Tuesday, 6 March 2012


Chris Barrie   Photo: BBC

'Of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: It might have been...'
-John Greenleaf Whittier

by Dave Roberts
It could have happened. Who knows? 
This area could have been as famous as Holmfirth near Huddersfield, in Last of  The  Summer Wine country or Goathland on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, the village which played the part of Adensfield in Heartbeat.
Middlewich could have been the centre of a local tourist industry centred on, of all places, Middlewich Football Club.
In the late nineties the BBC made two series of a  A Prince Among Men starring Chris Barrie of Red Dwarf and The Brittas Empire fame.
Chris played a 'former professional footballer who has become an entrepreneur'. He was described as 'completely self-centred and suffering from a massive superiority complex'.
Gary had a beautiful German wife, Lisel (played by Francesca Hunt), who worked as a translator, and other characters included his secretaries Sonia and Beverley, his personal manager Dave (of course), his business manager Mark, and Vince, who was played by Bryan Pringle and whose role was the key to how Middlewich became involved in the making of this show.
Vince was the steward of the local football team's social club and the premise of the show hinged on the idea that, by helping his local non-league team and its club, the arrogant Gary Prince would be 'brought back down to earth', in particular after being subjected to Vince's homespun philosophy over a pint or two (or, more likely, a G&T or two) and emerging as a chastened, and a sadder and wiser man. Or something.
The production team were looking for a suitable football club at which to record the outdoor football and indoor social club scenes and the late (and still much-missed) John McAteer, a man who helped Middlewich in the short time he was with us more than most people will ever know, offered the use of Middlewich Town's pitch and social club (both of which had just been massively upgraded and re-furbished due largely to his own tireless fund-raising efforts).
So it was that when Gary Prince dropped in for a homely chat with Vince
Bryan Pringle  Photo: BBC
it was at the Middlewich Town FC Bar they sat and chatted.
And when Gary went outside to cheer on the local non-league team, it was on Middlewich Town's touchline that he was standing.
Sadly for all concerned (and particularly for Middlewich's chances of being promoted to the Last of The Summer Wine league) the series was a flop.
Despite Chris Barrie's acting skills Gary Prince came across not as arrogant-but-funny, but as just plain arrogant, and the show ended after just two series.
We'd love to hear from anyone who was involved in the making of the programme, particularly if there are any photographs in existence.
But just imagine what would have happened if the show had been a smash hit. We'd all be drinking in Beverley's Bar, eating in Sonia's Snack Bar and having our pictures taken next to big signs saying 'Welcome To Middlewich in Prince Among Men Country!'
Twelve episodes of A Prince Among Men were made and transmitted on BBC1 during 1997 and 1998

Francesca Hunt publicity picture promoting the series
Facebook feedback:

Jim Moores I remember this, Dave. I watched the first episode in the Princes Feathers in Winsford. We all sat glued to the set because it was shot 'up the road'. I think we got the dominoes out well before the end...

Dave Roberts Yes. The best review of the show I've read is 'somewhat unsuccessful'. The main problem with it was it just wasn't funny.

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