It’s amusing to reflect that one of Liverpool’s most famous TV comedies was based on a bit of cockney rhyming slang.
The show was Bread – and it ran on BBC1 from 1986 to 1991 with an audience of 20 million viewers at its peak.
The humour revolved around a Dingle family’s ingenious schemes to raise enough money – or bread – for their daily upkeep.
At the end of each programme, cash would ‘divvied up’ into a cockerel-shaped egg basket at the centre of the kitchen table.
But the term bread, meaning money, wasn’t a scouse phrase at all. It came from the cockney term ‘bread and honey’.
The local word for money at the time was much more likely to be ‘dough’.
Whatever its derivation, Bread proved to be an enormous hit with viewers when it was first aired on May 1st 1986.
Its creator, West Derby writer Carla Lane, had already enjoyed popular success and critical acclaim for the Liver Birds (1969-78) and Butterflies (1978-83).
Lane’s beautifully observed scripts, capturing the humour and pathos of a family literally on the breadline, were underpinned by some brilliant acting from the Liverpool cast.
The lynchpin of the family – and the series – was matriarch Nellie Boswell, brilliantly played by Merseyside actress Jean Boht. Her TV credits already included Softly, Softly, Grange Hill and Last of the Summer Wine.
‘Ma’ Boswell ruled her Dingle home with a rod of iron, always demanding that money was on the dinner table before anyone could eat.
Her philandering husband Freddie, played by Liverpool actor Ronald Forfar, divided his time between the Boswell household and Irish femme fatale Li-Lo Lil (Eileen Pollack).
The anchor man of the Boswell family was Nellie’s eldest child Joey, portrayed by Manchester-born actor Peter Howitt.
Wearing leather trousers and driving a Jaguar, he always appeared in control – even when some of his money-making schemes landed him in big trouble.
Joey made a habit of helping his siblings out of various scrapes, at the same time as wooing his long-term girlfriend Roxy (Joanna Phillips-Lane).
Howitt became quite a heart-throb during the first four series, but left in 1989 to concentrate on directing. His replacement, Liverpool actor Graham Bickley, never matched his popularity so the character appeared less often.
Nellie’s second son was the sensitive and romantic Jack, played by Tuebrook-born actor Victor McGuire. He ran a struggling antiques business.
The poet of the family was son Adrian, portrayed by Jonathan Morris. He was well-known on TV screens for presenting the Movie Game, replacing Phillip Schofield.
The other two children were loud-mouthed son Billy (Nick Conway) and fabulously over-the-top daughter Aveline, whose sole ambition in life was to be a model.
Aveline was played firstly by Liverpool actress Gilly Coman and then by Melanie Hill, who is still on TV as long-running character Cathy Matthews in Coronation Street.
Aveline married protestant vicar Oswald Carter (Giles Watling) at the end of series four, which brought more than a little consternation to staunch catholic Nellie.
Another big name in Bread was Garston actress and movie star Rita Tushingham, who played neighbour Celia Higgins in series four. Tushingham found fame in the films A Taste of Honey, Doctor Zhivago and Smashing Time.
Celebrities sometimes appeared as guests on Bread too. Carla Lane’s friend Linda McCartney featured in an episode of series four, with husband Paul even offering her a lift home!
Liverpool singer Sonia played Adrian’s girlfriend Ellia for one show in 1988. The publicity clearly worked. She went to Number One in the charts a year later with the single You’ll Never Stop Me Loving You.