Updated: Aug 17, 2022
Radio listeners as well as lactose-tolerant consumers throughout the county were shocked and stunned this morning as news filtered through that, after more than 70 years on air, the DBC is axing one of its most iconic flagship programmes - Mrs Dale’s Dairy*. Originally created to provide sustenance to an enfeebled population at a time of grave national need, it became, during its long existence, an institution revered by many, loved by dozens and regularly enjoyed by one or two. An official communiqué stated that it will cease transmission in a month's time, leaving those who have become dairy-dependent, little time to wean themselves onto alternative forms of sustenance.
* Surely Mrs Dale’s Diary [Ed] Maybe? [Sub-Ed] Not sure [Sub-Sub Ed].
No-one at the DBC was available for official comment, though an insider revealed that "the [cheese] knives have been out for some time" and that "the programme had been going through a period of churn". “It’s a case of hard cheese for all those involved and though everyone agrees there’s no point in crying over spilt milk they are also clear that fine words butter no parsnips; so the decision still grates”.
In a related development, Emma Dale proprietor of Mrs Dale’s Dairy in Stalbridge was astonished to learn from a Sydling St Nicholas Sun journalist that her shop was being axed. “This is the first I’ve heard of it and I just can’t believe it. As far as I’m concerned we’ve done nothing wrong”. She was later relived to learn that there had been a mistake and that the crack troops deployed by the Royal Dorset Constabulary were interested only in acquiring and scrutinizing the content of her intimate diaries.
Historical Note by Our Radio Correspondent Hilver Summe
For anyone under the age of 60, a note of clarification might be in order:
Mrs Dale's Dairy was the first significant DBC radio serial drama to be broadcast. It was first aired on 5 January 1948 on the DBC Light Programme, later DBC Radio 2. A new episode was broadcast each weekday afternoon, with a repeat the following morning. Since 2010, following an OFCOM ruling that "it would not be a serious impediment to regular church-going", an interminable omnibus edition has been made available every Sunday morning.
The lead character, farm supervisor Mrs Dale, was originally played by Kerry Gold until she was dismissed in controversial circumstances in 1958* and replaced by the lighter-textured Marge Eyreen - a move described by some as “dietary correctness gone mad”.
* Ms Gold was spotted in the lobby of a hotel in Canford Cliffs in the company of a man wearing a casual double-breasted jacket, "loud shirt" and two-tone shoes. He was not her husband. In 1958, no woman - even one of substance - was ever given the benefit of the doubt. [Ed]
An innovative characteristic of the radio programme was that a brief introductory narrative in each episode was spoken by Mrs Dale as if she were speaking to her cows.
The serial centred on Emma Dale, a dairyman’s wife, her husband Wensley, and the comings and goings of a busy mixed, but heavily dairy-oriented, Dorset farm. The Dales lived at Appletree Farm in the fictional village of Puddletown. Later in the series, to modernise the programme and update its setting, the producers relocated the family to the “food capital of Dorset” the new - and more environmentally sensitive town of Oatmilk-cum-Soya in the centre of which they established an intensive factory farm based on automated milking and the so-called New Zealand system.
The phrase seized on by caricaturists as typical of Mrs Dale's narrative was "I'm rather worried about Wensley..." Indeed, the phrase was a staple of many comedy programmes on both radio and television generally aiming to poke fun at safe, staid and undemanding middle-class lifestyles as well as those who had yet to take seriously the potential coronary impact of full-fat gold-top non-homogenized doorstep-delivered milk. As part of the programme’s move towards a more socially responsible agenda and in an effort to promote healthier lifestyles, a new character - local dietician Otalie Botalie - was unveiled in the 10,000th episode. The final episode will end, we can reveal, with Mrs Dale saying, "There's one thing that won't change – I shall always worry about Wensley..."** Sic transit gloria mundi...
** As will we all [Sub-sub Ed]. Is he the one that loiters by the water-cooler? [Sub Ed]. Do you read anything? [Ed].