Pursued by Bishops: The memoirs of Edwin Apps,
creator of "All Gas and Gaiters"
EDWIN APPS, creator with his wife of the popular 1960s TV series
All Gas and Gaiters, knew he'd got it right when he
received this letter from a Canon Edwards in December 1967: "On
this last night of the series All Gas and Gaiters I would
like to express deep appreciation . . . it has been so amusing and,
if I may say so, so typically Anglican in style and predicament . .
." The series obviously delighted viewers as much as the recent
Apps (the name was originally Flemish) wasn't a churchgoer, but
he had observed the clergy at close hand at school. He was born in
1931 into a family of auctioneers and hop-farmers in East Kent. A
family break-up led to his being sent to the Clergy Orphan School
in 1940. Evacuated to a luxury hotel on the Cornish coast, he
trained falcons, and learnt Latin in a cocktail bar. At the age of
17, he joined a weekly repertory company in the north of England;
reluctant National Service followed, and then the Central School of
During the 1950s and '60s, Edwin Apps was a familiar face in
repertory theatre, before he became known on British television.
His account of playing in rep throughout Britain makes this book an
excellent record of the time before the spread of TV, when local
theatres flourished. Apps's memory is exceptional - his
descriptions flow, and one blinks with surprise at the famous
people he met, and who were part of his working life.
The 1949 Canterbury Festival had him making angels' wings with
Dorothy Sayers, and rescuing her from a bomb crater after a festive
evening. One of his landladies was Iris Murdoch's mother - her
daughter's novels clearly embarrassed her, he says. Glenda Jackson
was a good friend of Apps and his wife; and he also knew Peter
Hall, Maggie Smith, Billie Whitelaw, Frankie Howerd, Harry Worth,
and Kenneth Tynan. (I loved the limerick by a fellow actor: "There
once was a critic called Ken, Who wrote with a class-conscious pen.
To the plays that were 'U' He gave nought out of two, To the rest
he gave nought out of ten.")
It is a fast-moving, humorous book, supported by a wealth of
contemporary letters and 70 black-and-white photos. Perhaps the
book's only fault is the breathless pace of the narrative: one
scene gallops after another.
Edwin Apps gave up acting in his 40s, and with his wife left
England to become a full-time painter, living permanently in
France. He says he often paints bishops - the book's vivid jacket
is by Apps himself, and shows him fleeing from several mitred
Peggy Woodford is a novelist.