AS KINDLY Sgt Ian MacArthur in the rural soap opera Emmerdale, the variety entertainer Martin Dale was a policeman of the old school, who brought to the television role his real-life experience of being a bobby on the beat, having served as PC73 in Bradford during the mid-Fifties.
It was in that West Yorkshire mill town that Dale was born in 1930. After several short-lived jobs on leaving school, he joined the police force and demonstrated the wacky humour that was to mark him out for a career in
While on the night beat, Dale would call at a butcher's shop and be given a pie and a drink in return for depositing the owner's black-and-white cat down a skylight into the basement of the shop in the early hours. When the butcher died and his son took over the business, Dale turned up for his pie and drink as usual, only to be told: 'My dad might have done that for you, but it stops now.' So Dale enlisted a bunch of Bradford policemen to pick up every black- and-white cat they could find and he dropped all of them into the basement.
Another time on the night beat, Dale got his come-uppance. He and a colleague, both in full uniform, argued about who was the strongest and the pair decided to settle the dispute by doing press-ups in the street. In the middle of this exercise, Dale looked up and saw two boots in front of him. They belonged to his sergeant, whom his colleague had spotted coming, explaining a hasty retreat from the scene. The punishment was a fine of half-a-crown a week for many months.
It was while on the beat in Bradford that Dale started performing in police concerts, where his vocal talents gained him the title 'The Singing Copper'. In 1963, he left the force to launch a career as a professional entertainer, initially working as a singer and compere in Northern clubs and in cabaret.
Three years later, he became a director of the Wakefield Theatre Club, introducing international singing stars such as Tony Bennett, Andy Williams, Howard Keel and Stevie Wonder. Dale's own variety appearances included his stage show, An Evening with Martin Dale, in which he would perform standards such as 'It's Impossible' and 'My Way', and guest spots in television programmes such as The Des O'Connor Show, Stars on Sunday and The Les Dawson Show. He frequently sang with Matt Monro in cabaret and did a double-act with Des O'Connor on a stage tour of the United States where the duo also appeared on television in The Ed Sullivan Show.
By then, Dale had branched out into acting on the small screen, appearing in All for Love, Close to the Edge and Jim Allen's acclaimed 1981 play United Kingdom, about a council in the North-East rebelling against government spending cuts. A year earlier, when Yorkshire Television had decided to introduce the character of the caring village bobby Sgt MacArthur to its popular serial Emmerdale Farm (which became plain Emmerdale in November 1989), Dale seized the opportunity to play on screen a role that had once been his way of life. He acted on and off in the programme for the next 13 years while continuing to perform his stage act. On television, he also portrayed a policeman in the BBC thriller Edge of Darkness (1985), written by Troy Kennedy Martin, creator of Z-Cars, and starring Bob Peck as a detective searching for the killers of his ecologist daughter, played by Joanne Whalley.
Dale, who during his diverse career released singles of 'Remember My Heart' and 'You'll Never Walk Alone', as well as a handful of albums, was also a great fan of Bradford City Football Club and one of the heroes of the tragic fire at the Valley Parade ground in 1985, when he saved an old woman by pushing her through a window as she struggled to flee from the blaze. She broke an arm but escaped with her life.
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