For many Jon Pertwee will be best remembered for playing Timelord Doctor Who, but given that he handed over to Tom Baker when I was only one year old, I will forever remember him best as the scarecrow that came to life, Worzel Gummidge.
Worzel Gummidge was one of my favourite shows as a kid, and was one of those TV programmes that got the whole family together regardless of their age. Worzel was a scarecrow who was made by The Crowman, a strange old man played by Geoffrey Bayldon of Catweazle fame. The Crowman’s scarecrows were very special as they could come to life, although they were supposed to remain lifeless whenever a human was around.
Worzel’s head was made from a Mangelwurzel (a root vegetable, a bit like a large turnip), although more properly, I should say “heads”. Worzel had a number of different heads he could switch between. A sharp twist removed his normal head, and a different head could then be slotted onto his shoulds. Each of these heads looked slightly different, and gave Worzel different abilities. Most often used was his Thinking Head, which gave him an intelligence boost, but he also had a Counting Head and a Brave Head, amongst others.
Worzel was supposed to live in 10 Acre Field, a part of Scatterbrook Farm. Instead he often left his perch behind and went off on an adventure, normally getting into mischief in his quest to either woo Aunt Sally (played by Una Stubbs), or purloin himself “A Cup pa Tea and a Slice o’ Cake“. This also usually meant that he got John and Sue, the two children who lived at Scatterbrook, into plenty of trouble, and it was often up to the kids to help Worzel out. John was played by Jeremy Austin, whilst Sue was Charlotte Coleman, who also played troublemaker Marmalade Atkins when she was older. Charlotte sadly died in 2001 from an asthma attack.
Aunt Sally was a fairground attraction doll that was supposed to be part of a coconut shy. She too could come to life, but she was not a very nice person when she did. Worzel was besotted with her, and you wondered why as she always treated him like dirt, except when she thought she might be able to trick poor old Worzel into helping her do something.
There were also a couple of other potential love interests for Worzel. One was Dolly Clothespeg (Lorraine Chase) who was a shop window dummy and genuinely did appear to have a sweet spot for Worzel. The other was The Sauncy Nancy (Barbara Windsor) who was the figurehead of an old ship.
There were a total of four series of Worzel Gummidge that were based at Scatterbrook Farm made between 1979 and 1981. Between 1987 and 1989 there were two more series made, entitled Worzel Gummidge Down Under, where Worzel made his way to New Zealand (or Zoo Kneeland has he pronounced it) in order to follow Aunt Sally who had been bought by an antiques collector.
The thing I shall always remember most about Worzel Gummidge was the very end of each episode, where Worzel would return to his perch accompanied by the jolly theme music. Upon settling down at the end, the perch would then collapse, but sometimes he would fall forwards, sometimes backwards, and sometimes straight down. This became a family guessing game in our household, with everyone shouting out which way they thought he would fall.