Hi-De-Hi was an immensely popular sitcom made by the BBC during most of the 1980’s. A pilot episode was aired on News Years Day 1980, so it was in fact one of the very first TV shows of the decade! The first series proper began the following year and from then it ran until 1988. It was written by David Croft (‘Allo ‘Allo) and Jimmy Perry.
The show was set in a 1960’s holiday camp called Maplins, based heavily on the concept of Butlins which was an incredibly popular family holiday destination during that era. Â The show followed the antics of the various members of staff on the camp at the fictional town of Crimpton-on-Sea as they kept the holiday makers entertained.
The first series opened with the camp getting a new Entertainments Manager in the form of Jeffery Fairbrother (the late Simon Cadell), an archaeology professor who had grown tired of academia. Â This put him in charge of all the entertainment staff, or Yellow Coats, which was a job that he tried to run fairly and openly, but usually meant he got taken advantage of. Â He was recently divorced, and this meant he found himself prey to the romantic advances of Gladys Pugh (Ruth Madoc) who was the camps sports organiser and chief Yellow Coat. Â So strong was this on screen relationship in the nations mind that the pair made a TV advert for Cadbury’s WispaÂ that made it appear they were an item off screen too.
Ted Bovis (Paul Shane) was the camp host who was slightly bitter about the appointment of Fairbrother as Entertainments Manager, a job he wanted for himself. Â He therefore made life difficult for Fairbrother at every opportunity. Â He shared a chalet with Spike Dixon (Jeffrey Holland) who was the camp comic, although to be honest he wasn’t all that funny, instead relying on a number of outlandish costumes for laughs, normally referred to as his “Funny Policeman” or whatever…
Aspiring Yellow Coat Peggy Ollerenshaw (Su Pollard) was one of the funniest things about the show. Â Whilst only a chamber maid she had dreams of one day becoming a proper Yellow Coat, and took every opportunity she could to achieve this goal. Â Her frantic delivery and moaning about housekeeping boss Miss Cathcart (who was never seen but sounded quite fearsome) brought every scene she was in to life.
Yvonne and Barry Stuart-Hargreaves (Diane Holland and Barry Howard) were the husband and wife ballroom dance instructors who always seemed aloof and felt they were better than the other Yellow Coats (well, Yvonne did anyway). Â Yvonne couldn’t stand the plain walls of her chalet so had put up wallpaper, but since they weren’t allowed to make permanent changes to the rooms it was held up with drawing pins.
Other notable members of staff were Fred Quilly (Felix Bowness) the camp riding instructor and children’s entertainer Mr. Partridge (Leslie Dwyer) who wasn’t the greatest choice for the role as he was usually drunk and always grumpy. Â Leslie Dwyer passed away in 1986, so his character was replaced by Uncle Sammy Morris (Kenneth Connor) who was even less of a role model for children as he was little more than a petty thief.
By 1985 Simon Cadell had left the cast, so Jeffery Fairbrother was replaced by Squadron Leader The Honourable Clive Dempster DFC (David Griffin). Â Gladys Pugh wasted no time in romantically pursuing the new Entertainments Manager, and in fact got her man as she ended up marrying him at the end of the last series of the show.
The show will forever best be known for its titular catchphrase. Â Whenever any member of the entertainment staff addressed the guests at the camp they would first shout out Hi-De-Hi, to which the camp members were expected to respond with a cry of Ho-De-Ho. Â The person who said this most often was probably Gladys, who used to make the tannoy announcements with the aid of a toy Xylophone detailing the days events. Â It always sounded particularly funny coming from her due to her thick Welsh accent.