Mess Mates – a cargo of comics

Granada’s new companion series to The Army Game

TVTimes masthead
From the TVTimes for week commencing 26 June 1960

STEAMING into port next Tuesday is a small cargo boat, SS Guernsey, known to her rather odd crew as “The Old Cow.” She puts into harbour for Granada’s new weekly situation comedy series, Mess Mates, involving her captain and crew.

For Captain Biskett (Archie Duncan), who once dreamed of commanding an ocean liner, this little coastal vessel is a last ditch, and he wants to stay in it. He relies on Tug Nelson, the Mate, without whom he would not have a crew.

Four men in trawler gear
Below decks. From left, Fulton Mackay, Archie Duncan, Sam Kydd and Dermot Kelly

Victor Maddern as the Mate, ringleader of the men in trying to outwit the Captain (for whom he has a great affection), is full of wonderful schemes for making money and dealing with situations. But they nearly always go wrong. However, he can talk his way out.

Each of the half-hour episodes starts in port, for the main plot is about things ashore. Three other members of the crew have their own frustrations and entanglements. For instance, Croaker Jones the Bosun (Sam Kydd) is a worrier for whom life is one long battle. He has a large, comfortable wife and seven children.

Young Willie McGinniss (Fulton MacKay) is a happy Jonah, a great romantic who puts every woman on a pedestal. Blarney Finnigan (Dermot Kelly) is a bit of an “old sweat” with a big line in outlandish stories.

Glasgow-born Archie Duncan, who is 46, is unmarried, like the Captain he plays. His knowledge of the sea comes from building ships. He had 10 years in the Clyde shipyards as an electric welder. He turned actor at 30.

Stocky Victor Maddern, unlike the mate he plays, is married and has four daughters. At 32, he has made 60 films.

Victor Maddern and Sam Kydd
Victor Maddern (left) and Sam Kydd scheme together

“I went to sea at 15,” said Maddern. “I had three years in the Merchant Service, but I didn’t like it a bit. I served my time as a cadet, trained to be an officer, but didn’t sit for my Second Mate’s ticket.”

Sam Kydd beams if you mention the sea. But his experience of it is limited to filming — one happy month on a pleasure steamer and another six weeks on a Thames barge. He is married and has a six year old son.

Fulton MacKay swops one Scottish name for another as engineer Willie McGinniss. A bachelor aged 37, he was born at Clydebank, but he did not build ships there. His main voyaging has been “doon” the Clyde.

Probably the neatest type-casting is Dubliner Dermot Kelly as Blarney Finnigan. Dark-haired little Dermot, only 5ft 4in, with the looks of a leprechaun, might have stepped out of Sean O’Casey.

A bachelor in his early 40’s, Dermot played the lead in ITV’s production of The Quare Fellow.

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