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My Uncle Silas
The Forum Cast + Credits Russell Baker on My Uncle Silas Story Synopsis The Author, H.E. Bates Masterpiece Theatre My Uncle Silas
Story Synopsis [imagemap with 5 links]

Story Synopsis

My Uncle Silas II:
Shandy Lil | The Race | A Funny Thing
Finger Wet, Finger Dry | A Happy Man

My Uncle Silas I:
The Wedding | Queenie White | The Blue Feather
Silas and Goliath | The Revelation

My Uncle Silas II | Shandy Lil

A spot of matchmaking enlivens the summer harvest for Silas. Intent on helping Lil escape her life of drudgery at the farm, Silas tries to pair her with Pikey, the extremely shy thresher. Aided by Edward's palm reading, he tries to demonstrate the art of courtship to Pikey. His efforts are misconstrued by Pamela, the bullying owner of the farm, who turns her amorous attention to the unsuspecting Silas.

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My Uncle Silas II | The Race

The village is agog as Silas challenges Goffy Windsor to a five-mile race. As Goffy pounds the lanes in training, Silas suffers a succession of ailments. Uncle George is taking bets on the outcome, but odds on Silas are lengthening. Is this a boast too far from Silas or has he got a cunning plan?

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My Uncle Silas II | A Funny Thing

Has Silas met his match at last? Visiting cousin Cosmo enchants young Edward with his exotic tales of foreign travel. He also flirts with Mrs. Betts, naturally enraging Silas in the process. Not to be outdone, Silas poses for the sculptor Lady Hermoine but falls foul of her snooty fiancée when she reveals more of herself to Silas than he had anticipated.

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My Uncle Silas II | Finger Wet, Finger Dry

Silas likes to stay friendly with Sam, the local village policeman and of course with his busty wife Connie. While Sam's sow is being serviced by Silas's boar, Connie and Silas try to get to know each other a little better. But a chance return traps Silas in a very embarrassing situation. Can Edward save his uncle from the wrath of Sam and Mrs. Betts?

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My Uncle Silas II | A Happy Man

Edward is fascinated by the war memorabilia of old soldier Walter. Silas is more concerned with the state of his roses -- Walter and he are rivals at the forthcoming flower show. While Silas is distracted by the attentions of Topsy, the nubile district nurse, Walter suffers a painful reminder of his years of battle.

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My Uncle Silas I | The Wedding
adapted by Robert Banks Stewart

It is very early in the last century at the start of summer. A lone horse and trap travels through the countryside on its way to a village nestled in a valley at the very heart of England.

Aunt Cora, Aunt Tibby and Uncle George arrive at Uncle Silas's cottage for the wedding of Abel -- Silas's son. With them is young Edward who is going to be staying with his great-uncle for the summer -- much to the horror of Aunt Tibby who thinks a summer with 'that man' will be wholly inappropriate. Silas is not a conventional uncle. To Edward's bewilderment, Tibby describes him as a drunk and a lecher.

Silas's housekeeper Mrs. Betts is busy trying to get the household ready for the big day. Silas, uncomfortably squeezed into his morning suit, boisterously greets his sisters and instantly warms to Edward. He tells his nephew, whom he calls 'Ned,' that he's got a summer and a half in store for him. Edward's notion of a summer filled with cricket and tennis soon disappears when Silas tells him how they'll go fishing, poaching and that he'll take him to see a widow with the plumpest pair of white... doves in the county.

Silas soon abandons his suit for his usual attire, crumpled britches and a sagging old jacket with his customary red handkerchief tied at his neck. After the wedding ceremony Silas pauses on his way out of the churchyard with the happy couple at Abel's mother's grave. We discover she died giving birth to their only child.

At the reception Silas is moved at how similar the bride Georgina is to his late wife. He makes a touching speech, sings poignantly to Georgina and then leads the guests in a dance as the wedding party well and truly gets under way.

As night falls and the guests disperse, Edward bids farewell to his aunts and uncle and looks forward to the summer ahead. We leave Silas singing to the moon and declaring to Georgina to 'be happy, be happy!'

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My Uncle Silas I | Queenie White
adapted by Robert Banks Stewart

Queenie White is the wife of Charley -- the landlord of the 'Temperance Hotel.' She has a rather rotten, frugal existence as her husband is so mean and miserable and, with very few staff at hand, she virtually runs the hotel herself.

Silas, with Edward in tow, has been sent by Mrs. Betts to do a few decorating jobs at the hotel. She's rather mischievously neglected to tell Silas the exact nature of the business and when he finds out it's a dry house his mood declines somewhat. When he meets Queenie, however, his natural instinct to spot a damsel in distress kicks in and he sets out to bring a bit of joy into her life.

When Charley is away on business Silas abandons his pots of paint and persuades Queenie to dip into some of her husband's carefully stashed savings! He whisks her and the money off for a day at the seaside where she becomes transformed -- it's the best day of her life! The only thing that slightly spoils the day is that she needs to ensure that she returns home before Charley so he doesn't find out about the missing money.

However, best laid plans... The pair returns to discover that Charley is already back. He is, predictably, livid at his wife's outrageous behavior. Queenie's transformation however has been more profound than even Silas thought possible. Her day of freedom has given her the strength to bite back and she boldly tells her husband that she's sick of being a slave and will leave permanently if things don't change.

Charley relents; as Silas and Edward set off for home the temperance sign is removed from the hotel for good.

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My Uncle Silas I | The Blue Feather
adapted by Robert Banks Stewart

Silas is digging a grave in Souldrop Churchyard. Taking a break from the work he makes pleasantries with Sylvia Featherstone -- a grand lady from the Manor -- who is visiting the church. She comments disapprovingly on Silas drinking in the churchyard but later accepts a drink of 'cold tea.' This, of course, is something slightly stronger than tea and poor Sylvia is swiftly in need of a sit down. Silas turns on the charm and very soon has the elegant woman smiling.

Later in the same week Edward accompanies his uncle as he goes out poaching. They are caught red-handed and are sent to the big house to be dealt with. The house turns out to be Featherstone Mansion and the mistress is Sylvia. Sylvia is in bed and is obviously extremely ill. She can't quite recall her earlier meeting with Silas. She keeps his hat with a blue feather in it as bail and bids him to return the next day when she'll have decided if she's going to prosecute or not.

The next day Silas is greeted by Emily, the maid, who tells him about Sylvia's tragic past -- jilted by a city banker -- and her illness. She's having one of her bad days as Silas soon discovers when she chases him with a double barrel shotgun and ends up shooting him in the arm.

Silas finds out that Sylvia is terminally ill with consumption. Silas takes her flowers and asks for his hat back. She's keeping it warm in bed and she suggests a way that Silas could get it back for himself.

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My Uncle Silas I | Silas and Goliath
adapted by Robert Banks Stewart

One of the big events of the summer, the Nenweald Fair is only a few days away and Mrs. Betts is looking forward to a grand week ahead.

Stopping at a pub to 'water his horse' Silas is reacquainted with an old adversary, Pete 'Porky' Sanders. He once had a fight with him and the result was left undecided when the announcement of the death of Queen Victoria brought it to an abrupt end. Enraged by his treatment of Elsie, the handsome barmaid, Silas challenges Porky to a fight at the fair where Porky, alias the Gorilla, is the star attraction of Kepples Boxing Booth.

Aided by Pug, his faithful trainer, Edward and Elsie, Silas prepares for the fight. Elsie persuades Porky to accept her herbal diet, in reality a disgusting emetic concoction designed to debilitate rather than aid him. Their plan backfires, however, when Porky declares himself fitter than ever.

At the fair the fight commences and, much to the horror of Edward, Silas soon begins to take a trouncing. Mrs. Betts is on hand to save the day. She places the boxing tent's main guy-rope into a steam engine and the tent collapses. Silas is left believing that he would have won the fight if only fate hadn't, once again, intervened. Mrs. Betts and Edward however know differently!

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My Uncle Silas I | The Revelation
adapted by Robert Banks Stewart and Peter Tinniswood

It's time to harvest the potato crop, one of Silas' many annual odd jobs. As the late summer sun beats down upon them, Silas and Edward take a break from work. Silas revives himself with some homemade wine and also manages a swift kiss and cuddle with a pretty young wench who is also helping gather in the crop.

As they return home the pony and trap passes by the old mill pond. Silas remembers an incident from his past when he swam in the pond with a group of lads his own age. Unbeknownst to the boys a group of local girls spying on them from the bushes were preparing to take great amusement at stealing the clothing strewn by the banks of the water. The boys looked on in bewilderment as they witnessed the theft of their clothes, shyly stepping out of the pond whilst clutching themselves modestly. Only a naked Silas has the nerve to give chase and confront the girl who had his clothes.

Later that evening at his cottage Silas reflects on the story as he sits in the bathtub in front of a roaring fire, dodging a flannel wielding Mrs. Betts as she tries to scrub him. When Betts has gone for more water Silas tells Edward how to this very day he never did find out who the girl was who stole his clothing. An eavesdropping Mrs. Betts appears announcing that she knows. It was none other than her -- and she's been around in Silas's life ever since.

The Author, H.E. Bates | Story Synopsis | Russell Baker
Cast + Credits | The Forum

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