My favourite photograph by actor David Barry
Please Sir! ran for 55 episodes and became so popular that we often attracted 20 million viewers – sometimes beating Coronation Street for ratings.
We got recognised everywhere we went because in those days, you either watched ITV or BBC.
But the funny thing was that we were all at least 10 years older than our characters – I was already 25 when we started in 1968.
The success of Please Sir! meant there was a rush to get the film made and released before we looked too old.
Besides, we were about to start work on The Fenn Street Gang series where we would reprise our characters.
That’s me bottom left as Frankie Abbott in my trademark black leather jacket and next to me is Malcolm McFee (Craven), who is wearing a hat as just before the film he landed a role in a 1940s play with a very short haircut, which would have looked odd in our film.
They gave him a wig that looked awful – hence the hat.
Malcolm and I worked together on stage and toured in shows like Under Milk Wood and Ray Cooney’s farce One For The Pot, and he died in 2001 aged 52.
To the right is John Alderton (teacher Mr Hedges), who was only two years older than the rest of us. He was already an established actor and went on to have huge TV success in Upstairs, Downstairs.
Then behind me is Liz Gebhardt (who played Maureen)and next to her is Peter Cleall (Duffy), who continued working and then became an agent.
We did The Boys From Fenn Street together on stage, written by myself and Ian Talbot and directed by Christopher Timothy.
The only actor I already knew was Peter Denyer (Dunstable), who is unmistakable with his thick mop of black curly hair.
We did a play together beforehand called Zigger Zagger and kept in touch until his death in 2009 aged 62.
Only Carol Hawkins (Sharon) on the right was new – she replaced Penny Spencer, who decided not to continue.
Carol had a great stage and screen career – including the Carry On films. She later moved to Spain and when I visited her my seat number on the flight was 5C.
I was also very fond of Barbara Mitchell, who played my mother and who was always known as Mrs Abbott.
We ended up becoming real-life neighbours when I moved to Kingston.
I’d be walking along the road when I’d see her coming out of the fish and chip shop and she’d yell, ‘I’ve got your chips, Frankie.’
She was the first of our group to die, aged only 48 in 1977.
So this photograph brings back all sorts of memories: sad because some of these good friends died far too young, but happy as well as we were like an extended family and we made lasting friendships.
I thought I’d seen the last of Frankie Abbott after we finished making The Fenn Street Gang in 1973, but I was giving a talk about Please Sir! two years ago when it was suggested I should revive Frankie’s character.
I had the idea of bringing him back in real time and the result was a very well received show at the Edinburgh Fringe and a couple of short films.
I’ve written several thrillers and I’m writing a pilot script for a TV comedy with Frankie, now a resident in a rest home who’s assigned a carer to discover what made him the way he is.
He’s still a fantasist…
Whoever would have thought I’d still be talking about Frankie Abbott 50 years after he first appeared TV?”
David’s book Tales From Soho (Acorn Books, £5.99) is out now – visit davidbarryauthor.co.uk.
Please Sir! and The Fenn Street Gang are out now on DVD – visit networkonair.com.