The Adventures of Richard Hannay
by John Buchan

John Buchan - The Adventures of Richard Hannay

BBC Radio 4

The year is 1914. Richard Hannay, a young Colonel of Scottish parentage, has arrive in England with full enthusiasm and with the idea of settling down in the 'Old Country'. He had been a mining engineer in South Africa making a tidy pile and since both his parents were dead, he decided that the old country is where he wanted to spend it. Hannay's parents had left Scotland when he was a small boy and they had never returned. Britain was always home for his father and mother and Richard grew up with the fixed idea that it was the only place worth living in. England was the sort of Arabian Nights to him as he made his plans to emmigrate from Buluwayo, South Africa. He planned to spend the rest of his days in Britain but from the first moments, he was disappointed. The weather made him liverish; the talk of the average man made him sick; and after the wide open spaces he was use to, he felt hemmed in and couldn't get enough exercise. He hadn't a real friend to go around with which possibly explains things but that was all about to change when he returned home one night to the flat he hired in Portland Place ...

Adapted for radio in six parts by Winifred Carey from John Buchan's 1915 novel, "The Thirty-Nine Steps" (episodes 1-3) and his 1917 novel, "Mr. Standfast" (episodes 3-6).

Produced by Norman Wright.

1) 'The Man Who Died' (Sunday 13th August 1972)

Richard Hannay, newly arrived in London from South Africa, returns after another uneventful evening to his flat in Portland Place. As he enters, a man pushes his way into Hannay's flat and tells him to shut the door quickly. The agitated man is Franklin B. Scudder who claimed to be the European Correspondent for a Chicago newspaper. Scudder tells Hannay that things are a bit dangerous for him at the moment and asks Hannay if he'll do him a good turn. Intrigued, Hannay tells the rattled man to continue.

Scudder tells him that there are three German agents of a nefarious group known as the 'Black Stone' who are after him. It's all because he has stumbled on something that will shake the world. There is a big movement going on underground, engineered by very dangerous people and Constantine Karolides, the politician, is the man who may wreck all their plans. He's been a marked man for the last six months and Scudder thinks he's found out the way they're going to get him. They can't get him in his own country but the British government has has invited him to England on the 15th of June to give his views on the international situation. He will never reach Downing Street alive. If he is warned and doesn't come, then this dangerous group wins as he is the only one who can straighten out this tangle though even he doesn't know how big the stakes will be when he arrives. Scudder tells him that Karolides will be murdered by an Austrian and that there will be plenty of evidence to show the connivance of the big folk in Berlin and Vienna. Though that will be a lie, the case will look black enough to the world. It will not come off if he, Scudder, who knows the wheels of the business, is kept alive right there in London on the 15th of June. He has no direct proof that this will happen and if he went to the police, they wouldn't believe him. The fact that the 'Black Stone' are after him proves him right.

The 'Black Stone' is a powerful part of the nefarious organisation and three of their agents are in London now in a flat opposite and have been after him for weeks. Two of them are young and one elderly. The youngest, Olsen, the brains of the show was educated in England and could pass anywhere as an English undergraduate. The other, Mellor, is half German, half French - a bad mixture. The old one they call the Colonel, a Prussian officer type with the cruelest eyes he's ever seen and has the horrible habit of hooding them like a hawk.

Scudder is on to a plan that's bigger than Karolides's death. It's planned for the same day as they will count on the British to be too pre-occupied with the murder to have time with anything else. He shows Hannay his little black book which has all the information he has picked up. He's written it in his own cypher and can't imagine anyone figuring it out without the key but gave a clue to Hannay to not foget the name of Julia Czechenyi. Hannay agrees that if something should happen to Scudder, he will take up the cause.

The game is on when Hannay finds Scudder murdered in his flat on the 25th of May. He is now on the run, trying to keep in hiding until the 15th of June while being pursued by police for murder and 'The Black Stone', who are intent on recovering Scudder's secret notebook which could give away their real plan.

With Fraser Kerr [Richard Hannay], Michael Spice [Olsen, the youngest of the Black Stone gang], David March [Colonel, the leader of the Black Stone], Harold Kasket [Mellor, another young member of the Black Stone gang], Brian Haines [Franklin B. Scudder, the European Correspondent forf a Chicago Paper], Sean Barrett [Malcolm, Landlord at a Scottish Inn], and Lewis Stringer [Sir Harry Duncan, M.P.].

Other parts were played by Eva Stewart, Ronald Herdman, John Samson, and William Sleigh.

60 minutes.

2) 'The Hawk Swoops' (Sunday 20th August 1972)
Hannay is now on the run from the police for murder as well as members of the Black Stone, who are intent on recovering Scudder's secret notebook. Hannay knows that the Black Stone are planning to assassinate the famous statesman, Constantine Karolides, when he arrives for talks with the British Government on June 15th, less than three weeks ahead. But, on the same day, a very important person is coming from Paris and will be given nothing less than the disposition of the British Home Fleet on mobilisation.

Hannay had thought he fooled the Black Stone gang when he left London, but he hadn't. Their aeroplane located him at a lonely Scottish Inn in the Galloway hills, run by a young man named Malcolm, and guided there the two younger men, Olsen and Mellor. By a ruse, Malcolm locked them in a room and they got away in their powerful, green touring car. However, they escaped one danger only to run into another. A car came on them suddenly and, to avoid a head on crash, Hannay drove slap into a hedge. He and Malcolm jumped clear but the car fell 50 feet into a deep river. Sir Harry Duncan, the local M.P. and the cause of the accident, was most concerned and insisted on taking them back to his place.

What was initially a bad brake turns into a blessing as Sir Harry's godfather, Sir Walter Bullivant, is the Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office. The men tell Sir Harry all that has happened to them and ask for his help. Sir Harry readily agrees and prepare a letter to Sir Walter, dictated by Hannay, that if a man named Hannay turned up before June 15th, to be good enough to see him at once. Hannay will prove his bona fides by passing the word 'Thirty-Nine' and, if neccessary, he'll whistle 'Annie Laurie.'

Sir Harry tells them that they'll find his godfather down at his country cottage for Whitsuntide, the cottage being close to Artinswell on the Kennet. Sir Harry provides the two with new clothing disguises: Malcolm as a gameskeeper and Hannay as the squire along with food, a map, and bicycles for their journey south. Also, if anyone asks about them, he will throw them off their scent. But their journey south soon runs into problems ...

With Fraser Kerr [Richard Hannay], Michael Spice [Olsen, the youngest of the Black Stone gang], David March [Colonel, the leader of the Black Stone], Harold Kasket [Mellor, another young member of the Black Stone gang], William Fox [Sir Walter Bullivant, Sir Harry's Godfather], Lewis Stringer [Sir Harry Duncan, M.P.], Sean Barrett [Malcolm, Landlord at a Scottish Inn], Peter Tuddenham [Marmaduke Jopley], William Eedle [Karl, a member of the Black Stone], and Brian Haines [Olaf, a member of the Black Stone].

Other parts were played by Martin Friend and William Sleigh.

60 minutes.

3) 'The Thirty-Nine Steps' (Sunday 27th August 1972)
Richard Hannay has interrupted a vital defence meeting at Sir Walter Bullivant's private house at Queen Anne's Gate to break the awful news that Olsen, a member of the Black Stone gang, had been present, disguised as Sir Henry Alloa, the First Sea Lord. Olsen has left with the disposition of the British Home Fleet on mobilisation as well as the military and naval plans of the French government - he must be stopped.

From the information Hannay provided from Scudder's notebook, Scudder had known where these fellows were going to leave the country although he kept the name of the place to himself. All they have to go on from his notebook is that it will occur on June 15th, someplace where high tide is at 10:17 p.m., and where they'll find thirty-nine steps. As Scotland Yard is mobilised, they have 24 hours to find a way to connect these three points with the getaway.

With Fraser Kerr [Richard Hannay], Michael Spice [Olsen, the youngest of the Black Stone gang], David March [Colonel, the leader of the Black Stone], Harold Kasket [Mellor, another young member of the Black Stone gang], Patricia Gallimore [Mary Lamington, Sir Walter's Niece], William Fox [Sir Walter Bullivant], Kerry Francis [John S. Blenkiron, an American 'English Spy'], David Valla [Launcelot Wake, a Conscientious Objector], Sean Barrett [Malcolm, Landlord at a Scottish Inn], Geoffrey Matthews [French Admiral Boyer], Peter Tuddenham [Stevens, East Coast Inspector of Coastguards], and Peter Pratt [Admiral Winstanley].

Other parts were played by Olwen Grifffiths, Eva Stuart, William Eedle, and John Samson.

60 minutes.

4) 'Hannay Gets Down to Work' (Sunday 3rd September 1972)

The year is 1917. Richard Hannay has received a summons from Sir Walter Bullivant who has asked him to take on another intelligence job. This time, it was to find out how so many secret and well guarded allied plans were known to the enemy so quickly. He jibbed, however, when Sir Walter said he'd have to pose as a pacifist - him! The only thing that reconciled him to the idea was the news John Blenkiron, an American 'English Spy' who had been his companion in another job in 1915 which they called "The Greenmantle Affair", would be in this one, too.

Although he set out with a very bad grace, almost at once, he met the most charming girl he had ever seen. She was Mary Lamington, Sir Walter's niece, and what a difference she made about his feelings towards the job. She told him that they, along with a hundred others, are hunting one of the most dangerous men alive. Until they know who he is and lay him by the heels, everything Britain does is crippled. If they fail, the allies might lose the war.

It was she who gave him his first orders to go down to a place called Biggleswick, posing as a South African pacifist where he met the rummiest collection of people but he couldn't find any treason or spies. Then suddenly, Blenkiron came down to address a meeting in his role as a violent American pacifist. The following day, they met secretly in London and Blenkiron told him that one of the most prominent men at Biggleswick, named Ivery, was the Head of a spy gang and responsible for the leakage. When Blenkiron said Ivery was a Boche agent and a superb actor, Hannay's mind leapt to Olsen. Sir Walter had disturbed him profoundly when he disclosed that Olsen hadn't reached the yacht and never been heard of since, although the Colonel and Mellor had been shot as spies. Blenkiron assured him that Ivery couldn't be Olsen because they have gone thoroughly into Ivery's movements for the last five years, but Hannay wasn't satisfied.

Blenkiron tells Hannay that they've closed a number of the channels that Ivery uses but not the biggest one. That's where Hannay comes in as Blenkiron wants to send him up to Glasgow. Blenkiron had suspected one of Ivery's channels up north but it wasn't until they heard that Abel Gresson had turned up in Glasgow from the States that he was sure. Gresson is one of the world's most dangerous labour agitators. His men report that he has been very discreet so far and hasn't advertised his presence at all but disappears for a week at a time and leaves no trace. He had a hunch he was working for Ivery so bits of news were put in Gresson's way and he passed them on to Ivery. Blenkiron wants Hannay to catch up to Gresson and find out his methods to use for themselves, sending news in his name that is quite genuine. Hannay begins his journey north on the same train as Ivery ... With Fraser Kerr [Richard Hannay], Michael Spice [Olsen, the youngest of the Black Stone gang], Kerry Francis [John S. Blenkiron, an American 'English Spy'], Henry Stamper [Andrew Amos, Hannay's Glasgow Contact], David Valla [Launcelot Wake, a Conscientious Objector], Paul Maxwell [Abel Gresson, an American Labour Agitator], Douglas Blackwell [Captain], John Samson [Jock], and Eva Stuart [An Old Woman].

Other parts were played by Michael N. Harbour

60 minutes

5) 'Mr. Ivery is Revealed' (Sunday 10th September 1972)

After he had realised his mistake in apprehending Launcelot Wake, Hannay quickly released him from his bounds. It was difficult to convince him that he wasn't working for the Germans, he asked a lot of questions and Hannay had to mention Mary's part in the game before he was satisfied. The two men who had been at fighting to the death, are now allies. Together, they wait just outside a cave on the west coast of Skye by a deep-water inlet, the most perfect submarine shelter in Britain, to see with whom Gresson will meet with to pass on the Allied secrets. Hannay decides to move in closer to see if he can pick up any of the conversation while Wake kept observation from the cliff tower above.

Hannay was able to hear Gresson talking, in good German, with a Portuguese Jew on the platform just outside the cave. He couldn't make sense of some of the words. Who were Chelius and Bommaerts, and what in the name of goodness were the Wild Birds and the Cage Birds?

Hannay must now make his way back to see Sir Walter Bullivant in London with his findings and avoid being stopped by the Black Stone.

With Fraser Kerr [Richard Hannay], Patricia Gallimore [Mary Lamington, Sir Walter's Niece], Henry Stamper [Andrew Amos, Hannay's Glasgow Contact], David Valla [Launcelot Wake, a Conscientious Objector], John Rye [Sir Archie Roylance], Michael Deacon [Georgie Hamilton, Hannay's Batman], John Samson [J. J. Linklater, a Whisky Trader], William Fox [Sir Walter Bullivant], Patrick Tull [A Portuguese Jew], and Blain Fairman [A Canadian Officer in the Hamlet of Eaucourt Sainte-Anne].

Other parts were played by Robin Browne, Garard Green, John Samson, and Lewis Stringer.

60 minutes.

6) 'Mr. Standfast' (Sunday 17th September 1972)

After accidentally running into Mr. Ivery in London during an air raid, Hannay recognises him as Olsen when he drops his guard during the bombing. This leads him to the Front where he tracked down Gresson and finds out that he spent time on his own in the hamlet of Eaucourt Sainte-Anne, which stands at a dozen crossroads where, at all hours, troops and transports are passing to and from the Front. After hearing from a Canadian Officer about 'ghostly' happenings at an old French chateau there, Hannay decides to move in, finding that the present tenant is Jacques Bommaerts, a name that Gresson had mentioned before.

At the chateau, Hannay and his Bateman run into Mary and Andrew Amos, also investigating. They now realise that Bommaerts is Ivery but they still don't know who Chelius is. The chateau reveals the enemy's plan as they find a bag of anthrax. From this point, the Germans could wreck the health of the entire allied forces. Another find for them is the code for the 'Deep-Breathing' advertisement that Chelius issued from Switzerland. The cypher proved bad reading as they now know how their secrets were leaking out. Blenkiron is eventually able to round up most of the 'Wild Birds' and finds out that the 'Deep-Breathing' headquarters is somewhere in Switzerland, but he couldn't get a line on Chelius.

With Ivery still on the loose, there's only one way to get him back on allied soil where they can handle him. Blenkiron wants to use Mary, whom Ivery is infatuated with, as bait - a plan that was Mary's idea. Blenkiron feels they must cage the remaining 'Wild Birds' in the next two months and reckon that Ivery has bolted for Switzerland and it's up to Hannay to find him and get his plans before he 'quits this earth'. On this trek Hannay will be joined by his old friend, Peter Pienaar - Mr. Standfast.

With Fraser Kerr [Richard Hannay], Patricia Gallimore [Mary Lamington, Sir Walter's Niece], Michael Spice [Olsen, a Member of the Black Stone], Henry Stamper [Andrew Amos, Hannay's Glasgow Contact], Kerry Francis [John S. Blenkiron, an American 'English Spy'], David Valla [Launcelot Wake, a Conscientious Objector], John Rye [Sir Archie Roylance], Michael N. Harbour [Peter Pienaar], Michael Deacon [Georgie Hamilton, Hannay's Batman], Patrick Tull [A Portuguese Jew], and Manning Wilson [Laidlaw].

60 minutes


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