The 1970s were remembered as the “golden age” for television. It was a decade regarded as a golden time for drama especially and more pertinently for drama over Christmas. This was a time when there was a tradition for retelling ghost stories over the seasonal period.
The stories of M.R. James and Sheridan Le Fanu were especially popular. Charles Dickens was renowned for ghostly drama. Adaptations of “Oliver Twist” and “Great Expectations” were perennial favourites, but this was a kind of entertainment which also provoked fundamental questions about our moral conduct. “A Christmas Carol” is ostensibly a kind of ghost story but beyond the page it is something quite different. When it is translated upon the screen it brings a new meaning as it comes to life as a morality play about the evils of greed and the benevolence of charity.
Another tradition of 1970s and 1980s seasonal television was the dramatisation of established children`s fiction. In 1978 the Richard Adams novel “Watership Down” was made into a film. That same year a film was made from Charles Kingsley`s novel “The Water Babies” . When they made their debut on television they helped to provoke curiosity into the welfare of animals and the plight of poor Victorian children respectively.
In December 1986 the BBC adapted the novels of Lucy M Boston. “The Children of Green Knowe” were shown over two weeks and I remembered watching these magical stories and how enthralled I felt. The “Greene Knowe” stories were inspired by Boston`s home Hemingford Grey, an old Manor House situated in Cambridgeshire. She drew upon its history to create the stories, and used her imagination to invent the characters. The apotheosis of the drama arrives when the young protagonist Tolly witnesses a vision of St. Christopher in the Manor House Lake. I can remember that this was one of the greatest scenes from the BBC`s children`s drama department, at least for that year.
It is significant to note that Boston came from a Methodist family and this imbued her fiction. There is a strong numinous quality to her writing. When these stories were translated to the small screen the spiritual and moral element emanated from them. Boston`s fiction, along with the other classic dramas from the season are tales which I will always remember and cherish.