Want to meet the REAL Blackadder (who’s from Kent), Baldrick, Darling and Mrs Miggins? Namesakes reveal life when forever linked to classic Rowan Atkinson TV show
PUBLISHED: 13:15 06 April 2017
From the pen of Ben Elton and Richard Curtis came a comedy gem. Now a TV channel is launching a series of special programmes
Blackadder is hailed by many as the greatest comedy series ever written - and for one pilot from Kent it has had a profound influence.
Because Robert Blackadder, 22, has grown up with his surname being synonymous with the classic character made famous by Rowan Atkinson.
And this week he came face to face with the real-life Baldrick, Darling and even Mrs Miggins to launch a new series of TV programmes celebrating the sitcom and the periods in history in which each series were set.
The Yesterday channel is running the Blackadder’s History season starting from Monday April 10 from 7pm, and available to catch up on UKTV Play, featuring all episodes of the classic series next to documentaries about each era.
And in a fascinating parallel to their namesakes from the show, four members of the public - Robert Blackadder, Luke Baldrick, Kevin Darling and Hayley Miggins - gathered at the Tower of London, a reoccurring location throughout the four series, to reveal their personal connections.
Robert Blackadder, from Romney Marsh, is a qualified pilot who was inspired by his great great uncle William Francis Blackadder, one of The Few - the name given by Winston Churchill to the brave Allied airmen of the Royal Air Force who fought the Battle of Britain in the Second World War.
He said: “I have been brought up with the Blackadder series, and certain phrases are part of the family vernacular - especially when it comes to having ‘cunning plans’ and ‘sensible policies for a happier Britain’.
“The whole family are huge fans and I can recite huge chunks of the Blackadder scripts. Blackadder is an old Berwick name and the ancestry can be traced back for centuries, most firstborn are called Robert, David or John rather than Edmund.
“It’s strange being called Blackadder - most people have heard of the show and call you Slackie, Blackie, Slackbladder or whatever. We are very lucky to have a surname associated with one of the most well-loved comedy series ever made, people tend not to forget your name - it can be burden though as sometimes people don’t believe you or think you’re joking.
“My great great uncle William Francis Blackadder joined the auxiliary air force in 1936, becoming part of 607 Squadron and saw action in northern France at the start of the Second World War, before flying fighters during the Battle of Britain. He survived the war and lived until 1997 – and his story has been absolutely inspirational in firing my passion for aviation in general and vintage Second World War aircraft in particular.
“I regard it as an absolute privilege to able to fly in the same skies over Kent where he served and to be able to follow in his footsteps. It is my ambition to one day fly a spitfire over the Capel-Le-Ferne memorial in his honour.”
The series, which starred Rowan Atkinson in the title role and Sir Tony Robinson as his faithful servant Baldrick, first appeared on BBC1 in 1983 - and ran to four series and three specials before the final episode aired in 1989.
The fourth was set in World War One - and student Luke Baldrick, 22, revealed that his great grandfather David Baldrick also served in the Great War, returning home after suffering a shrapnel injury to his leg.
Mr Baldrick, a third year business studies student at Liverpool John Moores University, originally from Londonderry, Northern Ireland, said: “David Baldrick was a farmer near Derry from back home in Ireland, who went to fight for his country. There’s certainly not been too many of us Baldricks ever since, although I’ve a met a couple in America via Facebook.”
The final Blackadder Goes Forth series also featured Captain Kevin Darling played by Tim McInnerny - and Kevin Darling, 59, a construction consultant specialising in land and construction disputes, from Upminster, Essex, describes himself as ‘a pen pusher, just like the other Darling’.
He said: “I love the series despite having people regularly say to me, ‘not now, Darling’ for the past 28 years. And having traced my family back several generations, I’ve discovered that my grandfather Albert Darling, who was born in 1891, also served in the First World War.
“Our family history goes back 13 generations, to 1565 – and I’ve discovered that we had Darlings in the military well before my namesake in Blackadder Goes Forth.”
Each Blackadder series was set in a different period of British history, beginning in 1485 and ending in 1917, and comprised six half-hour episodes. The first series was called The Black Adder and was set in the fictional reign of Richard IV.
The second series, Blackadder II, was set during the reign of Elizabeth I. Blackadder the Third was set during the late 18th and early 19th centuries in the reign of George III, and Blackadder Goes Forth was set in 1917 in the trenches of the Great War.
One of the most popular characters was Mrs Miggins, played by Helen Atkinson-Wood and famous for her pies and other wares at her coffee shop – and Hayley Miggins, 32, from Preston, Lancashire, describes herself as a lover of pies thanks her traditional home town cooking.
She said: “Lancashire is the home of the meat and potato pie, and pies don’t come any better than that. And I’ve always been a great foodie, not least because my mum is from Italian descent.
“Although unlike Mrs Miggins, sadly I’ve never owned a pie shop – in fact I’m more closely linked to the final series set in the First World War, as I work in the defence industry.
“And to this day the name Mrs Miggins is always likely to be mentioned whenever I give my name - although as a family we’ve always loved being recognised in the same breath as such a comedy classic as Blackadder.”
Sir Tony Robinson, who played Baldrick in every episode of Blackadder, said: “I am so proud of being part of the Blackadder team. I think it’s one of the highlights of my working life.
“The fact that people come up to me almost every day and say that either they learned about history because they were inspired by Blackadder or their kids learned about history for the same reason makes me bristle with pride.”
Adrian Wills, general manager for Yesterday, added: “Blackadder is one of the greatest British TV creations of all time, and the Yesterday channel is excited to celebrate Blackadder’s legacy through a uniquely historical viewpoint which we hope will fascinate our viewers.”
Blackadder’s History starts from Monday April 10 to Friday April 21, 7pm, on Yesterday. It features all episodes of the legendary sitcom Blackadder, next to documentaries about each era.