Sunday, 1 March 2015

Theme Time : Aram Khachaturian - The Onedin Line

From music featured in the trailer for Poldark to the theme tune for The Onedin Line, another vastly popular period drama from the BBC archives.

Running for nine years from 1971 to 1980, Cyril Abraham's The Onedin Line told the story of a Liverpool based shipping line run by James Onedin (Peter Gilmore) and his dealings in both business and family both on the high seas and on the shore. 

Loosely based on the real life Allan line steamship company, Abraham came up with the unusual surname of Onedin when he accidentally stumbled upon the myth of the Ondine, elemental beings or nymphs associated with the sea.

As well as Gilmore, the show starred Anne Stallybrass and Howard Lang and featured among its number over the years the likes of Warren Clarke, Jill Gascoigne, Jane Seymour, Kate Nelligan, James Warwick, Ken Hutchison and Maurice Colbourne who would of course later star in his own sailing saga, Howards Way. Filming was largely done down on the South West coast which explains why so many actors adopted a carrot crunching accent as opposed to the Lancastrian or Liverpudlian one would expect for a drama set in the North West of England!

The theme tune is an excerpt from the Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia from the ballet Spartacus by Aram Khachaturian. It's a deeply evocative piece that now - thanks to the programme - seems synonymous with the sea, despite originating from a piece that has nothing to do with the sea, but instead a revolutionary slave in ancient Rome.

Amazingly successful at home, The Onedin Line also achieved great success around the world too; in Romania it was so popular that when Ceaușescu opted to replace broadcasts with something more biased towards his own communist policies, the population tuned into foreign TV stations to continue following the exploits of James Onedin! As a result, they became aware of such pivotal world shattering news such as the fall of the Berlin Wall from subsequent news broadcasts - information that the dictator had insured remained off their native networks. The programme was also so popular in Sweden that a real life Stockholm based shipping line in 1973 called itself Ånedin-Linjen in honour of the show and operated cruises around the Baltic. 


  1. Ånedin now serves as a hostel/hotel in the middle of Stockholm. All visitors are warmly welcomed to experience a unique accommodation abroad.

  2. A good post. Why not have a look at The Onedin Line review blog?