Sandy Ross talks about the TV drama ‘Scully’, written by Alan Bleasdale and his involvement in its production

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Sandy talks first about the Scully section on the Granada children’s programme ‘The Mersey Pirate’. 

I’d met and got quite friendly with Alan Bleasdale. I thought the Scully books were absolutely fantastic so I managed to convince Alan that Scully and Mooey, his mate, should be the stowaways on the ship. Alan used to write the stuff, almost like a spin off of the Scully books.

What we would do when we rehearsed on a Friday, we would pre record most of the Scully and Mooey bits, shoot them separately and then play them in on the Saturday morning although they were involved live in some of the stuff as well…..

  

You mentioned Scully and Alan Bleasdale, and you did the Scully programme. Can you talk a little bit about that and in particular that great opening sequence in the titles.

I’d read the books and always thought it was a good idea, we always knew Alan was a good writer. At the time when we were doing ‘The Mersey Pirate’, and talking to him about the Scully idea, was when he was writing ‘The Boys from the Blackstuff’. I didn’t understand the way it was done but it had obviously been commissioned by the BBC.

I still remember one time going round to his house to see him, to talk to him. He gave me this script and said “this is the best thing I’ve ever written.” It was Yosser’s story from ‘The Boys from the Blackstuff’. He knew even at the time he had written it, it was the best thing he had ever written. I managed to convince Steve Morrison that Alan was worth persevering with. We eventually managed to convince Channel 4 they should commission it. It was made by Granada but made for Channel 4. To give you an idea of the time it took to get it off the ground, Scully’s hero in the book and at the start of the process was Kevin Keegan. But by the time we actually got the thing made that translated to Kenny Dalglish, who was wearing the number 7 shirt and was Scully’s hero. We needed to convince Kenny to take part in the thing; to appear in some of the sequences, that Scully was going to wear his number 7 shirt and all the rest of it. I always remember I phoned Kenny, I got a number from the sports department for his house. I phoned his house and it was his wife Marina who answered the phone, and I couldn’t get off the phone. She wanted to chat and all the rest of it. Eventually I spoke to Kenny on the phone, I explained what we were doing and would he like to meet us. He said of course and he said there was a hotel somewhere to the North East of Liverpool on the ring road, I can’t remember what the hotel is now. He said he would meet Alan and myself there at one o’clock on whatever day it was, I think it was a Thursday. I think the hotel was near the Liverpool training ground, near Melwood. So I phoned Alan, and said “right Alan, he has agreed to meet us so we can go and talk to him about it.” “Oh great.” Alan was so excited.

Alan and I get there about quarter to one, Alan has brought along copies of all his books, the Scully books, ‘Alan Bleasdale to Kenny Dalglish’ and everything else.

So one o’clock comes and goes and there is no sign of Dalglish. So about ten past one Alan says “he’s not coming, he’s obviously changed his mind. I’m having a pint.” He goes and has a pint of beer, so we sit there Alan and I talking. By this time Alan has had about three pints of beer and suddenly Dalglish arrives about an hour late. He’s full of apologies and what has happened was, we hadn’t quite realised this, they had been playing somewhere on the Wednesday night. Their cars had been left somewhere but when they had come back the night before they had come into somewhere else. So he had had to go to Speke airport and pick up his car, which is why he was late. But of course by then Alan was slightly the worse for three pints of beer.

Kenny was very friendly and all the rest of it. He always made it clear he was no actor but he was happy to take part in the thing. All these kind of negotiations started with Liverpool about getting him to shoot that sequence and all the rest of it. When the team ran out it was Scully who was wearing the number 7 shirt. So that was quite complicated to organise but of course what made it easy was the Kop knew who Scully was. So there were announcements made to the Kop, ‘this is what is happening today, we are shooting this sequence’. So they behaved like the Kop, cheered for Scully and all the rest of the stuff and Dalglish came out later on.

Didn’t they do a chant; ‘there’s only one Franny Scully’ as he came out onto the pitch.

You must remember Scully had been serialised on Radio Merseyside, Alan read the book. Scully was a very, very well known character in Liverpool, so of course the fans at Anfield all knew who he was. ‘There’s only one Franny Scully’.

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