Service of All the Dead. An Overview: Music, Art, Literary References, Locations etc.


Originally aired in the UK on 20th Januaray 1987.

Book Published in 1979

Colin Dexter can be spotted at 34m19s speaking to a student in the background while in the Foregraound Morse talks to the bishop.


Directed by Peter Hammond.

Screenplay by Julian Mitchell.

Jag Rating (out of ten)

Please feel free to leave any comments. There is a link at the bottom of the page.


During a service of The Feast of the Conversion of St. Augustine at St. Oswalds the church warden is murdered by all intents and purposes by a local tramp, (in this day of political correctness I was wondering what term would the PC brigade prefer to the word ‘tramp’. I came up with Residentially Challenged). Anyway, Max, the pathologist informs Morse that the Church Warden was dead before he was stabbed with the letter opener that had been plunged into his chest. More deaths occur relating to the parishioners of St. Oswalds and Morse and Lewis look to solve the crime before there are no congregation left to attend St. Oswalds.


St Augustine


This is the third and last episode of the first series and as Morse tiptoes his way between the dead bodies he manages to attain his first kiss of the series.


Morse kisses Ruth Rawlinson. (Women around the country wish it was them being kissed by Morse).

A very good episode that not only cements many of Morse’s traits but also one feels he and Lewis forming a connection beyond Chief Inspector and Sergeant. Those traits are a fondness for the ladies, beer, a dislike of religion, his love of classical music and his dislike of any other types of music. When Ruth Rawlinson states what type of music she believes Morse listens to, i.e. Jazz, Morse simply replies, “Music.” Of course let us not forget the other trait that surfaces, acrophobia. When on the church roof Lewis asks Morse if he is alright. Morse replies, “I’m scared of bloody heights, you stupid sod.”


“I’m scared of bloody heights, you stupid sod.”

One outstanding feature of the episode is the way in which it is shot. Through almost the entire episode the characters are filmed reflected in mirrors or glass or other reflective surfaces. These ‘reflections’ become less frequent as the episode draws to its climax which I assume is an allusion to Morse and Lewis beginning to get closer to solving the case. The use of mirrors and glass could be a reference to the phrase ‘smoke and mirrors’ when discussing magic and illusion which is probably how Morse perceives religion. St. Oswalds was dark and lit mostly by candles which produce ‘smoke’ and had numerous mirrors and sections of glass. I know in the Jewish religion that mirrors are covered when someone dies but I am not aware of any similar custom within the Church of England. It all could simply be an allusion to Morse and Lewis not being able to see the suspects as they really are; never being able to see their true selves only the images they wish to reflect.

Their are a few literary flourishes in the episode. Firstly, Morse is talking to Lewis about the tramp that maybe implicated in the murder of the church warden while flipping through a copy of Samuel Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’. The tramp characters, Vladimir and Estragon,  in Beckett’s play are probably the most famous tramps in English Literature.


Secondly, is the reference to ‘the curious incident of the dog in the night’. This is from the Sherlock Holmes story, ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’. (Correction. Thank you to Graham Barratt for pointing out my lazy assumption regarding the quote. As Graham pointed out the quote comes form the Sherlock story, Silver Blaze. Note to self do not write blog after the hours of midnight).

Overall it is a very good episode though I did think the body count was rather high and I wasn’t convinced that all the murders were necessary. However, the viewing figures were the highest of the first three episodes so that probably guaranteed a second series.


Angela Morant as Ruth Rawlinson (Born 1941 –         )


John Normington as Lionel Pawlin ( Born Jan 28th 137 – Died July 26th 2007)


Maurice O’Connell as Harry Josephs (Born 1939 –      )


James Griffiths as Paul Morris  (Born Unknown)


Judy Campbell as Mrs Rawlinson  (Born 31 May 1916 – 6 June 2004)


Michael Horden as Dr. Starkie (Born 3 October 1911 – 2 May 1995)


Norman Jones as Chief Inspector Bell (B. June 16th, 1932 – D.April 23rd 2013)


Chrissy Iddon as Brenda Josephs (Born Unknown)


Michael Fenner as Detective Constable Mitchell ( )


Karl Francis as Taffy (Born 1st April 1942 –     )


Michael Goldie as Jimmy (Born 1927 – August 27, 2013)


Bill Moody as Police Sergeant (Born 1949 – June 8th 2012)


Gina McKee as the girl on the bookies. (Born April 14, 1964 –      )


Harold Innocent as the Archdeacon (April 18, 1935 – September 12, 1993)



(The times are set as hh/mm/ss, i.e. hours, minutes and seconds).

The acronym BWV that is shown at the end of all Johann Sebastian Bach compositions relates to the Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (Bach Works Catalogue). It’s the numbering system identifying compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach.


The first piece of music is played over the opening credits and the first scenes in the church. The piece is ‘Prelude and Fugue in A Minor, BWV 543‘ by the German Johann Sebastian Bach, (1685-1750). Bach is one of my favourites composers.



Next up we have Morse leaving a shop having bought a new cassette which he proceeds to play while on his way to the scene of the first murder. The piece is by the German composer Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) and is titled ‘Overture Euryanthe: Allegro marcato, con molto fuoco’.

I’m afraid there is no Youtube video of the Weber piece and the two that I found were unavailable in my country.


We are back in the church were we find the following piece of music being played and being accompanied by a choir. It is a beautiful piece by the Austrian composer Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) ‘Locus iste‘.

Thanks to one of my regular readers A.B. ( a big thank you as always A.B.) it has been pointed out I missed piece of music titled “Missa Brevis – Agnus Dei” at 00h24m20s by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594). Missa brevis is Latin for “short Mass”.


Next up we have another Bach piece being played in the church by Paul Morris. The music is called Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C, BMV 564.


Back in Morse’s house we find Morse lying on the settee thinking about Ruth Rawlinson. On his record player he is playing ‘Acte IV: Sola, Perduta abbandonata‘ from the Puccini opera ‘Manon Lescaut’. Puccini’s full name is Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini. Born: 1858 in Italy and died 1924.


The first piece of art we encounter is at 00h08m21s when Morse has just left examining the body of the first victim.


I have no idea regarding the artist but the subject matter is obviously Saint Sebastianan early Christian saint and martyr.  More often than not he is depicted in art and literature tied to a post or tree and shot with arrows. In more recent times the Saint Sebastian is thought of as a “homosexual icon”. Many art critics have agreed that the homosexual subtext is perceptible in paintings since the Renaissance. This image could have been included to have the viewer believe that the episode had homosexual undertones in particular regarding the vicar Lionel Pawlin.

At 00h40m46s we find Morse on the telephone in his house hallway. Above him is a painting which for the moment I cannot identify. Modigliani was the obvious choice but it isn’t that. The problem is that I also cannot get a good look at it. I did quickly scan all the other episodes for a better look at the painting but to no avail.


I will keep working on trying to identify the painting as I would love to identify all the artwork in Morse’s house.


Next up is not a painting but an allusion to the wonderful paintings of Sir John Everett Millais. The scene I am referring to is where we see Brenda Josephs lying dead in a punt, (01h05m18s)


The scene I believe is in reference to Millais sublime painting ‘Ophelia‘.


The way in which Ophelia is posed in the picture, her open arms and upward gaze, is said to symbolise the traditional portrayal of saints or martyrs. Brenda is also posed in a similar way and this would correspond with the theme and content of the episode.

The next scene is when Morse is talking to the Church Warden at 01h10m55s.


Unfortunately this another one in which I cannot identify the painting. I am not a fan of art iconography so that doesn’t help. The subject is of course the Madonna and Child. I am keeping a folder of all the paintings I can’t identify in the hope I will eventually stumble upon an identification.

Literary References

The title of the episode, ‘Service of all the Dead’ probably alludes to a poem by D.H. Lawrence with the same title and in another Lawrence poem, ‘All Souls’ the first line contains the words, ‘service of all the dead’.


Between the avenues of cypresses,
All in their scarlet cloaks, and surplices
Of linen, go the chaunting choristers,
The priests in gold and black, the villagers.

And all along the path to the cemetery
The round, dark heads of men crowd silently
And black-scarved faces of women-folk, wistfully
Watch at the banner of death, and the mystery.

And at the foot of a grave a father stands
With sunken head, and forgotten, folded hands;
And at the foot of a grave a soman kneels
With pale shut face, and neither hears not feels

The coming of the chaunting choristers
Between the avenues of cypresses,
The silence of the many villagers,
The candle-flames beside the surplices.


They are chanting now the service of All the Dead
And the village folk outside in the burying ground
Listen – except those who strive with their dead,
Reaching out in anguish, yet unable quite to touch them:
Those villagers isolated at the grave
Where the candles burn in the daylight, and the painted wreaths
Are propped on end, there, where the mystery starts.

The naked candles burn on every grave.
On your grave, in England, the weeds grow.

But I am your naked candle burning,
And that is not your grave, in England,
The world is your grave.
And my naked body standing on your grave
Upright towards heaven is burning off to you
Its flame of life, now and always, till the end.

It is my offering to you; every day is All Souls’ Day.

I forget you, have forgotten you.
I am busy only at my burning,
I am busy only at my life.
But my feet are on your grave, planted.
And when I lift my face, it is a flame that goes up
To the other world, where you are now.
But I am not concerned with you.
I have forgotten you.

I am a naked candle burning on your grave.


Morse and Lewis are standing in the churchyard discussing what they witnessed while watching the church service. Lewis talks about putting the wine into a cup. Morse corrects him by telling him the ‘cup’ is called a chalice. Morse then says, “Poisoned chalice, indeed“.

The phrase ‘poisoned chalice‘ was first mentioned in Shakespeare‘s ‘Macbeth‘. It is from act one, scene seven;

“To plague th’ inventor: this even-handed justice
Commends the ingredients of our poisoned chalice
To our own lips.”


Lewis and Morse are discussing where the tramp Swanpole is while Morse flicks through a copy of Samuel Beckett‘s play ‘Waiting for Godot‘.


‘Waiting for Godot‘ involves two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, (both tramps) waiting endlessly for the arrival of someone named Godot who actually never turns up.

Next up is the scene where Morse and Lewis are searching through the diary of Harry Josephs, (01h09m30s). During there conversation is the reference to ‘the curious incident of the dog in the night’. This is from the Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes story, ‘The Adventure of Silver Blaze‘. Morse and the custody sergeant who is helping, almost quote verbatim the scene from the Holmes story;

Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”


Dorney Court, Dorney, Buckinghamshire. Where Ruth Rawlinson worked.

Merton College, Merton Street, Oxford. Where Morse interviews the Archdeacon.

merton college

St. Cross Church, St. Cross Road, Oxford. (St. Oswalds)


PUB Locations

The Turf Tavern Pub, Bath Place, Oxford.  (called the Green Man in the episode.


TIME1h 1m 55s and 1h 30m 52s

Thanks to Neil McLean for identifying this pub. It is the The Crown at Bray, High St, Bray, Maidenhead SL6 2AH.

I hope you enjoyed the post. take care.



Author: Chris Sullivan

After having looked after my mum for some 11 years she is now unfortunately in a nursing home. I'm afraid her dementia worsened as did her physical capabilities. So, for the first time in 21 years I find myself no longer caring for anyone. Apart from my mum I was also a single parent to two children and also looked after my dad who had Alzheimers, (he died in 2005). So, I have decided to return to University to try and get another degree this time in English Literature. (My other degree I got some 30 years ago is one in Ecological Science). After a year at college I have passed all grades and now will start Edinburgh University in September 2019. A busy time ahead made even busier by my writing a book on the TV series, Lewis.

28 thoughts

  1. The reference to ‘the curious incident of the dog in the night’ is from the Sherlock Holmes story _Silver Blaze_, not _The Hound of the Baskerville’s_

  2. The opening organ music is the Prelude from J.S. Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 543.

  3. When Morse revisits the church during the high mass, the choir is singing the Anton Bruckner motet Locus iste. I went looking for the name of the piece because I knew I’d sung it, but I couldn’t quite place it, and found your site in the process!

  4. The more I watch this episode the more it becomes one of my favourites. I think the storyline between Ruth Rawlinson and Morse really draws me in, I feel he truly falls in love with this naive and vulnerable woman and I think it’s all very sad. Such a brutal story too with the killing of the child and her elderly mother ending up in a home. There is a real atmosphere to the filming, like many of the early episodes I suppose.

    1. Hello, Natalie! I share your admiration for this episode (I can’t remember how many times I’ve watched it, both alone and with my students 🙈): I even think that it’s superior to the much-lauded “Masonic Mysteries”. BTW why don’t we see Ruth after serving her time in any of the following series? Which of Morse’s women would you have liked to see resurface 👻 and in which _Morse_ episode?

  5. “I always half expected Ruth might have made an appearance in the Lewis series”.

    Or, even better, in a later _Morse_ episode: e.g., during the finale of “The Remorseful Day”😉

    I think that the reappearance of some _Morse_ characters, rather than only its actors, in _Lewis_ would have improved the quality of the latter series. But (not having watched any _Lewis_ episode more than once and not having yet watched Series 9) perhaps one or two _Morse_ characters (other than the regulars) reappear there?

  6. Gina McKee (playing the Punk girl at the bookie’s) has gone on to have quite the career (Borgias, etc) but for our purposes here I feel it should be mentioned she played Diane Turnbull in the LEWIS episode “Old School Ties” (2007).

  7. Judy Campbell was Jane Birkin’s mother!
    Chrissy Iddon was born in 1947, not sure if she is still acting.

  8. Despite having watched A Service For All The Dead several times it is not clear to me how Brenda Josephs died. I don’t think we see how she came to a soggy end in the film? Did she commit suicide and if so why or was she murdered by jealous husband Harry?

  9. Hi Chris, your post above: At 00h40m46s we find Morse on the telephone in his house hallway. Above him is a painting which for the moment I cannot identify.

    Did you happen to see a closer shot of the art in The Silent World of Nicolas Quinn? about 11 minutes 30 seconds into the episode, Morse is on the phone. the view of the art is not focused but it’s the closest I’ve seen of it from the early episodes. She’s reminds me of a dancer or flapper woman from the teens or 1920’s with her bobbed hair, tiny gold top, pale skin and black skirt.

  10. A very dark episode, with one of (I believe) only two child murders in the series. The photography, however, is beautiful and atmospheric, particularly inside the church. The montage wherein all the tramps drinking on the street are intercut with the church communion is quite clever and sadly touching.

    Good catch on the St. Sebastian painting. However, the speculation about Rev. Pawlen in this episode was, as I recall, to do with pedophilia and not homosexuality… a very important distinction. (Although I suppose a priest could have been blackmailed for either one, especially in those days.)

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