The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club

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The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club
Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club.jpg
Genre Variety/Cabaret
Presented by Bernard Manning
Colin Crompton
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 48 (6 Series)
Distributor ITV Granada
Original release 1974 – 1977

The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club was a British television variety show produced by Granada Television from 1974 to 1977. It was set in a fictional working men's club in the North of England and was hosted by comedian Colin Crompton as the club's Chairman. The show's compere was usually Bernard Manning, who as well as telling jokes and introducing acts often finished the show with a song. Crompton was frequently the butt of his jokes, acting as Manning's stooge.

The set was arranged like a club, so that rather than members of the studio audience being in arranged terraced seating they would be seated around tables and be served beer and snacks, generally join in a singalong and otherwise engage in audience participation.

Crompton as Chairman of the club would sit at a small table in the corner watching proceedings with apparent lack of interest. He had a large manual fire bell which he would wind and sound purportedly to attract the audience's attention after an act, with various notices from "the Committee" (that is, the officials of the social club of which he was chairman), usually misdemeanours by the club's members or the committee itself:

On behalf of the Committee, I should like to tell you we made a mistake in offering the raffle prize of a diving suit. It is in fact a divan suite.

On New Year's Eve a special episode of Wheeltappers and Shunters New Year's Eve would be broadcast.


The show featured acts regularly seen on the Northern club circuits and often well-established performers who did well in theatres and clubs but not succeed so well on British television, such as 1950s crooner Johnnie Ray. But it also gave newer acts their first television exposure, such as Cannon & Ball, the Grumbleweeds, the Dooleys and Paul Daniels. Even successful stage variety acts such as Morecambe and Wise also failed in their first attempt to break into television at the BBC.[1] From the 1950s until 1982 with the arrival of Channel 4, British television was a duopoly between the publicly funded British Broadcasting Corporation and the commercially funded franchises of Independent Television;[citation needed] (at its outset in 1956 the impresario Lew Grade, who held the franchise for ATV, called commercial television "a licence to print money").[2]

Some artists to appear on the show were:

The show was produced by Johnnie Hamp at Granada Studios in Manchester, although it was once filmed at the Layton Institute, Blackpool.

Actress Elizabeth Dawn appeared as a waitress before she became more famous for her role as Vera Duckworth in Coronation Street (also recorded by Granada in Manchester).

A clip from the show can be seen in the film 24 Hour Party People, where Shaun Ryder, in his formative years, is seen watching Karl Denver perform "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" ("Wimoweh").

Origins of the name[edit]

Wheeltappers and shunters are railway workers. They were commonly employed by steam railways in Britain and elsewhere, but still are found both on British railways and in Eastern Europe.

The name of the programme thus echoes that of the many social clubs set up by railway workers in the 19th century, many of which are still in existence (known as British Rail Staff Association clubs), even if they no longer have a direct connection to the railways.

Although often called "working men's clubs", most such clubs admitted the wives and other women family of the working man, at least some days of the week. This is echoed in the programme's audience being as much female as male, although somewhat stereotypically the women usually drink smaller glasses of alcohol than the men and are rarely seen to smoke.

Episode guide[edit]

Series 1

  • Episode 01: Original Air Date—13 April 1974
  • Episode 02: Original Air Date—20 April 1974
  • Episode 03: Original Air Date—27 April 1974
  • Episode 04: Original Air Date—4 May 1974
  • Episode 05: Original Air Date—11 May 1974
  • Episode 06: Original Air Date—18 May 1974
  • Episode 07: Original Air Date—25 May 1974

Series 2

  • Episode 08: Original Air Date—27 July 1974
  • Episode 09: Original Air Date—3 August 1974
  • Episode 10: Original Air Date—10 August 1974
  • Episode 11: Original Air Date—17 August 1974
  • Episode 12: Original Air Date—24 August 1974
  • Episode 13: Original Air Date—31 August 1974
  • Episode 14: Original Air Date—7 September 1974


  • Episode 15: Original Air Date—31 December 1974

Series 3

  • Episode 16: Original Air Date—15 February 1975
  • Episode 17: Original Air Date—22 February 1975
  • Episode 18: Original Air Date—1 March 1975
  • Episode 19: Original Air Date—8 March 1975
  • Episode 20: Original Air Date—15 March 1975
  • Episode 21: Original Air Date—22 March 1975
  • Episode 22: Original Air Date—29 March 1975
  • Episode 23: Original Air Date—5 April 1975

Series 4

  • Episode 24: Original Air Date—19 July 1975
  • Episode 25: Original Air Date—26 July 1975
  • Episode 26: Original Air Date—2 August 1975
  • Episode 27: Original Air Date—9 August 1975
  • Episode 28: Original Air Date—16 August 1975
  • Episode 29: Original Air Date—23 August 1975
  • Episode 30: Original Air Date—30 August 1975


  • Episode 31: Original Air Date—31 December 1975

Series 5

  • Episode 32: Original Air Date—15 May 1976
  • Episode 33: Original Air Date—22 May 1976
  • Episode 34: Original Air Date—29 May 1976
  • Episode 35: Original Air Date—5 June 1976
  • Episode 36: Original Air Date—12 June 1976
  • Episode 37: Original Air Date—19 June 1976
  • Episode 38: Original Air Date—26 June 1976


  • Episode 39: Original Air Date—23 February 1977

Series 6

  • Episode 40: Original Air Date—14 April 1977
  • Episode 41: Original Air Date—21 April 1977
  • Episode 42: Original Air Date—28 April 1977
  • Episode 43: Original Air Date—5 May 1977
  • Episode 44: Original Air Date—12 May 1977
  • Episode 45: Original Air Date—19 May 1977
  • Episode 46: Original Air Date—26 May 1977
  • Episode 47: Original Air Date—2 June 1977
  • Episode 48: Original Air Date—9 June 1977

The series was, for at least part of its run, confined to a midnight slot by London Weekend Television and Southern Television, who felt it did not suit their more upmarket demographics.

DVD releases[edit]

The complete first series of The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club was released on DVD in September 2009 and the second series (including the New Year's Eve Special) was released in July 2010 with the complete third and fourth series being released in February and June 2011. The complete fifth series was released on 23 April 2012. The complete sixth (and final) series is now available as well. The format for the sixth series has changed, each episode being 30 minutes with just one major performer in each.


  1. ^ McCann, Graham (26 December 2010). "Morecambe and Wise bring us sunshine – and a lesson in comic timing". The Independent.  , in a TV review describing television as "The box they buried Morecambe and Wise in", a cutting that Morecambe reputedly kept in his pocket until the day he died.
  2. ^ Blythe, Jim (2006). Essentials of Marketing Communications. Pearson Education. p. 109. ISBN 9780273702054. Retrieved 22 February 2014. 

External links[edit]