The Men From The Ministry, 1962
When you talk about sitcoms you often forget about radio and some of the gems it’s thrown up over the years, not least Hancock’s Half Hour.
Men From The Ministry is one such gem. Originally broadcast on the BBC Light Program and later BBC Radio 4 this series ran for a mammoth 147 episodes between 1962 and 1977. A further 14 episodes were made by the BBC Transcription Service in 1980 but never broadcast in the UK, until 2012 on BBC Radio 4 Extra.
Versions of the series were made by Yle in Finland, Sveriges Radio (SR) in Sweden, and Springbok Radio in South Africa, where it was made into a feature-length film.
Initially the series starred Wilfrid Hyde-White and Richard Murdoch. However from 1966, Deryck Guyler (Please Sir and Sykes) replaced Hyde-White. Early episodes were written by popular writing team Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke.
The series was about lazy, bungling, incompetent civil servants, “Number One” – Roland Hamilton-Jones (Wilfrid Hyde-White) and later Deryck Lennox-Brown (Deryck Guyler), “Number Two” – Richard Lamb (Richard Murdoch), with their dim, typo-prone, teenage secretary, Mildred Murfin (Norma Ronald), all watched-over by the lecherous, pompous, self-seeking Permanent Under-Secretary Sir Gregory Pitkin (Roy Dotrice and later Ronald Baddiley), all members of the British Civil Service based in Whitehall.
The stories centered on their General Assistance Department (analogous to the “Department of Administrative Affairs” in the later Yes Minister), which helps other governmental departments.
However, instead of assistance, the department constantly creates mix-ups, misunderstandings and cock-ups that would generally lead to a telling-off from Sir Gregory, who sees his ‘hard earned’ Civil Service career and pension disappearing.
“One” (Roland Hamilton-Jones) – Wilfrid Hyde-White (1962–65)
“One” (Deryck Lennox-Brown) – Deryck Guyler (1966–77)
“Two” (Richard Lamb) – Richard Murdoch
“Mildred Murfin” – Norma Ronald
Under-Secretary “Sir Gregory Pitkin”, CBE – Roy Dotrice (1962–65), Ronald Baddiley (1966-77)
“April Adams” – Secretary to Roland Hamilton-Jones – Diana Olsson (1962–65)
BBC Light Program (1962 – 67), BBC Radio 4 (1967 – 1977)
BBC Radio 4 Extra (12 episodes from 1980 and repeats)
Written By: Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke (early episodes, no details found)
Produced By: Edward Taylor
Original Transmision Dates: 30th October 1962 – 22nd August 1977