|Poacher-turned-gamekeeper Seth Armstrong has become one of Emmerdale's
permanent fixtures since actor Stan Richards first appeared
in 1978. His Barbour jacket, wellingtons, woolly hat and handlebar
moustache are as much his trademarks as the bushy sideburns
sported by former Woolpack landlord Amos Brearly were his. 'When I joined the programme,
there were just seven regular members of the cast,' Stan recalls.
'It went out around the country on different days and at different
times. Now we have a much bigger cast and more variety of
characters, and it's been updated, aiming for a younger audience.
Whereas the Sugdens and the farm were the whole programme
when I started, now they are just a part of it - and that
hasn't done us any harm.' Seth has changed too. Since the
death of his wife Meg, he has found new love with old flame
Betty Eagleton. 'No one gets the better of Seth,' says Stan,
'but he's terrified of Betty! She loves him dearly, though
- otherwise she wouldn't stick with him. Stan is one of a
number of soap stars who have switched to acting after years
working as a stand-up comic. Born Stanley Richardson in Barnsley,
South Yorkshire, he started his working life as a Ministry
of Labour clerk, but when he was transferred to London he
hated the capital so much that he resigned. Returning to Yorkshire,
Stan took a job in the accounts department of a firm that
sold disinfectants and toilet rolls.
|Having played the piano from the age of ten, Stan
had been performing with dance bands in pubs and clubs during
the evenings. He formed a comedy and musical quartet called
Melody Maniacs when he was 21. 'We played all the clubs in
Yorkshire,' says Stan, 'and we were a very successful act.
Then I joined another lad, Frankie Newton, who played the
drums, sang and did impressions, and I did the comedy and
played the piano. In 1965, I went professional with a vocal-comedy
quartet called the Four Renowns and, three years later, went
solo and performed all over the country, at Barley Variety
Club, social clubs and working-mens clubs. 'I was building
up a good reputation when the BBC rang me and asked whether
I would be interested in acting in The Price of Coal, which
was being directed by Ken Loach.
|This acclaimed 1977 Play for Today cast Stan as a
friend of the lead character, played by Bobby Knutt, who,
almost 20 years later, joined Emmerdale as Albert Dingle.
'It was a two part play,' recalls Stan, 'and we were both
miners. I was killed in the second play in a pit explosion
and Bobby was badly injured when he got buried under the coal.
As a result of doing that, I got an agent and finished up
doing all sorts of things on television.' Stan has appeared
in series such as The Cuckoo Waltz, Crown Court and Last of
the Summer Wine. He has also played a pig farmer in All Creatures
Great and Small and Councillor Stokes briefly in Coronation
Street - buying a second-hand china cabinet from Berry Turpin
and mistakenly thinking she was having an affair with Alf
took roles in the films Yanks and Agatha. Then came the part
of Seth Armstrong in Emmerdale Farm, whose reputation as the
wiliest poacher in the area inspired NY Estates to employ
him as gamekeeper, with the result that there was a sudden
decrease in illegal activities. Although Seth, having lost
his wife, opted to live with Betty Eagleton rather than marry
her, on the basis that there was no need to exchange vows
at their age, Stan doesn't believe that Seth has become more
liberal and thinks he has changed little over the years.
|'He is slightly more domesticated,' says Stan, 'but
he is still the eccentric character he was. He is a very good
gamekeeper and goes his own way with everything. Seth and
Betty were already living together when they planned their
wedding, but they decided there was no need to get married
these days. Look at the goings-on with other characters. The're
floating around from bed to bed. At least we're consistent
as a couple. Seth is happy as long as he has something to
eat and a few quid in his pocket to go to the pub.'
|Stan has three sons and three daughters by his wife
of more than 40 years, Susanna, who died in 1994. In 1995,
Stan broke his leg while getting out of his son's car, but
he insisted on returning to Emmerdale eight weeks later, before
he had fully recovered. He arrived at the studios in a wheelchair
and was perched on a bar stool for scenes in Seth's favourite
abode, The Woolpack. 'I felt I wanted to come back,' says
Stan. 'After more than 20 years, Emmerdale is my life.'
|On Thursday 7th September 2000 Seth was mugged by two girls on his
way home from the bookies.
he was robbed of £120, his best win for years.
Taken from the emmerdale companion
by Anthony Hayward