Super Gran remembered: Superman and Batman were 'fairies' next to Gudrun Ure's popular TV character

Gudrun Ure – the star of the much-loved children’s TV series Super Gran – has died. Here are Aidan Smith’s memories of the popular programme

“Stand back Superman, Iceman and Spiderman, Batman and Robin, too …” These words, sung by Sir Billy Connolly, are whooshing an entire generation back to thrilling childhood. As one poster on X put it: “How come I can’t remember what I walked into the front room for and yet I still know all the lyrics to the Super Gran theme?!”

There’s sadness right across the land. Gudrun Ure, star of the much-loved 1980s children’s TV show – from an era when “appointment viewing” was being sat on the shagpile rug next to a three-bar electric fire with a jam piece in your hand – has died at the grand old age of 98. “Nooooo!” wailed another who would have rushed home from school to tune into the latest gripping instalment of her tartan-clad derring-do. “What are we to do now? Who will be our saviour?”

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The other superheroes referenced by the Big Yin were all very well, but could we properly relate to them? Journalism – Clark Kent’s profession – was invariably portrayed as seedy, conniving and untrustworthy. Bruce Wayne lived in a big mansion and employed a butler.

No, Super Gran connected with its audience because most had a grandmother. Some grans were grumpy, right enough, but get them on a good day and they’d be funny and wise. And there was respect for their generation. You cannae shove yer granny off a bus.

Ure, born in Milton of Campsie, was 59 when she stepped into Super Gran’s stout brogues, flipping the claim that when actresses reach a certain age, the good parts dry up. Until the show’s debut in 1985, she might have rated starring alongside the great Orson Welles as her career high, this being a 1951 production of Othello playing Desdemona.

Welles, of course, announced himself and his blazing talent with a radio broadcast of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, which convinced panic-stricken listeners Earth was being invaded by Martians. A select few can harness the awesome power of audience imagination and who’s to say Super Gran didn’t do this when, in a muddy park, she leapt 20 feet in the air to head a football, her manhole-sized Tam O 'Shanter cap miraculously remaining in place?

This was the very first demonstration of Super Gran’s superhuman abilities, immediately after she was struck by a rogue ray from a Heath-Robinsonesque contraption being (badly) tended by Iain Cuthbertson as The Scunner Campbell. The red bolt shot through a first-floor window, Campbell being knocked backwards by the malfunction whereupon a portrait of Napoleon fell on his head.

“Blistering bananas,” he roared, and oh how we laughed. Meanwhile Super Gran – in her final few seconds of ordinary grannyhood – seemed to be having a fit before she composed herself, rose from her bench and began her 26-episode reign, plus a Christmas special, as one of the most charmingly daft kids’ TV favourites there has ever been – righting wrongs, saving the day, sorting out Scunner and other villains, all the while demonstrating that elders are betters.

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It was a show very much of its time, which is a euphemism for Gary Glitter being one of the guest stars. Others, in their final-ever TV appearances, were Patrick Troughton, the second Doctor Who, and Carry On’s Charles Hawtrey. Oh, and George Best who could do many things with a football, but must have been wowed by Super Gran mazy dribbling when she joined in her grandson’s school matches.

Ah, those unspecial-effects – speeded-up film, the ghostly glow as if a lorry load of self-raising flour had been tipped on our heroine, the trampoline just out of shot. Don’t spoil the illusion. Ure performed most of her own stunts. Could the Hollywood stars who’ve impersonated those other superheroes say the same?

RIP, Super Gran, and take it away Billy, one more time: “She makes them look like a bunch of fairies, got more bottle than United Dairies.”

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