How inspiring it is to see someone transform what might have been a discouraging setback into a rewarding career, especially if he has already enjoyed great success in a different field.
I first saw Robin Ellis in an episode of Granada Television’s wonderful Sherlock Holmes series starring the late Jeremy Brett. (If you haven’t seen Jeremy Brett’s intense and nuanced performances as Sherlock Holmes, I recommend that you do so. I believe Jeremy Brett was put on this earth to play that part.)
The episode I saw on the fateful night, “Shoscombe Old Place,” dealt with a racing stable owner in financial straits, but the show’s plot was of secondary importance.
“That’s ROBIN ELLIS!” declared one of the viewing party, a lady of my parents’ generation.
“Who’s Robin Ellis?” said I, not at that moment terribly impressed, because the character was boorish and uninteresting to me.
“POLDARK!!!” was the response.
At the time I knew of Poldark only as a Masterpiece Theater offering whose praises I had heard my parents sing, and whose name had sounded indecipherably odd to my childish ears.
After the BBC finally released Poldark on DVD in 2008, I had the pleasure of seeing the entire series for myself.
Now I get it.
Poldark comes from a richly textured series of novels by Winston Graham. The title character, Captain Ross Poldark, returns from fighting on the losing side in the American Revolution to find life in his native Cornwall irretrievably altered. The woman he loves is engaged to another man, his father is dead, and his family estate is in sad disarray. Also, Ross himself has changed. Inspired of the American Colonies’ meritocratic social mobility, Ross chafes at Britain’s rigid class structure. He feels a deeper sympathy for Cornwall’s working poor, and, although he is a natural leader among his peers, he finds himself increasingly out of step with the local landed gentry.
At 6’3”, and blessed with a rich baritone voice, strong cheekbones, and a magnificent head of thick, wavy hair, Robin Ellis as Ross Poldark was everything a girl could want in a chivalrous late 18th-century television hero. His characterization blended romantic masculinity with thoughtful intensity and a stubborn impulsiveness that often got Ross into trouble.
Gripping storylines, strong performances by Ellis and the rest of the cast, and Cornwall’s breathtaking scenery made the 1975 – 77 Poldark series wildly successful. It was shown in more than 40 countries, and on video it has outsold every BBC costume drama except for the 1995 Pride and Prejudice.
Poldark continues to inspire such passion in its fans that they create tribute videos such as
If you have not seen Poldark, I strongly recommend it as an engaging drama full of complex, realistic characters. The series is available on DVD as well as on YouTube.
Robin Ellis’ career has featured many wonderful performances, especially in Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier, but it is as Ross Poldark that he is best known. (His fame in the late 1970s was so great that he once had to duck out of a theatre via a back exit in order to avoid a crowd of love-struck Irish schoolgirls.)
Now 72, Ellis resides with his wife in the south of France. He continues to act occasionally — most recently in a cameo role in an upcoming remake of Poldark — but he has built a new career for himself as a cookbook author and blogger.
Ellis professes a decades-long love of cooking, inspired by his mother’s resourcefulness in lean post-war Britain and nurtured by his experiences cooking for himself as a young adult. After being diagnosed with Type II diabetes in 1999, Ellis decided to fight the disease head-on by changing what he prefers to call his “style of eating” rather than his “diet.” Kitchen experimentation led to culinary successes, which in turn led his friends to suggest that he collect his recipes and compile them into a book.
Although initially resistant to that idea, in part because of the glut of cookbooks already on the market, Ellis began writing down his “very simple” recipes. A fortuitous connection with the right publisher led to the creation of Ellis’ first cookbook, Delicious Dishes for Diabetics: Eating Well with Type 2 Diabetes, in 2011. The first book was so well received that Ellis published a second, Healthy Eating for Life: Over 100 Simple and Tasty Recipes, in 2014.
Today, one can keep up with Robin Ellis through his blog, http://robin-ellis.net, on which he offers recipes (illustrated with his wife Meredith’s photographs), reflections on recent World War anniversaries, and slice-of-life stories about rural southern France, featuring pottery fairs, farmers’ markets, village fêtes, and hedgehogs, among other topics.
He is on Twitter at @RobinPoldark.
Quote for Today
“Ross Poldark was a man outside his time. He was exceptional because he dealt in human beings rather than establishment creeds. He was willing to break barriers down. He cared about his miners and knew conditions were bad because he went down into the mines. That in itself was unusual. He was often ashamed of his fellow gentry, of their atrocious behavior. His marriage to Demelza proves that he was prepared to go against convention and marry out of his class.” — Robin Ellis (IMdB)