Thursday, 26 June 2008

The Scottish Soupy Sales

If you follow this link ( it will take you to a British Film Institute site that claims to show the 10 longest running children's programs in the UK. It's slightly out of date, but much as I hate to criticise such an august body as the BFI it has a big mistake in it.

You see, there was a program that ran from 1966 to 1992, a period of 26 years, that is not mentioned there. It can lay claim to having entertained children throughout that run, yet if you lived or grew up south of somewhere south of, say, Berwick or Carlisle the chances are you may never have heard of the show, or the person who hosted it.

North of there however, every kid knew who Glen Michael was - and I was one of them.

Glen Michael himself started out as a comedian/straight man to the likes of Ricki Fulton and Jack Milroy, and played one or two parts in films in the 40's and 50's. If you've ever seen The Blue Lamp, in the scene where George Dixon is shot he's the male half of the onlooking couple. For kids of my age, however, he was best known for Glen Michael's Cartoon Cavalcade, a Sunday afternoon television staple of our youth.

In the title, I call him the Scottish Soupy Sales, and again that's as obscure a reference as you can get. If you have a minute, go and peruse this site - - then come back here. I'll wait.

All right? Cartoon Cavalcade was a simple idea - Glen linking a number of cartoons with characters such as Paladin, his talking oil lamp, Rusty and Rudy his dogs, and the occasional guest star. By all accounts it should not have worked - but it did and it held me fascinated.

Maybe it was the cartoons he showed - not the Warner Brothers classics (although they did crop up) nor was it the Hanna-Barbera or DePatie-Frelang classics. These were the ones that were then staples of Saturday Morning television in the US. Things like Space Ghost (sorry, SPPAAACE GHOOOSSTTTT!!), Atom Ant, Teen Titans, Aquaman, the Bakshi Spider-Man, even Jonny Quest. When people ask why I took the moniker of The Culture Vulture, one of the reasons I can cite is the fact that Glen opened my eyes to what was going on with animation at the time. Even if they were introduced by his disembodied head posing as the Space Guardian...

As I say, the show was an institution from the moment it started in 1966. Certainly my earliest memory of it would be 1967, watching in it my parent's house as they packed to move to our new home. Sunday afternoon on Scottish Television for many years would be a black and white film, ScotSport, Cartoon Cavalcade and The Golden Shot. The skits between the cartoons were probably nothing to write home about, but if your name was read out when it was your birthday it was a rare treat. During the 1980's he also took the show on the road to schools in Scotland - my younger sister appeared in one or two TV specials, as her primary school was the location for filming some of them.

The show was taken off the screen in 1992, and Glen Michael entered a kind of retirement where he occasionally appeared on screen. I remember seeing him in one Taggart story based around a theatrical agent, complete with Paladin in hand. He also did some radio shows, but I believe these days is mostly to be seen in his home town of Ayr just enjoying life.

Chances are he will never see this brief piece, but I just wanted to say thank you, Glen Michael, for the way you helped to shape my childhood.

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