THE BLOG

Where Were You In 82?

12/10/2017 11:57 BST | Updated 12/10/2017 11:57 BST

Recently I watched the full, original BBC2 broadcast of the raising of the Mary Rose in 1982. I watched it alongside two other people who had not seen the footage before. The first person hadn't been born, and the second was on the dive platform watching the action first hand! We were reviewing the film to try and find out the moment that part of the lifting frame above the cradle crashed down, which for some is the only part of the raising that they remember! Even though we knew it was coming, it still made us wince when it happened all these years later.

 

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Image credit: Courtesy of the Mary Rose Trust

Watching the footage made us realise how much television has changed over the years. For example, modern rolling news coverage is constantly being framed by a ticker at the bottom showing the latest updates and there's always a clock so you know what the time is. There was none of that on the raising footage, apart from an occasional caption informing the viewer that the programme that was supposed to be on, would now be shown the next day. A testament, perhaps, to just how significant the raising of the Mary Rose was - a rare, historic and magnificent event which could be enjoyed by all.

 

A look though the BBC Genome project website, which contains the BBC listings information from the Radio Times between 1923 and 2009 including BBC programmes, people, and dates, helped us come up with a rough time of the heart-stopping moment when the frame dropped. Later we reconfirmed the timing by the dive logs. However, without these records there would be no way of working out the timing of this moment.

Last year I watched the excellent Fire of London display, where a model of London was ignited on the Thames and broadcast live. The way the fire swept through the model, causing miniature towers to fall, was fascinating. The producers knew that there was only so much you could look at, so they would frequently cut back to the studio, a small space by the river where a range of experts were interviewed.

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Image credit: Courtesy of the Mary Rose Trust

 

Back in 1982, the commentators do their best to make the events of screen sound impressive, but this was a hard task as progress was being made...slowly. The ship broke the surface at 0903hrs, and was still partially submerged when the infamous "crash" occurred at 1149hrs, and the frame was still in the water at 1250hrs. It was not a speedy process, by any means. These days, they would cut away to a sofa where experts would discuss the events so far, there would be interviews, a section where we would find out what viewers think of the show as well as someone like Dan Snow discussing the history of the ship. In 1982, though, none of this happens.

  

If the Mary Rose had been raised in the modern age, no doubt there would have been live BBC feeds on the red button and the website, drone footage and Facebook Live broadcasts from the deck of Tog Mor, the giant floating crane which was instrumental in the raising. Outside of the TV news, there would probably have been little difference between the 1982 footage and what would have gone out online if it happened today.

 

Of course I know how the story ended up - The Mary Rose herself is currently wowing visitors on the other side of my office wall. Watching the footage of the raising still has a draw. Maybe it's the relationship I've developed with the project, but you get a sense of history when you watch it, as well as a moment to reflect on the amount of work that went into excavating and raising her - an extraordinary achievement. There have been a number of people who tell us that they bunked off school or work to watch the raising in 1982. It suggests that I'm not alone - what other excuse for not going to work can you still remember after 35 years?