Cornwall has a dramatic landscape, one that is wildly appealing and that today still includes impressive cliffs, wild moorland and picturesque villages with farm houses built of flint.
The very geography of that part of Britain’s island, the way the winds blow and the currents flowed has been renowned for centuries.
Rugged cliffs hide the entrances to extensive cave systems and the huge boulders that came crashing down in storms, helped hide those engaged in the ‘trade’ of wrecking part of the locals way of life during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
The excellent BBC One television series Poldark set during that period in the history of Cornwall, is finally back on our screens in Australia on ABC TV from Sunday September 25, based on Winston Graham’s novels adapted by writer Debbie Horsfield.
Poldark tells the tale of a ‘cross class’ romance in an era of transition in England, when economic difficulties were being experienced as times and conditions dramatically changed.
The tin and copper mines of Cornwall had over time become the largest and most sophisticated in Europe. However now in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, the seams are running out.
Season 1 gained many fans over eight episodes as the smouldering introspective darkly handsome British army officer Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) returned from the American War of Independence (1775-1783).
He found his father is dead, his house wrecked and his sweetheart Elizabeth Chenoweth (Heida Reed) who believed he was dead too, had become engaged to his wealthy cousin Francis Poldark (Kyle Soller) of Trenwith.
Rising above the rugged circumstances of his life Ross reopens Wheal Leisure one of his family’s tin mines. He wants to give employment to many of those struggling for survival in the district. Unemployment, hunger and sickness are the order of the day.
His quiet manner, his fairness, kindness and willingness to work alongside them all despite his being a ‘gentleman’, wins many hearts and faithful followers. He is their champion against the status quo where welathy landowners prosper at their peasant’s expense.
Ross extends the hand of friendship to the conscientious, generous young Doctor Dwight Enys (Luke Norris) from London, who doesn’t charge his poorest patients for his services. Tragedy ensues though, when he becomes involved with a young miner’s wife. Through it all Ross stands firmly by his side.
Shattered by the ongoing events of his own life Ross has become emotionally inarticulate.
He begins a relationship with the unsophisticated warm and lovely Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) who seems to instinctively know his innermost needs.
Demelza came to his house as an urchin in need of salvation and he gave her a job. However discovering she is so much more, their love grows and strengthens until he finally makes Demelza his wife.
In Series 1 Demelza extended her hand of friendship to Elizabeth, who always seems as if she is caught between a rock and a hard place and while their relationship is awkward, there is a measure of respect.
Francis who is now her husband, always seems to disappoint, despite giving Elizabeth a son. His and Ross’s relationship is turbulent and stormy at best, although deep down the abiding sense of ‘family’ prevails.
Demelza finds that she likes to help and enables Ross to know who he is, a champion for equality with a belief in justice and morality and the courage of his convictions.
In helping Ross Demelza helps herself embracing her independence and elevating her own position in society.
As his caring loving wife she is well pleased when she gives birth to their first daughter, Julia.
Verity (Ruby Bentall), Ross’s cousin who lives with her brother Francis helped Demelza know how to be in ‘society’. She returns the favour by helping her to secretly meet a disgraced sea captain she’s in love with and to become his wife.
When illness strikes Francis and Elizabeth’s family it is Demelza who steps into nurse them all, at her own expense, contracting the illness which she gives to Julia who tragically dies.
A rift between the families in Season 1 over this issue and more comes to a head as the Queen Charlotte a ship belonging to the scheming self serving businessman George Warleggan (Jack Farthing), who Francis is heavily involved with, is wrecked on the beach just below Ross Poldark’s farm Nampara.
Ross enables his starving mineworkers to plunder the cargo as he goes about rescuing the surviving passengers and crew.
George Warleggan’s cousin who died in the wreck is washed ashore, and Ross Poldark caught beside his body is arrested for murder and wrecking.
The relationship between Ross and Demelza is once again at the heart of the first two episodes in Season 2.
Don’t read any further if you don’t want spoilers.
Actor John Nettles has at last left behind murders in Midsomer and has travelled back in time to journey south and become Ray Penvenen, guardian to the lovely blonde bombshell Caroline (Gabriella Wilde).
He is endeavouring to betroth Caroline to the local candidate would be politician Unwin Trevaunance (Hugh Skinner) running to represent the constituents of Bodmin in parliament.
Caroline teasingly goes along with all their plotting, until she meets and encounters Dr Enys, who has come to Bodmin to support Ross during his trial.
Demelza wants to make amends with Elizabeth over helping Verity and ensure that her and Ross’s baby Julia hasn’t died in vain.
However the unsuspecting Elizabeth unwisely seeks help from George Warleggan who unbeknown to her has brought the charges against Ross and is underhandedly paying others to rabble rouse and influence the jury.
Francis says goodbye to Elizabeth as he leaves for Bodmin, as if he doesn’t intend to return. He’s deeply troubled that his cousin Ross is on trial as those family ties are binding.
Always jealous of his wife’s former liaison with Ross, he lacks judgment and simply trusts all the wrong people. Oh what tangled webs we weave.
Francis in despair for the loss of the love of his life and for his cousin Ross, whom he is indebted to in so many ways, decides he will end his life dramatically in an inn where he’s staying to witness the trial.
Thankfully, the gun misfires, which is a portent that things are going to begin looking up again as Ross, against the advice of his lawyers, speaks out with passionate commitment to the jury who come down on his side.
George Warleggan failing to get him hanged has now left himself exposed and we can tell that the consequences will probably be dire.
Demelza wants to tell Ross the happy news, that she is once again pregnant with his child. And that some of the sadness from their lives can now be lifted, but after the trial he’s not in the right frame of mind.
You, me, the house, candles burning, the scent of new picked violets… and a child in the crib…is what she wants. But will that be the outcome?
There are ten episodes in Series 2 so we have time to find out, especially as Season 3 is already confirmed.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016