They were called Cheese and Egg, Heavy Breathing, Winston Platt and Eric – and they rode around Manchester in Thunderbird 3.
Millions knew them better as The Dustbinmen – the unlikely heroes of the Granada TV sitcom which ran for three series from 1969 to 1970.
Thunderbird 3 was their dustcart and trusty get-away vehicle from all the comedy scrapes and mishaps they found themselves in every week.
The Dustbinmen started life in 1968 as a one-off TV comedy written by Cheetham Hill playwright Jack Rosenthal.
It was called There’s a Hole in Your Dustbin Delilah and featured the characters of ‘Number Three Gang’ of the Corporation Cleansing Department.
It was so well received that Granada commissioned a series with Rosenthal writing all the early episodes.
Actor Bryan Pringle was cast in the lead role of Cheese and Egg – a beret-wearing avid Communist whose real name was C. E. Petty.
Brought up in Bolton, Pringle had worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He also played Rachel Roberts’ husband in the 1960 film Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.
Cheese and Egg’s bin-mate and soul-mate in the series was diehard Manchester City fan Winston, played by Graham Haberfield of Coronation Street fame.
Winston worshipped City and England midfielder Colin Bell. A cardboard FA Cup was fixed to the front of Thunderbird 3 in honour of the Blues’ 1-0 Wembley win over Leicester in 1969.
Haberfield played builder Jerry Booth on Coronation Street from 1962 to 1975 and also appeared in the TV programmes Strange Report, No Hiding Place and Z-Cars.
He tragically died of heart failure at the age of 33 in 1975. His widow Valerie insisted that two episodes he had recorded for Coronation Street were shown posthumously as a tribute.
Dustbinman Welsh Eric, played by Tim Wylton, was a devotee of Coronation Street. His main aim in life was to buy a colour TV set for his mother!
Heavy Breathing’s main aim in life was to have a rest from the women he claimed were constantly pursuing him! He injected a suave note by wearing a bowler hat on his rounds!
The role was played by Trevor Bannister, who starred as Mr. Lucas in the BBC sitcom Are You Being Served?
He also appeared as golf club captain Toby Mulberry Smith in Last of the Summer Wine from 2003 to 2010.
The authority figure on The Dustbinmen was Cleansing Department inspector Bernard Pooke, known as Delilah.
Pooke was portrayed by Ashton-under-Lyne actor Brian Wilde – best known for playing prison warder Mr Barrowclough in Porridge and Foggy Dewhurst in Last of the Summer Wine.
Pooke’s sidekick was a scavenger known as Smellie Ibbotson, played by Rochdale film actor John Barrett. He delighted in telling the boss when the Thunderbird 3 crew were skiving!
The Dustbinmen had a string of connections to other Granada programmes of the 1970s, including Jack Rosenthal’s fondly remembered romantic comedy The Lovers.
Female lead Paula Wilcox, who played Beryl opposite Richard Beckinsale as Geoffrey, appeared as Winston’s girlfriend Naomi in two episodes of The Dustbinmen.
Bury actress Julie Goodyear, famous for playing landlady Bet Lynch in Coronation Street, appeared as a housewife in The Dustbinmen.
Another Street veteran, Bryan Mosley who played Weatherfield Mayor Alf Roberts, was a doctor in The Dustbinmen.
Continuing the Coronation Street theme, Barbara Knox (Rita Sullivan) appeared as a housewife who read tea leaves in The Dustbinmen and Jill Summers (Phyllis Pearce) played a cleaner.
Our photo shows Goodyear, Sullivan and Summers chatting to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher when she met the cast in the Rovers’ Return during her visit in 1990.
But perhaps The Dustbinmen’s biggest connection with the Street was its writer and creator, Jack Rosenthal.
He was responsible for 129 early episodes of Coronation Street as well as writing the first two series of The Dustbinmen.
His fellow writers were John Antrobus, Adele Rose and Kenneth Cope, famous for playing Marty Hopkirk in Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and Ray Hilton in Brookside.
Just for good measure, Cope also appeared in Coronation Street as Minnie Caldwell’s lodger Jed Stone.
The Dustbinmen, broadcast weekly in three series from September 1969 to August 1970, is still available on DVD.