James Ellis stories on BBC Radio Ulster

Storytelling has always been a rich part of our culture so we are delighted that BBC Radio Ulster listeners will now be able to enjoy and celebrate the creativity of some of our very finest writing and acting talent.Gemma McMullan
Date: 22.07.2019     Last updated: 22.07.2019 at 10.48
A series of short stories adapted and narrated by the late James Ellis will be broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster as part of the Storytellers series.

James Ellis, who passed away in 2014, was best known as an actor in theatre, radio and television; however, he was also an accomplished linguist and enjoyed translating stories and folk tales from other languages.

This series of short stories have their roots in French folklore. They were translated then adapted by Jimmy to an Irish setting and tell tales of death and the devil, misfortune and miserliness, hardship and heroism, all told with his characteristic light-hearted humour.

Jimmy recorded them originally for BBC Radio 4 beside a turf fire in the picturesque and atmospheric setting of a farmhouse at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in the company of a small audience.

The first of the stories, on Sunday 28 July at 12.30pm, is The Miller’s Tale, the story of a priest who takes drastic action to save his flock. Directly after this will be Scully’s Goat, a story which tells of a tragedy befalling an unsuspecting goat when she escapes the safety of her meadow to pursue her freedom. On Sunday 4 August at 12.30pm, The Devil tells the tale of an old woman who outwits a miserly farmer. The Umbrella, the final story in the series, will run directly afterwards. In it Mrs McIvor saves her household budget with a little white lie.

Jimmy’s interest in storytelling stemmed from tales told at the fireside during his childhood. Then at the Methodist College, Belfast, where he was a scholarship boy, he was introduced to the joys of the short story as a literary form, both in the English language and perhaps more exotically through tales from the French. Alphonse Daudet’s Lettres de mon Moulin and the stories of Guy de Maupassant were among Jimmy’s first and most vivid recollections and a perceptive teacher encouraged his pupils to look for what they had in common with the characters portrayed, rather than regarding them as foreign!

Jimmy said: “In first translating and then adapting these stories to suit my own style of delivery I have perhaps strayed into the realm of folklore though Daudet certainly admits to drawing on oral tradition. In any event I have found both these authors to be excellent models in setting about original efforts of my own in this demanding genre.”

Gemma McMullan, Content Editor of Radio Drama BBC NI says: “Storytelling has always been a rich part of our culture so we are delighted that BBC Radio Ulster listeners will now be able to enjoy and celebrate the creativity of some of our very finest writing and acting talent.”

Andy Martin, Head of Factual & Innovation, BBC NI says: “We are delighted that BBC Radio Ulster is the new home for a rich collection of dramas reflecting life here at home and further afield. We aim to get more writing talent from Northern Ireland reflected on air locally and nationally. We also want to leverage the fantastic pool of local acting and production talent. Storytellers on Sundays at 12.30pm is a good start.”

BBC Radio Ulster, Sunday 28 July, 12.30pm and on BBC Sounds

MD