Thicker Than Water

by John Finch

Episode Number: 43
Director: Les Chatfield



Edwin Ashton   Colin Douglas
David Ashton   Colin Campbell
Margaret Porter   Lesley Nunnerley
John Porter   Ian Thompson
Freda Mackenzie   Barbara Flynn
Ian Mackenzie   John Nettles
Sheila Ashton   Coral Atkins
Tony Briggs   Trevor Bowen
Peggy Gartside   Amelia Taylor
Tom Gartside   John Rees
Mr. Turner   David Miller
Marjorie   Anne Kristen
June Gartside   Kate McDevitt
John George Porter   Paul Brett



David's and Sheila's Flat   Freda calls on Sheila, who is "going through the motions" of packing for the Big Move.

Sheila explains that she has been thinking of moving for years, so she reasons that if she begins packing, something actually might happen.

Having packed all the children's clothes, she confides to Freda that she would have liked to have another baby, though there was never enough money to support three kids.

They recall sleeping in the Morrison shelter, which leads Sheila to ask how Doris is these days, but Freda replies that she has not seen much of her lately.

Sheila says her solicitor, Mr. Osgood, has written to the girl who bore David's baby, and now he is waiting to hear back from her—to see if she is willing to provide evidence.

Suddenly, Freda has a happy thought: Sheila can come and live with her and Ian for a couple of days.

Ian is sure to accept the idea, for, as Freda declares, "You can do almost anything with a man, as long as you make him think it's his own idea."

The Ashton Home   Edwin and John have had a political quarrel, so Margaret suggests that they call a truce for the time being.

Margaret is ironing John's trousers, and she accuses her husband of being fond of wandering around in his underwear—ever since she told him that Marjorie said he has nice legs.

This statement captures John's attention, though he asserts that Marjorie has never seen his legs.

Margaret begs to differ, reminding John of last September at the baths, when Marjorie commented, "Hasn't he got nice legs for a man?"

John discounts that notion, claiming that Marjorie is after anything in trousers.

She is an intelligent socialist, he explains, and she enjoys being on political committees because it is like being a member of an all-male club.

Marjorie stands around with the men, drinking beer, he contends, a remark that leads Margaret to say that she does not see that side of her when they discuss teaching.

John becomes philosophical, stating that Labour needs dedication at a time like this—with a new world coming—prompting both Edwin and Margaret to ask John to work for the party, if he feels so passionately about the issues.

The doorbell rings, and Edwin lets Tony into the house.

The Mackenzie Home   Freda is sitting on the sofa, reading, so Ian suggests that they turn out the light and relax by the romantic glow of the fireplace instead.

This seems to be the perfect time for Freda to broach the idea that she has invited Sheila to stay with them.

Ian is unreceptive to the proposal, explaining that he finds Sheila a bit difficult to talk to—and besides, she is not a blood relative.

Freda accuses her husband of being a bit of a snob, rather like Tony in that respect.

Finally, she cajoles him into agreeing to have Sheila as their guest for one week.

David's and Sheila's Flat   Sheila continues to pack—in fact, placing so much in the wicker basket that she can no longer lift it.

Fortunately, her solicitor's clerk, Mr. Turner, has arrived, and he helps Sheila move the basket to the scullery.

Turner asks Sheila if Peggy Gartside has replied to the letter from Mr. Osgood that inquires whether she will cooperate in the divorce proceedings.

Sheila says no, she has received nothing from Peggy, so it seems as though that potential source of support will be of little use.

After Turner leaves, Sheila happens to look behind a table near the mail drop and spots an envelope lying on the floor.

Sure enough, it is from Peggy Gartside, but the message inside is discouraging.

The Gartside Farm, Oldham   To evade the defamatory gossip about her, Peggy and Tom Gartside have moved to the remote environs of Wildhill Farm, near Greenfield, just outside of Oldham, Lancashire.

The couple sit down to supper, and Peggy informs her husband that she received a letter from a solicitor the other week.

The letter, sent on behalf of David Ashton's wife, requests evidence from Peggy that she is the mother of David’s child.

Peggy explains that she replied to Sheila herself, claiming to be unable to provide any assistance—but now she wonders whether she did the right thing.

Tom contends that she did indeed act properly, adding, "Best left alone."

The Ashton Home   Tony is paying a brief visit, and he opens the front door for Sheila, who has come to seek counsel from anyone who will listen.

He tells her that they have company, so he invites Sheila to the kitchen for a discussion.

In the living room, Marjorie is chatting with Margaret, John, and Edwin about her hopes of energising the Labour campaign.

She mentions that the local Labour club is in need of a treasurer, so Margaret volunteers John's services, though he is reluctant to take the post.

He does accept Marjorie's offer to loan him some political literature, however, if only to remind him how much he resents the greedy attitude of Tories like Sefton Briggs.

Meanwhile, Sheila and Tony are washing dishes in the kitchen, and she tells him that she wants this divorce more than she could ever have imagined possible five or six years ago.

Tony advises her that the only remaining way to get evidence is to go to the Gartside farm and see David's child for herself—though it would be a very unpleasant task.

The Mackenzie Home   There is precious little conversation at the breakfast table, as Ian reads his medical journal, and Sheila quietly eats her food.

Freda comes in and scolds her husband for ignoring their guest, but Ian simply laughs and says he is not much of a talker.

When Freda leaves the room, Ian confides to Sheila that this house is much too large for two people, and he cannot wait to move somewhere more sensible—though Freda still is enjoying the novelty of living there.

Sheila quips, "My place is coming empty, you can tell her," but Ian takes her seriously and seems genuinely interested in the property.

Freda comes in and plays along with Sheila's little joke, suggesting that Sheila give him the key, so he can have a look at the place on his way to or from the hospital.

David's and Sheila's Flat   Ian opens the door and is shocked at the dreary sight of Sheila's home.

He is surprised to see David Ashton inside, and the two greet one another, David explaining that he has a week's leave.

Ian informs his brother-in-law that Freda and Sheila have teamed up for this practical joke, and it just so happens that he is the object of it.

David says, "Yeh, well, it's no joke living here, mate, believe you me."

He asks Ian when he and Freda plan to start a family, but Ian answers evasively.

Ian reveals that he and his first wife wanted children but it just did not happen, and he ponders whether children might have kept their marriage together because couples are likely to try harder if there are kids involved.

"I think you're right. I think you do try a bit harder," says David with a nervous grin. "But not always hard enough, it seems."

The Gartside Farm, Oldham   Peggy comes outside and speaks with Tom, who is mending their stone fence.

They notice a solitary woman in the distance, and she is approaching their farmhouse on foot.

The Ashton Home   John has come home for his lunch hour, so he can eat with his wife and son, John George.

Margaret asks him when he plans to begin working for the Labour club.

He replies cynically that Marjorie just likes the socialising, but Margaret disagrees, stating that she thinks Marjorie is every bit as serious about politics as he is—maybe more so.

In any case, says John, he has decided not to work for Marjorie's Labour group after all, despite the fact that he virtually promised to do so.

When the doorbell rings, Margaret and John George run to answer it, and there stands David, announcing that he is home on a week's leave.

The Gartside Farm, Oldham   Peggy has taken Tom his tea while he is hard at work, so she is free to invite Sheila to come inside.

Sheila politely declines the offer, noting that—being from Liverpool—she does not see many fields except when she travels to Wales to visit her children.

Peggy is about to feed the hens, so Sheila accompanies her, and the two chat.

Sheila apologises for turning up without prior notification, explaining that she felt she had to see the mother of David's other child.

Peggy assures Sheila that she was unaware that David was married, and otherwise she never would have allowed their relationship to become so serious.

When Sheila mentions the letters she used to receive on a regular basis, Peggy is puzzled and can only surmise that they were sent by her mother, who never got over the thought of her daughter's unwed pregnancy and went to her grave last year, still angry at the shameful way David treated Peggy after taking advantage of her.

Sheila notices that Tom is keeping an eye on them from afar, and she comments to Peggy that he seems to be a nice man, an assessment with which Peggy readily concurs.

Though Sheila remains very bitter about David, Peggy says she now feels sorry for him, in a way.

Peggy explains that it was after David told her his wife was going to marry another man that he asked Peggy to marry him.

Yes, grumbles Sheila, David believes that you can love people in different ways.

It is she who wants the divorce, Sheila tells Peggy, and that is why she has come to see her.

Peggy discloses that she would have given evidence to help her, but Tom objects to opening the scandalous matter up again, fearing that it could get in the newspaper and disrupt their secluded lives forever.

Sheila claims that she is still glad she came, if only to satisfy her curiosity.

Just then, little June runs toward the women, searching for her daddy, and Sheila's emotions are wrenched at the sight of David's pretty but illegitimate daughter.

Out of compassion, Peggy promises to talk to her husband, to see what she can do for Sheila.

A Restaurant   Tony brings cups of tea to the table where he and Freda are sitting, hoping to squeeze in a brief chat before she must rush back to work.

Freda reports that Ian had to transfer to another hospital because married couples are not permitted to work together.

Tony asks if she is happy being married, and she replies—with unmistakable conviction—that she is.

He regrets having lost five years of his life to the war, leaving unsaid the implication that he was taken away from his one true love.

Gently but firmly, Freda informs Tony that nothing is going to change her marriage, and she leaves him with an impersonal, "See you soon."

The Mackenzie Home   Over some whisky, David is talking to Ian when the door is heard to slam.

Ian hurries from the room to greet his wife with a kiss, and he cautions her that David is in the lounge.

This revelation startles Freda, as Sheila could arrive at any moment, and the last person in the world she wants to see is David.

Ian says, "You're a funny family, aren't you? He's your brother, and yet basically you're on her side."

He says he applauds her objectivity in the matter, but he thought blood was thicker than water.

When Freda marches unsmilingly into the lounge, David says how much he admires this big house, declaring, "You've done all right for yourself."

He wonders why she continues working, and Freda replies, "Well, same reason as you, I suppose. There is still a war on."

David complains that Sheila must have gone to see an old girlfriend of his, but Freda asserts that she should be allowed to do as she wishes.

When David says it is easy to see whose side she is on, Freda declares that she is not interested in sides.

It is not enjoyable to watch his marital difficulties, she contends, adding that it very nearly turned her against marriage for good.

David sarcastically notes that there is no comparison between the two unions because the Mackenzies have money in the bank, so they will make a go of it.

Holding her ground, Freda agrees that their marriage will be successful, but money has nothing to do with it.

David says that marriage suits her and that she has grown up very quickly.

She begs him to go before Sheila returns, but he seats himself on the sofa and declares that he is going to stay.

The Gartside Farm, Oldham   Tom is feeding the cows when he asks his wife whether that woman will be coming back again.

Not if they say not to, answers Peggy, stating that Sheila is a nice lady.

Tom tells Peggy to do as she wishes about Mrs. Ashton, as little Junie will always know who really cared for her.

Peggy assures him that they need to think of their own family foremost and not other people.

The Ashton Home   In the kitchen, Margaret and her father are talking about John's reluctance to tell Marjorie that he will not help the local Labour Party as treasurer.

Sheila is sitting there at the table, only half listening, burdened with grim problems of her own.

John is in the living room, poring over some ledger books that Marjorie brought him to study.

Finally, John looks up and tells her that the party really does not need someone like him, as the books seem to be pretty well in order.

Marjorie is indignant, accusing him of being just like all the others, refusing to get involved beyond the simple act of casting a vote.

But then she apologises to him for her outburst, explaining that she becomes quite depressed about the political process these days.

Marjorie speaks passionately about the need for a new government when this war is over, and she calls John a "doubting Thomas" for suspecting that Churchill may be impossible to defeat at the polls.

"Existence isn't enough, you know," she says, adding that one must work for a cause in order to be truly fulfilled.

A lot of the wrong people are in politics, simply exploiting the power, she contends, and a lot of the right people shy away from it—like John does.

He must admit that she makes sense, and, much to her surprise, he declares, "You sold me anyway…You've got yourself a treasurer."

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Edwin continues to mend the heel of his shoe, and Sheila discloses to him that she has moved in with Freda for a bit.

Sheila tells him that she is determined to bring the children back, but she does not want them living in her present hovel, so she asks her father-in-law to keep his eyes peeled for an available apartment that she can afford.

She confides that she now knows exactly what she wants out of life, and it is a pity that she was not aware of this sooner, as she missed out on another man whom she liked very much.

Then Sheila reveals to Edwin that she visited one of his grandchildren today—not in Wales but on the other side of Manchester—the child whom David had by another woman.

She tells him that the woman is very nice, and she can well imagine how this trusting soul was taken in by the charming David Ashton, and how devastated she must have felt afterwards.

As she was coming back on the train, continues Sheila, she thought about that little girl and her wronged mother, and she stopped even liking David.

The Mackenzie Home   Freda apologises to Ian about her brother, but Ian claims to rather like David.

With a mischievous look, she asks Ian what she thought of Sheila's home, wondering whether it might be just right for their needs.

Ian good-naturedly acknowledges the little joke at his expense, but he cannot, in good conscience, laugh at the squalor that Sheila must endure.

Though it is a temptation to take sides, Ian contends that they should leave David and Sheila alone, to let them sort out their own problems.

David arrives with a bottle of scotch whisky, declaring that his uniform can work wonders in securing such necessities.

Claiming that all he has to do is survive the war, he gives the bottle to Ian and Freda as a present, as he already had a couple of drinks at the pub.

With a laugh, David recalls that Christmas when he got Robert drunk, and then he feels guilty about mentioning their late brother’s name.

Freda assures him, "It's all right. I don't mind you saying it. It only hurts as much now as it always will."

Sheila arrives, and Freda goes to greet her—and to warn her that David is in the other room.

When Sheila asks Freda to tell David to leave, Freda refuses to do so, arguing that this should be Sheila's own responsibility.

Steeling herself against the ordeal, Sheila marches into the lounge to confront her husband, wary of his duplicity.

She demands to know what David wants, and he replies, "Just to talk."

He informs her that he is planning to see the kids, but Sheila snaps that he should not expect to receive any medals for that.

None of his three children need him, she adds with spite, explaining that she went to see his other one today.

He resents the fact that she is moving without even notifying him, and he shouts at her to stop talking to him as if he were “a bloody stranger.”

“You are a bloody stranger,” she shouts back, reminding David that he will not be her husband for very much longer.

Whenever she is remarried, she says, at least then her children will be brought up properly.

David declares that she need expect no evidential help from Peggy, whom he will be visiting very soon.

Sheila accuses him of going soft, and her tenacity shocks him into alleging, "You're as hard as bloody nails."

She begs him not to hurt Peggy, proclaiming that she does not want to spend the rest of her life feeling ashamed that she ever married him.

Sheila tries to leave the room, but David will not permit her to do so until he is finished talking.

He blocks the door against her escape and shoves her away, so forcefully that she falls to the floor against an end table, toppling it and causing a ceramic figurine to crash into pieces.

When he apologises for this act of violence and then attempts to place his arm around her, Sheila lashes out with the back of her hand and slaps him squarely in the face.

Suddenly contrite, and sensing the futility of any further reasoning with his wife, David agrees that he will not visit Peggy, hurting her any more than he already has, and he promises to secure the requisite evidence for a divorce.

"I'll give you the evidence, Sheila," he repeats to her, barely above a whisper, and he walks out the door.

Sheila's spirit is broken, and she sobs uncontrollably, still lying on the floor.

Script Excerpt 1

Script Excerpt 2