An irreverent barrister chooses to defend a young Jamaican boy accused of stabbing on the same day his only son leaves for college in America.





Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Joyce Heron ...
Noel Willman ...
Mr. Justice Bates
David Yelland ...
Herbert Norville ...
Ossie Gladstone - The Defendant
Artro Morris ...
Mr. Winter
George Sweeney ...
John Byron ...
Magnus Piecan
Edwin Brown ...
Detective Inspector Arthur
Paul Greenhalgh ...
Rev. Eldred Pickersgill
Peter Spraggon ...
Prison Officer
Tommy Wright ...
Man in Cell
Sarah Thomas ...
Eric Hillyard ...
Court Usher


Horace Rumpole is an iconoclastic, poetry-quoting "Old Bailey hack," whose irreverence is not particularly popular with judges. He has a dysfunctional marriage to "she who must be obeyed" and a rather tenuous one with Nick, his only son, who has always believed his father cares more for the Bailey than him. Although Nick is scheduled to leave for college in America, Rumpole opts to defend a Jamaican teenager who has apparently confessed to randomly stabbing a pedestrian at a bus stop after a cricket match. Nick does stop by the courthouse to have lunch with his father and try establish communication with him before he leaves. Written by

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Drama





Release Date:

16 December 1975 (UK)  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Served as the pilot for a series of the same name that ran from 1978 to 1992. See more »


Horace Rumpole: [to nick] You can't get born or die in a dignified position... now how can you live in one, OLd Dear?
See more »


Followed by Rumpole of the Bailey (1978) See more »

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User Reviews

Why do they call him Blades!
1 August 2013 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

This is the Play for Today episode of Rumpole of the Bailey. Whilst the BBC dithered as to whether to launch it as a series the writer John Mortimer took it to ITV where it ran for several years.

Therefore this BBC play is the pilot and slightly different to the ITV series most people would have been used to.

The play opens with some kids running and a man getting stabbed. A young Afro Caribbean boy is accused of the stabbing and its Rumpole's job to defend him. The political and social edge of the times are not overlooked. This is not warm, fuzzy show full of nostalgia.

Right from the off we get a good feel of Rumpole, eccentric, wily and the type of rotund barrister once parading round Chancery Lane fifty or so years ago, fighting strongly and if need be, slyly for the innocence of his client but not averse to think about the fate of the poor victim who just wanted to watch a cricket match.

Then there was also his prickly relationship with his wife, she who must be obeyed and we also see his son who he is close to and more fond of.

Rumpole certainly made his mark and the BBC has repeated this play several times in recent years.

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