election? by Nicholas McInerny
    28 Sep 07 Rule of Law, by Mike Harris
    5 Oct 07 Home & Away, by Jonathan Myerson

Ex Libris....2005
30 December 2005,14:15 hrs,45m, Saskia Reeves / Nick Sayce / Janet Maw.

    By Nicholas McInerny, R4 1415, 31 Jan 06. A woman receives a legacy: a cottage previously inhabited by her aunt, an academic. She finds a bundle of old letters. That’s where the story begins.

    The play attracted interesting comments on the Radio 4 messageboard. “It was a gripping journey through a matrix of affairs of the heart; it didn't wallow or focus on grief but took the reader on a fantastic journey through a huge gamut of emotional experiences. The academic context was spot-on, too, and readily accessible to the average listener.” (C.H.)

    “From the opening strands of Bach´s cello suites to the last this drama had class written all over it”. …just the tonic I needed clearing up after last night's New Years´Eve bash. Lets hope this sets the trend for the year ahead. (‘penguin’, a frequent contributor to the R4 messageboard).

      Summary of Philip Daoust's review, Guardian:
      ......... a drama about love, life and literature. Lavinia, an Oxford lecturer and expert on the Romantic poets, dies leaving everything to a distant relative, who knows little about the dead woman, but that changes as she goes through Lavinia's possessions. There's a bundle of passionate letters from a much younger undergraduate, and notes scribbled in the margins of poetry books. Might they be Lavinia's replies? Cast: Jennifer ...... Saskia Reeves, Lavinia ...... Janet Maw, Gabriel ...... Nick Sayce. Producer Peter Leslie Wild.

Out of the Mould 3/3 Jacob and the Angel....2005
16 Mar 05. 45m. A series of drama-documentaries about famous sculptures. This one written by Nicholas McInerny. Commentary by Antony Gormley and Richard Cork. As the clouds of war gathered over London, Jacob Epstein was working on a dramatic depiction of the Old Testament story of Jacob wrestling with God. The play imagines a meeting between Epstein's wife, his lover and himself, during which emotions run high and the artist reveals his motives behind the creation of the sculpture. Epstein ...... Nicholas Le Prevost, Margaret ...... Janet Maw, Kathleen ...... Helen Longworth. Not sure who produced this.

Resurrecting Schubert....2004
8 Dec 04,14:15. Afternoon play. By Nicholas McInerny, with a commentary by Levon Chilingirian. As a young girl, Katarina nursed the dying Schubert. On his deathbed he asked to hear Beethoven's C sharp minor String Quartet. The musicians duly arrived and played it at the foot of his bed. Schubert died five days later, but for Katarina, the memory of the music lived on. Schubert ...... Julian Rhind-Tutt, Katarina ...... Barbara Flynn, Matthias ...... Simon Chandler, Young Katarina ...... Cathy Sara. Music played by the Coull String Quartet. Producer Rosie Boulton.

Not So Tiny Tim....2003
1 Jan 03. In the second of two sequels to Dickens' A Christmas Carol, we return to the firm of Scrooge and Marley fifteen years after the events of the book. Tiny Tim has grown up and become the ruthless manager of the company and is poised to become the most powerful businessman in London. Until he receives the first of three disturbing visitors. Tim Cratchit ...... Ian Pepperell, Bob Cratchit ...... Richard Derrington, Mary ...... Gillian Goodman, Ellen ...... Cathy Sara. Producer ...... Peter Leslie Wild.

Scrooge Blues ....2002 25 Dec 02, 11pm. Sequel to Charles Dickens's classic tale. A year after his transformation, Ebenezer Scrooge has become the most generous man in London.

Making Space ....2002
25 Mar 02. Three drama documentaries. 1: `Earth Song' by Nicholas McInerny. Dr Donald Mitchell analyses Gustav Mahler's great song cycle, created the summer after his elder daughter died.

26 Mar 02. Drama-documentary 2: `The Language of Flowers' by Tim Jackson. Dr Chris Mouncey examines 18th-century religious poet Christopher Smart's `Jubilate Agno'.

27 Mar 02. Drama-documentary 3: `The End of Time' by Nicholas McInerny. How, in a WWII prison camp bathroom, Olivier Messiaen managed to compose `The Quartet for the End of Time'.

Signs Of Life....2001
03 to 17-01-2001. A series of three docudramas which explores the metaphors of illness. (Wed 9:00pm; 30m)

1: Mapping The World: Alzheimer's Disease
(with documentary from Dr Richard Harvey, Winn Harris and Margaret Benson) Two cartographers each claim that they have the true map of the world.

2: The Wrong Target: Multiple Sclerosis
(with documentary from Dr Giles Ellrington and Wendy Tindall-Shepherd) Agent 1 is debriefing Agent 3 after a seemingly successful assignment. So why is Agent 2 watching from behind a mirror?

3: The New Controller: Anorexia Nervosa
(with documentary from Dr Jill Welbourne and Esther Gluck) A new controller has taken over the factory. She is beautiful, fascinating and inspiring - so why does everything start going wrong?

Victorian Marriage Beds (R4, 1415, beginning 22 Jan 01) was a series of three drama-documentaries about sexuality and how the Victorians coped with it. One hopes that the marriages described (of Edward Benson, August Strindberg and George Eliot) were not typical. Some of the scenes were upsetting but horribly fascinating. Nicholas McInerny wrote two of the plays Geoffrey Beevers wrote the other, and Rosie Boulton and Peter Leslie Wild did the production. ......ND, VPRCC Review, Apr 2001...

    BBC Blurb:

    29 Jan: Singleheart
    By Nicholas McInerny, with commentary by Prof John Tosh. As part of a series about Victorian sexuality, this drama documentary about the engagement and marriage of the future Archbishop of Canterbury, Edward Benson, explores the codes of conduct between an older man and a younger woman more than 100 years ago. With Samuel West, Amy Shindler and Lexi Rose.

    22 Jan A Proper Woman
    By Geoffrey Beevers, with commentary by Dr Lesley Hall. As part of a series about Victorian sexuality, this drama documentary about 60-year-old novelist George Eliot's honeymoon with John Cross explores the codes of sexual conduct between an older woman and a younger man more than 100 years ago. With Anna Massey, William Gaminara, Bella Hamblin and Luca Pusceddu.

    5 Feb A Madman's Defence
    By Nicholas McInerny, with commentary by Asa Bergenheim and Margaretha Fahlgren. Part of a series about Victorian sexuality, this drama documentary about the marriage of Swedish playwright August Strindberg and his second wife, Frida Uhl, explores the issue of women's rights and attitudes to sexuality in Europe more than a century ago. With Anton Lesser, Annabelle Dowler and Teresa Gallagher.

Beyond the Canvas....2000
29 Mar 00. Three drama documentaries about the creation of paintings. 3: `Nevermore'. The drama tells the story of Gauguin's painting, a response to the death of his wife's baby. Gauguin responded with one of his most striking paintings, depicting his wife as a nude Venus in a tropical setting, with a raven gazing over the scene. With Anton Lesser and Inika Leigh Wright. The painting is discussed by Prof John House.

The Sicilian Fairy and the Irish Giant ....2000
4 Jan 00. In 1824, the skeleton of the smallest girl in the world is exhibited beside that of the tallest man. How did she come to be in the Museum of Anatomy? With Siriol Jenkins, Denys Hawthorne and Richard Elfyn. Producer: Alison Hindell.

Drawing the Devil on the Wall....1991
15.7.1991 19:45 - The Monday Play. Tania waits for the verdict on her husband who's accused of multiple sex murders. If it's true, how could she not have known? Is her innocence worse than guilt? Written by Nicholas Mclnerny. Tania: Helen Griffin, Mary Jo: Rachel Atkins, Willis: Gareth Morris, Da: Brinley Jenkins, Marjory: Annest Wiliam, journalist: Bill Bellamy, Child: Ryan Simpson. Director Alison Hindell. Stereo/Binaural.

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