Nothing is what it seems on film...

ONE OF MANY: the sailing trawler Ruby (YH657), part of Hewett's big Gorleston-based Short Blue Fleet

ONE OF MANY: the sailing trawler Ruby (YH657), part of Hewett's big Gorleston-based Short Blue Fleet, is towed out of the harbour for another voyage in search of fish about 1890. A correspondent's great-grandfather was one of the fleet's skippers. Pictures: PETER ALLARD - Credit: Archant

We are all savvy enough to know that nothing is what it seems in cinema and television dramas. A skilful blend of camera-work, set construction, make-up and costume, editing and cutting, and background musical score results in a seamless and credible production for the viewing audience to enjoy.

NIGHT CLUB? Well, this aged toilet block on Great Yarmouth's South Denes might have been made to loo

NIGHT CLUB? Well, this aged toilet block on Great Yarmouth's South Denes might have been made to look like one for a television film in 1989. Pictures: PETER ALLARD - Credit: Archant

In recent weeks we have looked at movies and TV programmes which have featureed sequences filmed in the Great Yarmouth area, or have included local items purporting to be elsewhere – for example, Winterton beach doubling as America’s Cape Cod in the Thirties for Hollywood’s Julia, Yarmouth-registered crab boats in Cornwall-based Doc Martin, and one of the borough’s classic cars (EX1945) in Downton Abbey.

Now a reader has added another, related to the BBC-TV film Defrosting the Fridge I mentioned last month, shot in Yarmouth and Lowestoft in 1989 with Hollywood leading man Joe Don Baker as an American Football coach training a “no hoper” local team to play the sport.

Reader Joanna Kingston, of Ormesby St Margaret, writes: “My husband Dave Kingston remembers him well because he visited Constitution Motors on the South Denes every morning to buy his cigarettes! Dave was at that time dealer principal at Constitution Motors.

“Part of the film utilised the old fisher girls’ lavatories as a supposed night club!”

Yes, nothing is what it seems. And I wonder why Joe Don Baker bought his cigarettes from a car dealership? Perhaps it had a vending machine.

However, I cannot recall a lavatory block dedicated for use by the Scottish fisher lassies who flocked here in their hundreds each autumn to gut herring landed by the huge fleets of drifters working from the port. Joanna adds: “The WC in question was sited approximately 300 yards south of the Pleasure Beach. Whether it is still there, I am not sure, as we haven’t driven down that way for too long-a time.

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“The (Constitution Motors) garage site was taken over by Albie’s Taxis.”

In fact, nowadays there is no building on the seaward side of the road between the Pleasure Beach and the barricaded Outer Harbour.

Friends have suggested that it might have been a brick building erected for First World War personnel at the Royal Naval Air Station which operated there from 1913 to 1920.

The single-storey block was at right angles to the shore. The air station land was bought by the borough council in 1923 and the lavatories remained in use there even in the latter decades of the 20th century when the area was covered by scores of holiday caravans – a popular location for visitors on a budget and a money-spinner for the town hall.

They were demolished in 2003, long after the demise of the herring fishery and the camp. But had they opened each autumn for the benefit of the fisher lassies before the fishery petered out?

A previous column on this subject also mentioned a car chase in central Yarmouth and Cobholm. According to former colleague Tony Mallion, it was staged for an episode of Anglia Television’s The Chief series about a senior police officer, played first by Tim Piggott-Smith followed by Martin Shaw.

But Gorleston reader Susan Watson -mails: “The car chase you mentioned was for the police series The Professionals.”

Well, both The Chief and The Professionals featured Martin Shaw in leading roles, but an on-line website listing all the locations used for filming the frenetic exploits of baddie-chasing Bodie and Doyle during its 1977-81 run shows nothing for East Anglia, areas west of London predominating.

My reference to Doc Martin being Cornwall-set included mention of that county’s port of St Ives and its lifeboat. From his Norwich home, ex-Gorlestonian David Cooke sends me an advertisement for mr. peggotty’s in St Ives from an undated book about the seaside. The advertisement insists that “your holiday in St Ives is not complete without a visit to Mr P’s.”

The establishment has probably long gone, but it stood (or still stands) on Porthmeor Beach two minutes from the harbour, was a café and snack bar all day, but welcomed “happy dancing people every night (8-11.30pm) – an absolute must for holidaymaker and local.”

A recent topic here was Middleton Road in Gorleston when it was largely lined by fields on its landward side before the postwar creation of the council’s Magdalen Estate, plus private housing. Donny Bullard, of Elm Avenue, whose family bakery was featured here last year, writes: “I read with great interest your article published regarding Middleton Road.

“It brought back lots of memories of when I would cycle along that road to deliver bread and rolls for my Dad’s bakery business to houses between the bridge (top of Albemarle Road) and Elm Avenue which I believe was called the Jubilee Estate - only part of Elm Avenue existed then.

“I recall delivering on Connaught, Gloucester and Kent Avenues whilst they were being built. There were plenty of very large holes (much bigger than potholes) making it very precarious.

“There was nothing but farmland to the west before the Magdalen Estate was built. Pound Lane used to lead down to Cook’s’ Farm and we’d very often walk through. Thank you for the memories.”

Also a subject in this column was the 1940 evacuation of two Yarmouth schoolboys, not to the safety of Nottinghamshire by train like thousands of others from hereabouts but by ship across the perilous submarine-stalked Atlantic Ocean to Canada.

So, back to correspondent Joanna Kingston, mentioned above in relation to Joe Don Baker and the South Denes lavatory block doubling as a nightclub in a television film.

Mrs Kingston also tells me: “My great-grandfather, David Flowerday, was skipper of one of the Short Blue fleet sailing out of Yarmouth. Two of his boys, orphaned as children, were sent to Canada, eventually joining the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

“One, 19-year-old Charles, died and was buried in France. The other, William, married Sadie and emigrated to Michigan in the United States, becoming a Methodist minister.

“His children, now in their 80s and 90s, still live in Michigan to this day!”