GEOFFREY BAYLDON: Catweazle finally flies

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GEOFFREY BAYLDON: Catweazle finally flies

May 22, 2017 - 14:28
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A long long time ago, on a TV far far away . . .

There once lived a wizard called Catweazle.

Catweazle - Geoffrey Bayldon

By Andy Simon @AndySimon55

A long long time ago, on a TV far far away . . .

There once lived a wizard called Catweazle.

I bet you youngsters out there are wondering what the heck am I talking about? And if Kevin O'Sullivan is indeed reading this, I would forgive the famed journalist, mentor and old codger for thinking, "Why is Andy writing about Jeremy Corbyn?"

Well; I just got the news that on May 10th, Geoffrey Bayldon, actor, thespian and an extremely nice chap passed away peacefully at the ripe old age of 93. And Geoffrey was for me at least very much so, a weekly TV treat in my childhood days.

To some, Geoffrey Bayldon was a well established actor who before I even knew of him had already appeared in TV shows for example, Z-Cars and The Avengers.

He also appeared in such films as To Sir With Love, The Pink Panther Strikes Again, as well as the film versions of big hit TV shows such as Porridge and Steptoe and Son.

But to me; or more accurately to that little ten/eleven year old boy busy being a scrawny skinny little kid, all snot and marmite, with graised knobbly knees, dirty face and greasy hair, a conker in one pocket, and a few sweets in the other, short trousers and scuffed shoes, Geoffrey Bayldon was Catweazle.

And on a Sunday afternoon around 5:30pm I think, Catweazle would appear on my dads black and white telly. Black and white telly I hear you say! Can you imagine that?

And for half an hour on those Sunday afternoons, I would enjoy the adventures of a bungling medieval wizard who travelled through time from his own time, to my then time of 1970. And it was here that Catweazle discovered the wonders of "Electrickery" and the fascinating talking "Tellingbone."

As Catweazle himself would say, "Wondrous"

And along with his companion and friend or as Catweazle himself referred to it, his "Familiar", Touchwood, a toad, they would embark on adventure after adventure, mishap after mishap, as he tried to find his way with his questionable at best knowledge of 11th Century magic, back to his own time.

Those were the days when kids telly was fun.

Nowadays of course; Sunday telly consists of Breakfast TV, News, The Andrew Marr Show, The Big Questions and Sunday Politics or if you're watching ITV, it's Peston On Sunday, followed by dreadful repeats of Britain's Got Talent or The X Factor.

How times have indeed changed.

But in 1970, Sunday afternoon telly, belonged to the kids. And Catweazle was my favourite. I loved it.

The stories were all written by a chap named Richard Carpenter (Not the brother of Karen of The Carpenters duo) who wanted an old-ish chap with a big conk to play the lead in a story he'd written for TV about a bungling 11th Century wizard.

In fact; Carpenter had written the script with Bayldon in mind.

The show ran for two years and there was talk of a third series but sadly that never materialized. And I now have to confess for nostalgic reasons, I have all the Catweazle episodes on DVD!

I guess there is a part of me that will never grow up eh?

In later years I saw Geoffrey again in Wurzel Gummage, another very popular kids TV show which starred legends Jon Pertwee as Wurzel, Una Stubbs as Aunt Sally, and in which Geoffrey also appeared as Wurzel's boss, The Crowman.

He also appeared in The Tomorrow People.

Although Catweazle has not been on mainstream TV for a good many years that's no excuse to not write a review about a classic kids show. Catweazle reflected a time when children's shows were nowhere near as violent as some are today.

After Wurzel Gummage ended, I didn't hear much from Geoffrey until many years later when he popped up as the incarcerated professor in Channel 5's "Fort Boyard" alongside East Enders Queen Vic landlord Den Watts (Leslie Grantham) and hosted by the rather gorgeous and well made, Melinda Messenger.

Bayldon had famously been offered the title role of Dr Who, twice! But science fiction was never really his bag so he turned down the offers and later got the lead character in Catweazle.

Not much is known about Geoffrey's personal life. I don't think he ever married or had children. It has been reported he is survived by a brother but other than that, he had no family to speak of.

Rather sad I think, for Geoffrey was indeed a lovely man.

It's sad to know that he's gone, but Geoffrey Bayldon for me at least will remain an un-tarnished childhood memory. Something quite remarkable these days when you consider the likes of other tarnished so called childhood heroes like Rolf Harris for example, or Gary Glitter and even worst of all; Jimmy Savile.

Geoffrey Bayldon will thankfully live on in my memory as Wurzels Crowman, Fort Boyard's professor, and most importantly, the hapless bungling and lovable 11th Century wizard, Catweazle.

Fare-ye-well Catweazle. The wizard, has finally flown.

"Twelve are they that circle round,
If power you seek, they must be found.
Look for where the thirteenth lies,
Mount aloft, the one who flies!"

Rest in peace; Geoffrey Bayldon.
(1924 - 2017)

Thanks for reading.