Wednesday, 1 August 2007

In memoriam Phil Drabble


While driving through Yorkshire in the 1970’s, a BBC producer noticed two men rounding up sheep with a dog. It gave him the idea that perhaps this activity could be brought to television. He approached the renowned country gentleman, Phil Drabble, telling him about his plans to devise a programme about sheepdog trials and suggested he should host the show. Drabble was not impressed. “I told him not to be so daft. I said the viewers would fall off their perches with boredom” and “It’s boring watching dogs chase stroppy sheep”. One Man and his Dog was launched as a series in 1976 and was exported to European countries and the United States. The urban audience was not initially convinced by the show. Some viewers were so astounded at the skill with which the sheep were commanded that they suspected the sheep of being clandestinely trained. The unlikely audience was soon won over. The programme appealed to many city dwellers’ idyllic conception of the countryside: a pastoral idyll of bright summer mornings and brisk walks across rural England with wellies, walking stick and dog. At its peak, it was watched by eight million BBC2 viewers and Phil Drabble became the face of this surprisingly popular show for 17 years. In the programme, three shepherds, each with their own sheepdog, would whistle and “come by” their way through the show. The dogs and the shepherds faced a series of obstacles, such as guiding sheep through a gate, into a ring and then into a pen. Drabble would provide the commentary, telling the viewers: “It’s going to be a close-run thing” or “The dog’s getting a little excited”. Although the programme lacked drama, it hit the right spot. It was set in beautiful rural surroundings and it was presented by the comfortable commanding Drabble who for many viewers was the quintessence of the rugged rustic, clad in Wellington boots, tweed jacket and cap. His background was very different from this image. He spent the first half of his life in a factory in West Bromwich. Drabble was appointed OBE in 1993 and died on 29th July aged 93.

9 comments:

jmb said...

Nice story Eurodog. It's amazing what appeals to people isn't it? But if it's one thing that is thick on the ground in Britain, it's doglovers and sheep dogs are amazing to watch. I would have watched the show I'm sure.
regards
jmb

Rebecca Taunton said...

A nicely written memoriam ED, and wonderful story about the beginings of the show "One Man and His Dog". Drabble lived to a good age, and I'm sure he'll be missed by many.
RT

Eurodog said...

Thank you, RT but I drew inspiration from various obituaries.
JMB, the programme was terrific and although nothing much seem to happen - a bit like cricket - it was compulsive viewing.

Flowerpot said...

I suppose as the English are traditionally a nation of doglovers, this accounted for its success. Nowadays I suppose they'd try to make it into some reality show...

Steve G said...

This was a fine story. Very enjoyable.

Flowerpot said...

You have an award, Ed - please come by and pick it up!

Winchester whisperer said...

That programme was soooooooooooo boring!

Mopsa said...

It was a dull programme indeed, so what made it so weirdly addictive? I suspect it was the utter otherness of it all. Not many folks are shepherds after all, although I now own 2 crooks and use them regularly (for their intended purpose of course). That's even weirder.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Oh, I didn't know he'd died. I used to love that programme. Thank you for reminding me.