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28 October 2014

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All Gas and Gaiters

The cast of All Gas and Gaiters

The first sitcom to send up the church, All Gas and Gaiters was also the programme that created the link between Derek Nimmo and stuttering men of the cloth.

Created by husband and wife team Edwin Apps and Pauline Devaney, the couple had turned to writing while they were between acting jobs.

Pitching a pilot to Comedy Playhouse, they were fortunate to pick on an ecclesiastical subject-matter, which proved a constant source of inspiration.

"Our difficulty," they remember now, "was that in the middle 60s there were no rules left to break, so the Church was in every sense a godsend!"

Set in St Oggs Cathedral, it lifts the lid on the rivalries among the clergy who work there.

Derek Nimmo and John Barron in All Gas and Gaiters

There's the easygoing Bishop, played by William Mervyn (who, incidentally, was married to the daughter of the Canon of Windsor); veteran stage actor Robertson Hare is the elderly Archdeacon; with John Barron as the humourless, rule-book bashing Dean.

The star of the show, however, is the hapless Chaplain. Originally Apps wanted to play this part himself, but BBC Head of Comedy Frank Muir insisted he couldn't both write and appear in the show, so Derek Nimmo got the job.

The best received Comedy Playhouse to that point, it quickly spun off into a full series.

Although it initially caused controversy within religious institutions, the nation's clergy soon became the show's greatest fans.

Derek Nimmo in All Gas and Gaiters

In many ways, it came to be regarded as an ecclesial precursor to Yes, Minister and was praised for its insight into daily life at the church.

The show ran for five hugely successful series, before a new of regime at the BBC lost interest in it.

Alas, following the Corporation's purge of the archives in the 1970s, only 11 episodes still exist today.

Cast

Robertson Hare
The Archdeacon
William Mervyn
The Bishop
Derek Nimmo
Rev Mervyn Noote
John Barron
The Dean
Ernest Clark
The Dean
Joan Sanderson
Mrs Pugh-Critchley

Crew

Pauline Devaney
writer
Edwin Apps
writer
Stuart Allen
producer
John Howard Davies
producer
Robin Nash
producer

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