The Eagle of the Ninth BBC Radio in 1957 | Rosemary Sutcliff Discovery of the Day

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The classic BBC  radio version of the classic children’s book and historical novel  by Rosemary Sutcliff was broadcast in 1957 on Children’s Hour on the Home Service (now Radio 4). Adapted by Felix Felton, it was advertised as ‘for older children’.  Marius Goring played Marcus and Esca was played by Martin Starkie.  ‘Pines of the Appian Way’ was part of the soundtrack. David Davis was the producer and the transmissions were:

1. The Attack On The Fort: 27 February 1957

2. The Saturnalia Games: 6 March 1957

3. Marching Orders: 13 March 1957

4. Across The Frontier: 20 March 1957

5. In Enemy Country: 27 March 1957

6. Tradui’s Gift: 3 April 1957

The cast was

Marcus Flavius Aquila, a young cohort commander Marius Goring
His father William Eedie
His mother
Murna, Guern’s wife Janet Bruce
Drusillus, his second-in-command Geoffrey Wincott
Quintus Hilarion, the outgoing fort commander Peter Howell
A duty centurion John Clarke-Smith
Aulus, the fort surgeon Richard Williams
Cradoc, a young Briton
Dergdian, a chieftain of the Epidail Peter Claughton
Clodius Maximus, the temporary relief commander Lewis Stringer
Cassius, the new fort commander Lionel Gamlin
Uncle Aquila Laidman Browne
Esca, a young Briton Martin Starkie
Cottia Ann Totten
Narcissa, her nurse Mary Morrell
Rufrius Galarius, a surgeon John Glyn-Jones
Claudius Hieronimianus, legate of Victrix Ralph Truman
Placidus, a young tribune Robert Bernal
Guern, the hunter Felix Fenton
Tradui, his grandfather Cyril Shaps
Liathan, his brother Duncan McIntyre
An Old Headman Ralph de Rohan

The serial was edited into a 90-minute play, also broadcast on the Home Service in the Saturday Night Theatre slot on Saturday 8 June 1963.

If anyone know or finds out any more, and especially  if anyone knows of a recording, do let me know! Apparently it is not in the BBC Archives.

16 comments

  1. I’ve just purchased 2 sets of the unabridged audiobook set by Naxos, read by Charlie Simpson. I’m 75, and have been held breathless at tense moments as much as when I was 10 and first heard it. One set is a gift, I will be sending another to Canada for a gentleman older than me, who is now blind, hoping it enthralls him too.

    If a recording that original 1957 serial ever came on the market I’d buy it like a shot. Especially, if I seem to remember, it might include David Davies’ wonderful voice as the narrator in any part.

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  2. If I find my original tape recording of the Childrens` Hour version, (I copied them onto a 10 inch reel), does anyone know who can handle the old tape carefully and save the recording? My tape recorder failed many years ago but I have saved the tapes. Only problem is I don’t remember which reel it is on , and where on the reel. could be a long search, but I do have it .

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          1. In case “copy will be attempted” came to nothing, you might like to know about these people: http://www.thegreatbear.net/. They are in Bristol, and have recently converted our 1971 reel-to-reel tapes of David Davis’s Radio 4 “Story Time” reading of The Eagle of the Ninth (“abridged in ten episodes by Felix Felton and Susan Ashman”, according to The Radio Times). Not the cheapest service I’ve seen advertised, but high quality.

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        1. Have you been successful in recording newer version?
          Listening to this program made me love history for the rest of my life. It was an experience I’ve never forgotten and would love to hear it again. I was 10 years old at the time.

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        2. Was is successful? And is there a way you can share it with us? It’s one of my favorite books and I love hearing Sutcliff’s words read aloud.

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  3. I have a couple of tapes of the recording of the series but have not listened to them even now. I must dig them out of that secret place where i put them. Now where was it?
    I just cant remember. That’s me all over.

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  4. I first heard about this story when i heard it on the radio in the seventies and ever since i have been fascinated by all things Roman ; especially the Romans in Britain.
    There was some special Music which accompanied the story and there was probably a sequel to this story too.
    As far as i can remember it was near the end of the series and as it neared to the end of the programme it would end with this magical sound of a Roman Trumpet echoing as it called from the Towers of Hadrians Wall.
    It was just a few brief notes that were repeated in echo and i wish to goodness i could hear it again.
    If Rosemary Sutcliff wrote a Sequel to this magical series i would very much like to know the title.

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  5. listened to Eagle of the Ninth on Children’s Hour – much too sophisticated for a kid’s show. Fascinated by the notion of a lost legion. Grew up in the shadow of a roman seige fort, Burnswark, used by the legions as a practice area for
    later assaults, ? before the retreat behind Hadrian’s Wall. Await the film version – will it include the marching song, ‘the girl I left ‘- was there always a girl left?

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  6. This is a copy of a comment made to a post a couple of years ago:

    One of my earliest memories is of hearing ‘The Eagle of the Ninth’ broadcast on the Home Service in 1957 (I was six). I can still hear the song in the introduction. That book and the ‘Sword at Sunset’ have stayed with me all my life and inspired a life-long interest in history and legends.

    The story begins with the song:

    ‘A long march, a long march
    And twenty years in store,
    When I left my girl at Clusium
    Beside the threshing floor.’

    For the last 30 years I have worked in villages in Asia and seen many threshing floors, yards in the centre of clusters of farm-houses.

    In the radio version of the story, Marius Goring plays Marcus Flavius Aquila, a young cohort commander in the Roman Army.

    I recently dicovered that the original meaning of ‘cohort’ is a yard or enclosure, presumably where the famers/soldiers assembled.

    Did Rosemary Sutcliff know this when she wrote the song about the girl in Clusium? I bet she did!

    What an inspiration she was and is!

    Andrew Jenkins,
    Bangladesh.

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