Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

There’s a Prisoner fan in Glasgow

It’s a few years since I came across the name Jack Kirby a few years ago, then it was a pure fluke that I happened to be looking at a dedicated Prisoner fan’s web site, where they’d shared some ‘lost’ Kirby artwork they had unearthed in a box of memorabilia related to the series.

I’d never even heard the name before, but was intrigued to see the sort of material that had been produced so long ago.

I don’t know if it’s the same material, or different, but I spotted a book (published 2018) of Kirby’s material in the window of one of Glasgow’s science fiction bookshops (Buchanan Street) recently as I passed one night.

By the time I got back at a more reasonable hour a few days later, it was already gone.

Good job I grabbed a quick pic, to remind me I hadn’t imagined it.

Jack Kirby Prisoner Art

Jack Kirby Prisoner Art

There was no price tag, but I see it online from bookshops for between $50 and $80.

This is NOT a look at the new book mentioned above, but a strip by Kirby shown online back in 2014.

Read Jack Kirby’s THE PRISONER!

First page tease.

Jack Kirby Prisoner Comic

Jack Kirby Prisoner Comic

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September 4, 2018 Posted by | photography | , | Leave a comment

The illegals – GL66 GOW

It’s a sort of valiant attempt, but it’s not improved by having illegal spacing on the plate.

The novelty would be better without it.

There’s also something of a ‘6’ theme here.

Most notable being a nice link to The Prisoner, with that City of Glasgow black Taxi plate at bottom right being a nice plain ‘6’.

Taxi [GL66 GOW]

Taxi [GL66 GOW]

February 7, 2018 Posted by | photography, Transport | , , | 2 Comments

Any Scottish fans of ‘The Prisoner’ left?

I used to be a regular visitor to Portmeirion (no longer a secret that this was where ‘The Prisoner’ was filmed prior to broadcast in 1967), able to drive down during annual convention weekends. I was also a happy member of Six of One, The Prisoner Appreciation Society, until both came to an end for me some time after 1998.

Six of One imploded (as seen from my distant perspective as a subscriber), the conventions came to an end, the society appeared to lose favour with Portmeirion, and even the little Prisoner shop in the village closed. I hadn’t been able to make it there again (having to abort the next drive down as work meant I started the trip too late in the day), and later read that some attendees’ behaviour had led to apologies being issued to Portmeirion. Details never really emerged, but the invitation for Prisoner events seemed to evaporate for some years (as did my ability to get back there). As that was my last opportunity to make the trip, I ended up being glad I had aborted the trip, and wasn’t part of whatever happened that weekend.

I bumped into the former committee when the WorldCon came to Glasgow a few later, but they weren’t particularly approachable when I tried to say ‘Hello’, so that was that.

But, fast-forward a few years and The Unmutual Website (TUW) appeared.

Unusually, and unlike the acrimonious f0rmer society, there is no membership for TUW – just visit the web site and participate as you like.

I’ve done so for some years now, and the (very) nice man who runs it seems happy to hear from anybody.

Even me, with odd bits of trivia, such as this penny-farthing duo I found nearby one day.

Penny Farthing Twins

Penny Farthing Twins

I’ve followed the site for years now, and it has grown from a small start into a vast resource of wide and varied Prisoner related information.

For someone who was once there every year, it has assorted galleries of changes that have taken place in Portmeirion over the years, which helps make up for the loss of visits (and the 300 miles drive, ending with the remarkably Scottish looking final section through North Wales).

50th Anniversary

As noted above, 2017 marked the 50th anniversary of The Prisoner’s first broadcast, so this was a special year, as noted by TUW’s opening para on its report page:

‘The Prisoner’ 50th anniversary- an in-depth photo report on the event

September 29th 2017 marked the 50th anniversary of the first UK screening of ‘Arrival’ (at 7.30pm on ATV Midlands on 29/9/1967).

NETWORK were the hosts and organisers of the official 50th anniversary event at Portmeirion, fifty years on, on 29th September 2017.

With The Unmutual Website advertising the event well in advance, most of the invited guests had been well publicised, as had the various screenings, so nothing less than a feast was promised. What was to follow exceeded even that, and proved to be an unforgettable smorgasbord of Prisoner delicacies!

The report continues with a lengthy and detailed description of the event, and coverage of the many members of the original cast able to attend, it was a unique picture opportunity too.

Fenella Fielding provided the Village Voice in the original series, so who better to announce each of the days events over a PA/speaker system which covered the whole of Portmeirion, caught on video – and looking amazing for 90!

A notable ‘first”reported from the event was the live performance of a Big Finish episode inside The Green Dome.

As a central location, Number 2’s residence, it was a little disappointing that this particular building was never accessible during any of the previous conventions or my visits, even it was a fantasy location that existed only as a set, and not actually under the dome. I did look closely during those early visits, and access was probably not really practical as the place was then in something of a state internally, and clearly in need of restoration, which it now seems to have had in good measure.

While you can go look up more related videos on YouTube, there’s one more I’d like to include here, and that’s the dedication by daughter Catherine McGoohan as she unveils a bust of Patrick McGoohan which will now mark his presence in the village.

October 17, 2017 Posted by | Surveillance, Uncategorized | , , , | 2 Comments

The Prisoner airing on Freeview Ch61 ‘True Entertainment’ from 21:00 Mon 13 Mar 2017

True Entertainment
I spotted a slightly surprising show due to be aired on Freeview Channel 61.

‘True Entertainment’ is about start showing The Prisoner as of Monday 13 March 2017 at 21:00.

This replaces the current run of The Persuaders and will follow the same format of two episodes per evening.

While that will burn through the series in less than two weeks, The Persuaders was only 24 eps, and has been repeating for the past few weeks.

I don’t have the ability to look far enough forward to see if The Prisoner will also be looped for a while.

While I have a few version on various media collected over the years, and could watch as I wished, I never do, and rather like the ‘old-fashioned’ discipline of having to ‘catch’ a programme when it is on. That said, I seldom watch anything live now (or at all to be honest) but delay, so I can wipe out the poxy adverts.

Brings back memories too.

In the Village

In the Village

I said I was surprised, and that’s because we passed the 50th anniversary of the series not that long ago, yet not one broadcaster saw fit to mention it, or run the series to mark the event.

March 12, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Save The Coliseum – in Porthmadog

A tad further away than most of my subjects, but with good reason.

Pictured below is the Coliseum cinema located in Porthmadog, North Wales, opened in 1931 and of Art Deco styling (with many features apparently still surviving within), it seems it quickly gained a reputation for the quality of it sound system, described by the press of the day as “perfect”.

Coliseum Cinema Porthmadog

Coliseum cinema, Porthmadog © Jaggery CC via geograph (2012)

Fast forward through its years of success, it becomes significant when booked as the venue for screening rushes (in filmmaking, the raw, unedited footage viewed daily after being developed and printed) for a strange new television being produced by, and starring Patrick McGoohan – which would go (despite, or perhaps because of, its length of only 17 episodes) to become a cult television series still popular today.

This was, of course – The Prisoner.

The cinema was threatened with closure in 1983, but an appeal saw the local people raise enough money to keep it open, and in 1994 it received nearly new projectors when Barclays Bank Ltd closed it training centre and donated them to The Coliseum.

However, fast forward to 2011, and falling audience numbers meant that the cinema had to close its doors.

Worse news was to arrive 2014, when the group set up to save the cinema had its plans rejected by the Coliseum Shareholders, who voted to sell the property rather than grant a long-term lease to the Friends of The Coliseum.

As will be seen below, the agent’s description worryingly wastes little time in getting to the stock phrase: “suitable for all types of redevelopment“.

You can read the Friends’ story here:

Save the Coliseum

The Coliseum web page:

The Coliseum

The advert:

Property in High Street, Porthmadog, Gwynedd – Dafydd Hardy – North West Wales Leading Estate Agent

Description

The property comprises an art-deco style cinema which was originally constructed in 1931. The cinema traded for many years and closed in 2010. The building can accommodate 500 people and includes both ground floor and balcony seating. There is a reception area, office, projection rooms and a basement within the cinema together with a large car park to the side. The property provides a site that is suitable for all types of redevelopment, subject to the necessary planning consents.

An account of its days when The Prisoner was being filmed:

Unmutual Prisoner Locations Guide – Coliseum, Porthmadoc (McGoohan/Portmeirion)

We used to see the Coliseum in the flesh until 1998, as we generally travelled down to Portmeirion (where most of the action was filmed) for the annual Prisoner Convention, but were obliged to give up this up after that date, and have never been able to get back. Due to our slightly odd travel arrangements (due to work commitments) we were never able to visit the Coliseum, where screening of selected episodes of the series were laid on for the conventions, together with related material.

Sadly, it’s hard to see what could be done by the Friends to save the cinema in the time available, as dwindling numbers are hard to convert.

The Internet has probably played a part, and we are in the same sort of scenario as seen by the cinema in the 1970s, when most closed, or were supplemented (or completely replaced, by use as bingo halls.

We can only watch and see what does, or does not, happen 300 miles away (that the door to door distance from where I am to Porthmadog) in North Wales.

March 2, 2014 Posted by | Appeal | , , , , | Leave a comment

On Patrick McGoohan

Regular readers will know I have a long standing interest in The Prisoner, and its notional setting of Portmeirion in North Wales, and this provides the start of this month’s blogging. Seriously, if you love Scotland you should race through England and visit North Wales – you could easily get lost there as so many places look just like ‘home’. I’m not really suggesting there is anything wrong with England, but there are so many wide open flat plains that just seem to go on and on and…

It was almost a surprise to read that two years had elapsed since McGoohan’s passing, it doesn’t feel as if it was that long ago yet, but it is.

In that time, we’ve seen a number of developments as interest in the series continues unabated, and there has been the mockery of the ‘re-imagining’ of the series which we had to watch last year. No wonder McGoohan refused to have anything to do with the thing. If it was something a cat could have found, it would have taken it away and buried it!

I note that AMC (the company behind that rubbish), having hosted an original Prisoner section in its web space prior to the broadcast of its effort, has now excised all content and references to the original. That gesture probably says more than I ever could about the ‘re-imagining’.

Portmeirion also made the news at the start of this year, but for the wrong reason – as we learnt that Robin Llywelyn, managing director of Portmeirion, had slipped and fractured his skull while out walking. Mr Llywelyn is the grandson of Portmeirion founder Sir Clough Williams Ellis. The news story tells us he spent a few days in hospital, but was then released home to recuperate, and is keen to get back to work as soon as he can.

There have been a number of articles published over the past two years about McGoohan’s career and his production of The Prisoner, and without being negative, it’s fairly true to say that while they may often concentrate on one specific aspect or another, they are arguably reworking of existing material, so once you’ve read a few, you have probably read them all.

The following article originated on the Pacific Palisades Patch web site, which is a fairly extensive community web site serving the Palisades, where McGoohan had his home. The content is a little different to the usual revision of well-known material, and it’s the first one I think I have come across that has content provided by his wife, Joan McGoohan:

The Prisoner: “Where am I?”

Number Two: “In The Village.”

The Prisoner: “What do you want?”

Number Two: “Information.”

The Prisoner: “Which side are you on?”

Number Two: “That would be telling. We want information, information, information…”

The Prisoner: “You won’t get it.”

Number Two: “By hook or by crook we will.”

The Prisoner: “Who are you?”

Number Two: “The new Number Two.”

The Prisoner: “Who is Number One?”

Number Two: “You are Number Six.”

The Prisoner: “I am not a number. I am a free man.”

Number Two: “Ha, ha, ha, ha…”

You might say The Prisoner never left the Village.

On this date two years ago, when the Emmy Award-winning actor Patrick McGoohan died at the age of 80, Pacific Palisades lost a great thespian…as well as a longtime Palisadian of three decades.

Best known for The Prisoner, a surreal 1960s espionage show laced with commentary on society that he starred, wrote, directed and produced, as well as his nefarious turn in Braveheart, McGoohan had lived in Pacific Palisades since the 1970s, when he and his wife, actress Joan Drummond McGoohan, settled in town.

“He would get up at the crack of dawn, get The New York Times, and get some coffee at Mort’s or Starbucks,” Joan Drummond McGoohan told this reporter in 2009, on the week of her husband’s passing. “He wrote. Always, always.”

The McGoohans enjoyed eating at Sam’s at the Beach in Santa Monica Canyon. In the Village, they often frequented the Italian restaurant Modo Mio.

McGoohan won two Emmys for acting in  Columbo in 1975 and 1990. He directed episodes of the original 1970s version of Peter Falk’s program, and was very involved behind the scenes of the latter-day Columbo TV movies as a producer.

Read more – The Passing of ‘The Prisoner’.

February 1, 2011 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | 4 Comments

Patrick McGoohan R.I.P.

Patrick McGoohan - The Prisoner Number 6

Patrick McGoohan - The Prisoner Number 6

Those who look in here on a reasonably regular basis may have detected my appreciation for Patrick McGoohan and his part as Number Six in his 1960’s television series, The Prisoner, and it with some sadness that I note his passing:

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Patrick McGoohan, an Emmy-winning actor who created and starred in the cult classic television show “The Prisoner,” has died. He was 80.

McGoohan died Tuesday in Los Angeles after a short illness, his son-in-law, film producer Cleve Landsberg, said Wednesday.

McGoohan won two Emmys for his work on the Peter Falk detective drama “Columbo,” and more recently appeared as King Edward Longshanks in the 1995 Mel Gibson film “Braveheart.”

But he was best known as the title character Number Six in “The Prisoner,” a surreal 1960s British series in which a former spy is held captive in a small village and constantly tries to escape.

Patrick McGoohan obituary, by Roger Langley (pdf)

prisoner

Coincidentally, ITV 4 began a rerun of the original series only last week, making this airing somewhat more significant, and the recently completed remake of the series is also due for airing by ITV this year.

His parts in Columbo were also intriguing and usually rather special, with the added extra for Prisoner devotees, as he would usually slip a reference to the original series somewhere into the dialogue of the shabby detective’s story.

If for nothing else, I (and my family) are grateful to McGoohan and his choice of the Welsh village of Portmeirion, created by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, as the setting for his original, classic series, especially once we discovered it was real place, and that we could jump in the car and be there the same day. One of the fascinating aspects of the trip was the similarity of North Wales to Scotland, and how noticeable the difference (or should that be similarity to home) was once one had left England and driven on for an hour or so.

A view over The Village - Portmeirion

A view over The Village - Portmeirion

Patrick McGooan and Clough Williams-Ellis

Patrick McGoohan and Clough Williams-Ellis

Original series promotional footage


Unadulterated Prisoner theme music


Be seeing you.

January 15, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Prisoner remake is seen in public

prisonercomingAlthough I’m trying not to prejudge and dismiss the remake of 1960s TV series The Prisoner, I’m afraid the little clip that has been released recently has done little to convince that it merits little more effort than to be tossed on the pile of failed remakes.

While the original built successfully on the premise of the Cold War, and the paranoia and fear that quietly surrounded the silence and lack of public knowledge that ordinary people endured – there was no internet and none of the “leaks” we see the newspapers enjoy today – the remake has to sell itself in a world where that has gone.

The clip can could be found in the showreel section of the ITV1 New Season, New Horizons site, if you can be bothered to wait for all the preceding clips to pass without being sent to sleep first.

Following a comment received on November 26, I’ve checked the showreel again, and The Prisoner clip appeared to have been removed. I refuse to watch the tripe after the Drama section to see if they re-classified it, since the showreel can’t be fast-forwarded, just restarted – and that’s just too much torture to endure. The removal has been noted elsewhere on the web.

While the original displayed a degree of imagination and creative surrealism in its plot, the remake only had to hang on the coat-tail of its success, but seems to have got lost in the usual drive for Bigger and Better, as the actors indulge in over-acting, the location is unnecessarily distant and exotic, and it all looks too well preened and expensive.

The remakes nearly always seem to suffer from a command from on high to “push the limits” and take the original concept “to the next level”, as if they’re afraid that their new interpretation might not stand up against its predecessor, or keep the sponsors/advertisers happy.

Then again, there’s always the small, but relevant problem, in that today’s ordinary life is more like The Village ever was, and that nearly all the technology and surveillance seen in the 1960 programme surrounds us today, so the only way to remake the series is go to extremes.

I still look forward to seeing the series, it does, of course, promise to be quite interesting, I just think I’d rather see it with another name tacked on to the front, rather than The Prisoner.

November 24, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 3 Comments

Inverlair Lodge for sale

 

Inverlair Lodge

Inverlair Lodge via The Unmutual Web Site

Inverlair Lodge is one our more interesting subjects, having taken part in the secret training operations carried out in the isolation of Scotland during World War II. This past history was to become the inspiration for the 1960 television series, The Prisoner.

If you have a spare £1 million (at least) or so, then Inverlair Lodge, and its surrounding estate could be yours. Details of the lodge and the sale can be found in the related pdf document, which has some excellent pictures and details of the site.

Sadly, the brochure also contains the following carefully worded myth, no doubt added with an eye on raising the profile of the lodge and possibly boosting its desirability and price:

It is reputed that Rudolph Hess, Deputy Leader of the Nazi Party was imprisoned in Inverlair following his crash landing near Glasgow in May 1941 on his secret mission to Britain.

Take it from your scribe, the chance of Rudolf Hess ever having been anywhere near the house are as remote as a summer without rain in Scotland. You’ll find a short itinerary of his visit to Scotland, together with the dates and places he is known to have been moved to and been held at, on our Rudolf Hess Flight page. Quite why anyone would have moved him there and back given the remoteness of the location and travel time involved is one mystery, while the other would be where they would have found the time anyway, between his arrival and fairly rapid despatch to London.

In 1941, the lodge was requisitioned and became one of the facilities operated by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) during World War II, and was known as No.6 Special Workshop School, part Inter Services Research Bureau (ISRB),

SOE (and SIS or MI6) planned many secret operations in enemy territory during World War II, and it was inevitable that there would be occasions where volunteers would refuse to take part once they became aware of the full details. Some were unable to kill when the occasion was reduced to a one-on-one scenario, as opposed the anonymity of a battlefield exchange. With information being released on a Need to Know basis, their training meant that they were in possession of highly classified and secret information relating to pending missions, and could not be allowed to return to public life, where a careless remark could have compromised their secrecy. Inverlair Lodge became a detention or internment camp where such individuals could be accommodated, safely isolated from public contact. Conditions there were described as luxurious, and the lodge was even said to provide a safe haven for former agents or spies, who could not risk being seen in public, for fear of being recognised and killed in retaliation for missions they had carried out.

George Markstein, who worked with Patrick McGoohan on the 1960s TV series The Prisoner, has told of how he learnt about places such as Inverlair Lodge during the war, when he was a journalist, and there can be little doubt that the discovery influenced the design of the fictional Village in which the series was set. Commenting on the residents “They were largely people who had been compromised. They had reached the point in their career where they knew too much to be let loose, but they hadn’t actually done anything wrong. They weren’t in any way traitors, they hadn’t betrayed anything, but in their own interest it was better if they were kept safely.

September 5, 2008 Posted by | World War II | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Prisoner remake splashes the cash

Although I’m trying to reserve judgement, it’s hard not to engage Sceptic-mode and think of the forthcoming Prisoner remake as nothing more than an attempt to cash in on something successful (you may not understand it, but the original is still very popular 40+ years after it first puzzled its viewers) as hard pressed TV show makers look for new plunder to justify their astronomical pay packets. Sky One is reviving Blake’s Seven, and BBC1 has a ‘reimagining’ of Survivors scheduled for arrival in the autum.

We’ve already ticked the box requiring “names” to be involved with the remake:

Jim Caviezel will play the title role of Number Six and two-time Oscar nominee Ian McKellen will co-star playing the role of Number Two. No. 313 will be played by Ruth Wilson, a BAFTA and Golden Globe nominated actress. No. 4-15 will be played by Hayley Atwell, being pushed in numerous TV productions at the moment, and a film actress. No. 147 will be played by Lennie James who has had a prolific career on television, film and in theater. No. 11-12 will be played by Jamie Campell-Bower, best known for his portrayal of Anthony, alongside Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd.

There’s been some dire viral marketing,  unveiled at Comic-Con, where delegates were invited to seekthesix.com. (Watching paint dry would have been more fun than this effort.) The convention floor was  also populated with dozens of numbered men in black suits who randomly uttered the iconic phrase “I Am Not A Number”, but no other clues to their purpose other than “the truth is right beside you”. (Inspired idea, wan’t it?)

In another Sceptic-mode moment, I see that the original run of six episodes (six? that was a handy coincidence) “could” be increased, and the mini-series may run longer than stated in the original announcement.

It would seem that the location for the series is just a short hop around the corner, in sunny Namibia.

I wonder if a note about the producers having been “in touch” with Patrick McGoohan, but noting that at the moment, he’s not scheduled to appear in the mini-series, is a euphemism for his reply. We’ll see.

The TV execs are desparate for something to keep their audiences, because recent series like “Lost” and the like start of looking interesting and intriguing, but then suffer from having no real plot, and a dependence on dolls, hunks, and gossip to maintain interest, or like the new “Bionic Woman” which I think I saw has just been cancelled, spend too much time on angst and deep-thinking, instead of just getting on with the action, which their more successful predecessors did.

Keep up to date on the remake faster than me by checking the Unmutual website, where developments are being watched much more closely.

August 23, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , | Leave a comment

Cast grows for Prisoner remake

ITV released some more details of the cast for its remake of The Prisoner, and I can’t say I’m impressed. That’s not a reflection on the talents of any those listed, it simply means I wouldn’t know any of them from Adam, or Eve for that matter. The only reason I might ever be found to recognise anyone that might be considered a “celebrity” nowadays would be to allow me to see them from a distance, and cross the road to avoid them. This list includes:

  • Ruth Wilson (Jane Eyre, Capturing Mary) in the role of Number 313
  • Hayley Atwell (Brideshead Revisited, Mansfield Park) as Number 41-5
  • Lennie James (Jericho, 24 Hour Party People) as Number 47
  • Jamie Campbell-Bower (Sweeney Todd, Rocknrolla) as Number 11-12

Given that we’re getting name-dropping and credits, I fear that my thought that this remake will prove to be little more than a stylised shopfront and an excuse to jazz-up what some might refer to as a dated concept might come to pass.

I’m getting the same bad feeling that Dr Who gives me now, while I might be one of the faithful from the original and classic series, I think things are ever so slightly wrong when the announcement of the Doctor’s new assistant is celebrated by parties, interviews, and national news features which treat them as great stars and huge successes – before we’ve even had the chance to see them in an episode and decide for ourselves if it’s time for plaudits or pants.

Nonetheless, the buildup means the remake has more to achieve, and further to fall if it’s little more than media vessel.

July 28, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , | Leave a comment

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