The Bargee

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The Bargee
Directed by Duncan Wood
Produced by W.A. Whittaker
Written by Ray Galton
Alan Simpson
Starring Harry H. Corbett
Hugh Griffith
Eric Sykes
Ronnie Barker
Music by Frank Cordell
Cinematography Harry Waxman
Edited by Richard Best
Distributed by Warner-Pathé Distributors
Release dates
Running time
106 mins
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The Bargee is a 1964 British comedy film directed by Duncan Wood, and starring Harry H. Corbett, Hugh Griffith, Eric Sykes and Ronnie Barker. The screenplay was written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson.


Hemel Pike (Harry H. Corbett) and his cousin Ronnie (Ronnie Barker) are two boatmen operating a canal-boat and its butty for British Waterways. Though the canals are struggling due to declining traffic, Hemel refuses to leave the canals and is protective of his traditional lifestyle. He also has a reputation as a Don Juan, with girlfriends all across the canal network, something which Ronnie, always unlucky in love, is envious of.

Hemel and Ronnie deliver a cargo of lemon peel from Brentford to Boxmoor, meeting an inept mariner (Eric Sykes) en route. Both parties stop at Rickmansworth, where Hemel is due to meet one of his many lovers, a barmaid called Nelly (Miriam Karlin), who chases him away on learning of his libertine lifestyle. On escaping, Hemel and Ronnie reach Boxmoor ahead of schedule, and deliver their cargo before travelling empty to Birmingham.

On the way to Birmingham, Hemel plans to stop at Leg O'Mutton Lock to meet Christine (Julia Foster), the daughter of brutish, bullying lock-keeper Joe Turnbull (Hugh Griffith). Hemel thinks highly of Christine, but knows that their love is dangerous, as Joe loathes the thought of his daughter becoming associated with canal-workers, and chases off any who even speak to her. On arrival, Ronnie distracts Joe with a heavy-drinking contest whilst Hemel and Christine remain together. Christine, who loathes the idea of working on the canal, attempts to persuade Hemel to leave the canal and get a job on land, but Hemel refuses to listen, and narrowly escapes being caught by Joe, who has returned home drunk.

The following morning, after Hemel and Ronnie have left, Joe discovers that Christine is with child, and after deducing that the father must be one of the canal-workers, drains the pound and padlocks the lock gates to prevent any traffic from passing through until the father comes forward. The canal-workers are held at bay when Joe makes a bomb and rigs it to the lock gates, and threatens to blow up the gates if anyone tries to touch them. After several failed attempts to convince Joe to stop, Hemel and Ronnie arrive on their return trip from Birmingham, and learn of the incident. Hemel comes forward and admits that he is the father, and is forced to get a job on land in order to support Christine once they are married. Several attempts to find a secure job fail, as Hemel is still too attached to the canals.

After Christine learns from Ronnie that all working-boats are to be withdrawn from the canals in 18 months time, Christine arranges for the boats to be renamed the Hemel and Christine in time for the wedding, and promises to spend her honeymoon on the canal with Hemel. When Hemel learns that all boats will be withdrawn, he is initially despondent, but is convinced to go ahead when Christine promises that his family, who have been on the canals since the beginning, will be there at the end as well. The film ends with Hemel, Christine and Ronnie aboard the boats travelling to Birmingham.


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