WINGLESS BIRD/Episode 2/Intro by Russell Baker
The Conways are not a happy family.
Mr. and Mrs. Conway detest each other. He's had a mistress for years. Mrs. Conway knows it and hates him for it, though she has other reasons for despising him, as we'll see tonight.
Their older daughter, Agnes, works in her father's shop. He treats her coldly and pays her badly -- though she's obviously the brain of the business.
The younger daughter, Jessie, is in love with a man from a tough lower-class family. When Mr. Conway finds out, he flies into a murderous rage and attacks the young man with a shovel.
Then he learns Jessie is pregnant.
In 1913, out-of-wedlock births were not as chic as they are nowadays, so sister Agnes -- the only level-headed person in the family -- sets out to solve Jessie's problem. It ought to be easy. Jessie's young man wants to marry her, but Mr. Conway refuses to see his daughter married into a lower-class family.
As the story resumes tonight, Agnes is trying to solve the problem. The job has taken her to the city of Durham. On the train there, she happens to meet Charles Farrier. His parents are aristocrats and just as snobbish as Mr. Conway. They don't like middle-class people -- like shopkeepers. Episode Two, The Wingless Bird.
WINGLESS BIRD/Episode 2/Extro by Russell Baker
"The Wingless Bird" is about class hatreds. It's based on a story by Catherine Cookson, whose books often deal with the harshness of the English class system.
She was the illegitimate child of a terribly poor mother so she knew from brutal experience what she was writing about. She was born in 1906 with little to look forward to but humiliation and poverty. She didn't try writing until she was in her forties, then discovered she had a gift for story telling.
And what a profitable gift it was. By 1990 she'd produced a great raft of novels that sold millions of copies around the world.
British society has changed dramatically in her lifetime. In 1993 -- at the age of 87 -- she was made a Dame of the British Empire. This was possible only because the British Empire was long gone, and with it the rigid class distinctions she wrote about.
This doesn't mean England has become the home office of broad-minded equality. A few years ago, Britain's most famous department store, Harrod's, was bought by the Egyptian businessman, Mohamed al-Fayed.
Well, this was a bit much, even for the new socialized England of equality for all. Harrod's was the quintessence of British commercial culture, and the English had always been especially intolerant of Egyptians. There was a great deal of grousing about Mr. al-Fayed that obviously hurt him. In an angry letter to the New York Times, he denounced what he called "the xenophobic condescension and barely concealed racism that still disfigures British life." For Masterpiece Theatre, I'm Russell Baker, goodnight.
Episode number: 1 2 3
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