The Sins of the Fathers: An Overview: Music, Art, Literary References, Locations etc.


First transmitted in the UK on the 10th January 1990.

This episode is not based on any of Colin Dexter’s books.

This is episode 2 in series 4. Chronologically this is episode 13.

Colin Dexter doesn’t appear in this episode.

Directed by Peter Hammond: He also directed the episodes, Service of all the Dead and The Settling of the Sun.

Written by Jeremy Burnham: This was the only Morse episode that he wrote. He also wrote many episodes of the 1980s British TV show, Howard’s Way.

Episode Jag Rating (out of ten)

seven jags


Trevor Radford, managing director of Radford’s Brewery, is brutally murdered after having been seen typing a letter, burning the top copy then discarding the carbon paper. (I wonder if carbon paper is still used in these days of computers and home printers. For those of a young disposition ask your parents what carbon paper is). What is strange about the typed letter is that it has been backdated three years.

Morse and Lewis learn from the brewery staff that Trevor’s brother Stephen believed that his brother was incapable of running the brewery and he is the reason that it is struggling. Morse and Lewis also learn that a larger rival and more successful brewery, Farmers of Banbury, were in the process of attempting to buy Radford’s Brewery.

Stephen, who is having an affair with his dead brother’s wife, steps into run the brewery until a decision is made on whether to sell the family run business to its larger more successful rival. Shortly after, Stephen is also brutally murdered.

So, with two murders and a family seemingly in turmoil, Morse and Lewis will need more than a liquid lunch to help them think this sorry state of affairs through to a satisfactory conclusion.

Review. (Warning! This review may contain some spoilers.)

 “You’ll never believe this sir, we have to visit a brewery”.

This is Lewis’s first line of the episode and is said with a huge grin. The episode is littered with great quotable lines some of which I will include further down the page.

This is a good episode but not a great one. Personally, I believe that with a different director the episode may have been improved. The director of this episode is Peter Hammond who was also responsible for directing the episodes, Service of the Dead (Series 1, Episode 3) and The Settling of the Sun (Series 2, Episode 3).

In all three episodes Peter Hammond uses the same themes and motifs in his style of directing; looking through glass, looking at character’s reflections in mirrors and dark, as in a style of lighting (or lack of) as opposed to ambience of the piece. Though I suppose there is a dark and foreboding element to this particular episode.

I remember when I first watched this episode I assumed that the significance of the looking through glass and looking at people reflected in mirrors was an allusion to how drinkers see the world, through the bottom of a glass. But now knowing that these motifs appear to be Peter Hammond’s particular style of directing I am not so sure that my first thoughts were correct.

I loved that the episode included the wonderful Lionel Jefferies, a very under-rated actor. He appeared in some of my favourite films, most notably, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968),Two Way Stretch (1960) (with the wonderful Peter Sellers),

two way stretch

(A scene from Two Way Stretch. On the left, Lionel Jefferies, Middle, Bernard Cribbens and Peter Sellers on the right.)

The Colditz Story (1955) and again with Peter Sellers in The Wrong Arm of the Law (1963).


He was also of course an accomplished writer director. Probably the most famous film he directed and wrote the screenplay for is The Railway Children.

An actor in this episode who will be very familiar to fans of John Thaw is the delectable, delicious and delightful Lisa Harrow. (It was difficult decision not to put a photograph of Lisa Harrow wearing her swimsuit from this episode of Morse but I was afraid that I may be held responsible for countless heart attacks, strokes (Oh behave) and other heart conditions). Lisa Harrow was of course John Thaw’s on screen wife in the excellent TV series, Kavanagh QC. (Has that series been shown in America?).


Lisa Harrow and John Thaw in Kavanagh QC

As always Lisa Harrow adds a touch of class to this episode as she does with almost anything she appears in and that includes that swimsuit. Ahem. Swiftly moving on…

If there is one thing that stands out about this episode is that it feels like it is rattling along at a fair rate of knots. I felt the episode was faster paced than most of the Morse episodes. I’m not saying that slow paced is a bad thing, if I was I wouldn’t be watching Morse. Like the trains that Victor Preece played with, the story needed a quicker tempo to help unsettle the viewer. The pace was quickened I believe to shake up the viewer as much as the violent deaths probably did.

The deaths of the two brothers were violent though we only saw the actual act of violence in the case of the first murdered man, Trevor Radford. This slice of violence, especially so soon in the episode, was unusual for a Morse episode. More often than not the viewer would only be witness to the aftermath of the killing and not the actual killing itself.

Another unusual inclusion in the episode was a black character, Gail played by Kamilla Blanche. Without going through all the episodes other than in my mind I can’t think of any other black characters in the Morse series.

All in all a good episode though the last words of the murderer, “When I get out, I’ll get you too”, was rather ridiculous and was very out of place and belonged in an episode of Murder She Wrote. But in all honesty Sins of the Father would be overshadowed by the two following titanic episodes that would conclude the fourth series, Driven to Distraction and Masonic Mysteries.

Interesting Quotes from the episodes;

1 – “Murder inquiry, Beer involved. They’ll give it to Morse I thought”. George Linacre (John Bird)

2Butler – “Can I have your name sir.”

Morse – “Morse”.

Butler – “Rank.”

Morse – “That’s important is it?”

3Linacre – “Good old Morse, always the puritan.”

Morse – “Purist, George.”

4Morse – “Don’t slurp in my ear Lewis.”

5Thelma Radford (to Morse – “You look the faithful type. One woman at a time man.”

6Lewis – “There’s been another murder.”

Morse – “I hope its that landlord from the Cock and Bullfinch teach him to keep his beer properly.”


The only music in the episode, other than Barrington Pheloung’s incidental music, is from the Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi’s (1813 -1901) La Traviata which is played at different times through the episode. The section that is always used in the episode is called Follie, follie/Sempre libera.

The music is first played when Morse talks to the Lisa Harrow character Thelma Radford. That is at 55 minutes and 13 seconds. It is then played again in Morse’s office and at his home.


Morse is in his office and decides to catch 40 winks. He asks Lewis to place a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door and then turns on the radio. The music playing is Franz Schubert’s (1797 – 1828) String Quartet No.10 in E flat major, op.125 No.1.

If you enjoy all the music from the Morse series I have collected all the pieces I have identified thus far and have created playlists on YouTube. On how to access these playlists please read the relevant post by clicking here.

Or click here to my Youtube channel where you will find the music of Morse and Endeavour contained in playlists.


First up is an offhand comment by Morse when Lewis states that the first victim, Trevor Radford, one of the brewers found him at the bottom of a vat. Morse replies, “Just like poor old Clarence.”

Morse is referring to the Duke of Clarence (a.k.a. Clarence) the brother of King Edward IV and Richard III. He was convicted of treason against his brother, Edward IV, and was executed (allegedly by being drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine). He appears as a character in William Shakespeare’s plays Henry VI, part 3 and Richard III, in which his death is attributed to the machinations of Richard.


Morse: That was a curious phrase she used (Thelma Radford), last and definitely least.

Lewis: But many that are first shall be last and the last shall be first.

Morse: Very good Lewis where did you pick that up?

Lewis: Sunday school Sir.

Morse: And what’s its relevance?

Lewis: It means Sir, that one of these days I’m going to be a Chief Inspector. And you’re going to be a Sergeant Sir.

Below is the look Morse gives Lewis after this remark.


So, where does the phrase Lewis uses, “But many that are first shall be last and the last shall be first” actually come from. It is from the Bible Matthew 19:30 and Mark 10:31. It appears again in Luke 13:30 but in a slightly different form; “And indeed, some who are last will be first, and some who are first will be last.”


The next literary remark is made by Thelma Radford in Helen Radford’s house to Helen. Thelma remarks that the two Trevor Radford was in Stephen Radford’s way, business wise. Thelma says it is the old “Jacob and Esau thing. One brother depriving the other of his birth right.”


Lisa Harrow as Thelma Radford on the right and Kim Thomson as Helen Radford.

This is referring to The Book of Genesis which speaks of the relationship between Jacob and Esau, focusing on Esau’s loss of his birthright to Jacob.


Morse is interviewing Isabel Radford and asks,

Morse: And you don’t blame her?

Isabel: Accidents will happen even in the best regulated families.

Morse: Mr Macawber.

Isabel: I thought it was W.C. Fields.

The quote is from Charles Dicken’s David Copperfield. The exact quote from the novel is;

“My dear friend Copperfield,’ said Mr. Micawber, ‘accidents will occur in the best-regulated families; and in families not regulated by that.”

W.C. Fields was an American comedian, actor, juggler and writer.  Fields played Mr Macawber in the 1935 film version of David Copperfield.


The next quote is said by Isabel Radford to Morse:

“Must the evil that men do live after them?”

This is from William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and is said by Brutus. The exact quote is “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”


There was only one piece of art I could identify and that was at 56 minutes and thirty seconds. Morse is talking to Thelma Radford in her swimming pool area. On the wall behind Morse we can see a print of the brilliant British David Hockney painting.


Below is the original; Day Pool with Three Blues.

Up next is a print in Morse’s home.


This appears to be a generic print of the Sphinx and the Great Pyramid of Giza.



Above is the warrant card Lewis shows to Mrs Preece. The signature at the bottom marked by the red arrow is of Kenny McBain. Kenny McBain was a producer on the Inspector Morse series and was instrumental in getting the show on TV. He died from Hodglin’s Disease just as the filming of the fourth series began. A lovely tribute.




The location of Stephen Radford’s hi tech business is the Icon, Stevenage, Herts


Brakspeare’s Brewery, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, England, UK. (Radford’s brewery)


High Canons, Buckettsland Lane, Well End, Hertfordshire, England, UK. (Radford family house)


McMullen & Sons, The Hertford Brewery – 26 Old Cross, Hertford, Hertfordshire, England, UK
(Farmer’s brewery where George Linacre works)


Ye Old Fighting Cocks pub, Abbey Mill Lane, St Albans, Hertfordshire, England, UK
(Morse and Lewis meet for a drink to discuss the case)




John Bird as George Linacre. (In the UK John Bird is more famous as a British Satirist. (Born November 22, 1936)


Isabel Dean as Isobel Radford (Born: May 29, 1918 – Died: July 27, 1997)


Lisa Harrow as Thelma Radford (Born: August 25, 1943)


Lionel Jefferies as Charles Rasdford. (Born: June 10, 1926 – Died: February 19, 2010)


Alex Jennings as Victor Preece (Born: May 10, 1957)


Betty Marsden as Cynthia Preece. (Appeared in a few Carry On films most notably in Carry on Camping.

(Born: February 24, 1919 – Died: July 18, 1998)


Paul Shelley as Stephen Radford (Born: May 15, 1942)


Kim Thomson as Helen Radford (Born: 1960) (became a regular on the TV soap Emmerdale in 2009)


Andy Bradford as Trevor Radford. (Born: September 7, 1944)


Simon Slater as Norman Weeks (No info)


Paul Mooney as the pathologist (No info)


John Golghtly as Nelson (Born: May 18, 1936)


Jean Ainslie as the cleaning lady (Born: 1920 – Died: October 26, 2001)


Kamilla Blanche as Gail (No info)


Maggie Wilkinson as Shirley (No info)


Liz Kettle as WPC. (No Info) The lovely Liz appeared in 5 Morse episodes

– Happy Families (1992) … WPC
– Second Time Around (1991) … WPC
– The Sins of the Fathers (1990) … WPC
– The Settling of the Sun (1988) … Policewoman
– Last Seen Wearing (1988) … Policewoman

Read my Q & A with Liz Kettle by clicking here.


Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Author: Chris Sullivan

Up until a few years ago I was my mum's full time carer. She died in, 2020, of Covid. At the moment I am attempting to write a novel.

49 thoughts

  1. In the olden days of videos, I bought the Kavanagh show. Quite expensive, as I remember. This episode kind of bored me. I even fell asleep once. But Lewis was wonderful. Smiling and funny. To continue your quote: Lewis says to Morse: “I shouldn’t worry about it, Sir. By the time he comes out, you’ll be long gone.” And Morse comes back with: “You’re wasted as a copper, Lewis.You should have joined the Diplomatic Service.” I wrote the sequence down. Just loved it.

  2. I was present at the filming that was done at Brakspears, ostensibly as an extra, though ended up working in the Tun room. (it was the 80s depression, and I got sent there from a Reading employment agency). Anyway, look on Google earth – the actual brewery was taken over, shut down and posh housing put on the site… Sort of a bit weird, given the plot of the episode. (which I never saw until 20 years later)

    P. S. We had interesting ‘tea’ breaks with John thaw and others, there were always damaged firkins in a little room by the driveway for ‘refreshments’ ; my alcohol consumption while working there went up a bit! Wasn’t a strong beer though.

  3. Again, enjoyed much of the Hammond direction here. Especially notable is the scene between Helen and Thelma, starting with the “voyeur” shot between the trees outside Helen’s house, and then shooting through the living room windows from outside. The scene gives the strong sense of listening in on the characters’ private lives, which is what we’re doing as the audience in that moment, and sells the tension between the women.

    Also there is one of the few dream sequences in the entire Morse canon, when Morse falls asleep at home while listening to La Traviata. We then get a montage Thelma diving in her pool and, followed by close-up of one of the murder victims at the brewery. Cut to needle lifting off record as Morse awakens to Lewis knocking at the door. Hammond, imho, seems more in touch with Morse’s psyche–and in this case, his libido–than other directors. At the same time, the brewery scenes provide a nice sense of scale, shooting through and around the industrial equipment and one or two cinematic long shots of the exteriors.

    Alex Jennings on thought very effective as the deceptively mild, nerdy Preece and Lionel Jeffries heartbreaking as the patriarch who loses his family.

  4. Not on of my favourite episodes, though it does have a few good moments (yes I include the swimsuit scene), as well as Morse correcting Lewis about tun and not vat, and then saying vat himself in the next sentence 🙂

  5. Love your blog. I’m using it to confirm that I’ve seen this episode 2 or 3 times and do not need to see it again on California public television, which should be called BBC7 given how dependent it is on British shows.
    Can’t believe I’m going to do it: I’m going to watch Father Brown on Netflix.

    1. I too live in California in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our local public television channel KQED is currently showing Morse on Friday nights and showed this episode last night.

  6. I found it interesting that Lewis joked that one day he’ll be a chief inspector and Morse will be a sergeant. Turned out to be true in both cases given the later series of Lewis and Endeavour.

    1. Lewis never actually reached the rank of Chief Inspector. He was a Detective Inspector for the whole series, one below Chief Inspector.

  7. Alex Jennings featured in episode of Lewis as Dr Conor Hawes. The episode where the characters were obsessed with the snark and Lewis Carroll, can’t recall the name of it.

  8. Can you explain why Trevor Radford goes into the brewery after typing the letter? There is no reason why he shouldn’t, but it struck me as odd that his assassin, Victor Preece, was waiting there for him. How did Victor know that Trevor would be going that way? I had the impression that Trevor was working late in his office, as there was nobody else around. Victor must have been waiting there for a long time. Trevor leaves his office and goes down four flights of stairs and is about to go down a fifth flight when Victor hits him on the head with a mallet. Andy Bradford (Trevor) was a stuntman and stunt co-ordinator at that time, and that fall down that steep staircase looks to have been very dangerous. Would the offices of a brewery be on the fifth floor (at least)? Would the only way out of the building from the office be though the brewery?

    1. I worked in the brewery, brakspears, where they filmed, and the offices were on 3rd floor. Only floor for keeping liquor (spring water) was above – in large copper bath.

  9. Thanks, Dave. There is no reason why a fictional brewery should be arranged as a real one, but it is good to know that the offices of Radford’s Brewery might have been on the third floor. So they could just as easily been on the fifth floor. I had thought that the owners/managers might have wanted to walk as little as possible and had their offices on the ground floor. So, Dave, did people who worked in the offices at Brakspears have to go through the brewery to get out? I realise that this is not really a relevant question, as a fictional brewery may bear no similarity to a real brewery, but I’m just curious. And why would a guy intent on murder need to wear a hood? It’s not as if there’s going to be any witnesses left to tell the tale.

    1. Yes, the head brewery would walk a few yards to the platform where the brew kettles were, and he could look over the edge at the open secondary fermentation vessels. I was working there in the filming, we had beer breaks with John Shaw and “Lewis” (forgot his name). A little tiny room by the yard where ‘damaged’ kegs were available at early tea and lunch… Always there were damaged kegs…

  10. I am sure to be writing this in the wrong place on my first visit to this incredible site. last night I watched Born of Fire for the third time and am still hurting.. a beautiful love story with a reality only known by those of us who have experienced it. The only other time I have been so moved is by The Hiv Monologues of Patrick Cash.

    tThank you for the gift of this site. which is a place to be listened to for me.

    1. Hello Marco and welcome to my website. Born of Fire is one of my all time favourites.

  11. A few random thoughts…I particularly liked this episode probably because of its Oxfordshire brewery setting being a nostalgic reminder of my youth.

    Breakspear’s (only 2 “e”s) Bitter was not strong in alcohol with an OG of about 1035 but could claim to be the best drink you could buy. A classic English bitter much liked by real ale enthusiasts. The Breakspear’s brand is now like so much in brewing by Marston’s

    I particularly liked the direction at the end of the episode juxtaposing the emotion of the Radfords with John Thaw’s remorseless (sorry) progress up the drive to the house

    If the LP Morse takes off the turntable is a recording of La Traviata and not a prop it is almost certainly by Carlos Kleiber on DG

    1. In the end and beginning credits he is credited as Alex Jennings. So, yes your eyes have deceived you. 😉

      1. No we are both right ! In the version broadcast recently on ITV3, he is credited at the beginning as Jennings but at the end as Jenning. I have cancelled my appointment with my optometrist.

      2. Thats’s strange. In my DVD version it is definitely Jennings. I wonder if the error was picked up before the DVD editions were released?

  12. I just finished watching this about 3 minutes ago on Britbox (US thru Amazon Prime) and I noticed immediately that the 2nd appearance of the name lacked the “s.” Then I came here and read this!

  13. This is one of the weaker episodes from the point of view of logic. There is no reason for Victor to murder the Radford brothers no matter what, since he was in the process of disputing ownership through legal channels (through Nelson). Even if the brewery changed hands (as Trevor wished) and even more if it didn’t (as Stephen wished), the Peerce’s stake remained the same. Killing the brothers made no sense. The Nelson killing by Isobel partially rescues the episode, except for the nonsense of Nelson blackmailing BOTH sides. 5 Jags.

    1. A good observation, but Victor’s mother at the end indicates, as I recall, that Nelson had recently switched from encouraging them in their “Knox claim,” to telling them that their “Knox claim” was no good. Nelson did this switch because he offered to Mrs. Radford to sink their claim if Mrs. Radford paid him – and she agreed to. Thus, Nelson was now telling Victor that he had no legal recourse. In frustration at this, Victor decided to kill the Radford brothers, since he now believed he had no provable legal claim, and that they were taking unjustly what was his own legal inheritance.

      This raises another point unanswered in the episode, which is why did Farmers make such a low offer. Might it be that someone at Farmers knew about the “Knox claim” and that buying the Radford interest in the brewery might get Farmers only 50% of of the brewery, and not 100% of the brewery?

      1. The low ball offer came because Radford had overvalued the property to borrow the million pounds.

      2. In the end, the Preece’s still own one half of the brewery, as far as I can see. Being a criminal does not preclude one from pursuing one’s rightful property. .

  14. I thought that the actress who played Helen Radford was absolutely stunning and played a good part. I also thought the acting at the end of the senior Radfords was a bit “hammy.” Adrian, you make a good point as to why it was necessary to kill off the Radford brothers.

  15. Actually it was Mark Anthony, not Brutus, who said that bit about the evil that men do living after them. (See “Friends, Romans, countrymen, etc.”)

  16. Hi Chris, love all the details you have collected!

    I’m intrigued by the meal we see Gail eating at the restaurant. Looks like do-it-yourself dumplings/potstickers, sort of like the way fajitas are served at a Mexican restaurant. But I’ve never seen something like this at a Chinese place, at least not in North America. Was this common in England at the time? Any idea what it would be called?

  17. I have just watched this episode again, and I found that the story itself was unusually straightforward and easy to understand; not as convoluted as the episode of Morse usually are. However, I was annoyed by the very close up camera shots on people’s faces, distant shots, and several scenes with strange lighting and colours, and viewing through glass or reflections. It is no surprise to discover that it was produced by the same person as episode 3 (Service of All the Dead). Also, Morse himself seemed to be even more grumpy than usual. The absence of the usual supporting characters of the pathologist, Superintendent Strange, and a cameo of Colin Dexter almost made it seem like a different drama episode and not a Morse episode at all. It was as if half the usual ingredients of a Morse episode were away on their summer holidays when it was filmed.

  18. My ‘Summerfields’ educated husband and I are just rediscovering ‘Morse’.Your web-site is a ‘Morse’ viewer’s delight! Thank you for all your detailed information and the insights of your readers.
    I, too, find Peter Hammond’s direction excessive in its use of reflection and mirrors and obscure angles but I did enjoy the last scene with the senior Radfords. A skilful mystery does not require even more obscurity.
    Is the beautiful actress playing Helen Radford wearing gloves as an homage to Vivien Leigh -whom she resembles?
    The actress playing the matriarch of the Radford dynasty has the most expressive eyes in the scene when her daughter-in-law states that she is taking the grandchildren away with her. Like John Thaw, she knows that the eyes most reveal the character being played.
    Once again, thank you.

  19. The matriarch’s name is Isobel.
    The actress who played her was Isabel Dean.

    Just a minor typo that I could not let go.
    And I so appreciate that your forum is open to updating details. 🙂
    Thanks for all you do!

  20. I always remember Isabel Dean from the Ripping Yarn ‘Murder at Moorstones Manor’ in which she appeared with the excellent Iain “McNutt” Cuthbertson.
    Its not on the same intellectual plane as Morse but it is very funny.

  21. The elderly couple (Charles & Isobel) were so old-fashioned, formidable, elegant and eccentric that it was almost as if they were refugees from a Miss Marple episode from the 1950s instead of Morse in the 1980s.

  22. Americans who log in are surely familiar with the scam of over-valuing properties for sales purposes and insurance (and lowballing for taxes), a practice that has been in the news quite publicly of late.
    “La Traviata” is a really ambitious opera for a local group to attempt. It does rest mostly on the vocal equipment of the soprano, of course. Having seen these episodes when they were first on PBS, I find that Morse looks much younger to me now.
    The Hockney was beautifully placed.

  23. @John Cartwright, if you visit some of the smaller villages in Dorset and Somerset, you’ll find folks just like Charles and Isobel. They’re a rare and declining species, but they still exist.

  24. 34:55 at the office: “your best mate is the one who won’t buy you a drink if you’re driving” That’s a piece of art if not any 😉

  25. We were amazed, amused and eventually appalled by extreme overuse of shots thru glass, reflections, tilted angles and too many face closeups. I expected the cameraman to show us Morse’s nose hairs. I commented to my partner that the cameraman was probably told “shoot it any way you want” and decided to try compositions he’d never done before. By the end we laughed every time another bizarre composition was presented. We did like the story and many of the excellent actors. But someone should “shoot the messenger”!

  26. Morse has a dream about Radford in her swimming costume – a unique scene that goes closer to the Morse of the books.

    I never really understood why the two murders in the brewery take place, other than if I can’t have it then you can’t have it (possibly that attitude explains his line to Morse at the end). When the first Radford gets killed it initially looks as if he’s going to be going a different way and then ends up going the way down which he ends up getting hammered.

  27. You may not have been a fan of Peter Hammond’s directing technique, but presumably you approved of the long and gratuitously lingering shot of Lisa Harrow’s half-clad backside as she exits the pool to answer Morse’s questions. Talk about the male gaze; this was more a case of male drool.

    1. Yeah, I was just complaining to my wife about the extreme close-ups in this episode until that shot. No complaints anymore.

  28. Just an observed inconsistency between Morse and Endeavour that this episode throws up.

    Morse is talking to the head of the Farmers brewery and they knew each other at Oxford. The latter talks about “SPARTA” a club for Promotion of Traditional Real Ale that the two had run.

    Although Morse comments that Farmer had been the mainstay of this, it seems at significant odds to Endeavour’s “conversion” to beer in S1 with DI Thursday (iirc)

    A nit pick perhaps but there you go 🙂

    1. Hello Ant. Morse was a heavy drinker at University but became teetotal after the breakup with Susan and joining the army. In the pilot episode of Endeavour he was simply restarting his drinking not starting it.

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