Midsomer Mystery

CAN you solve a Midsomer Murders mystery?
Laura Howard is Cully Barnaby in ITV1’s global hit, daughter of Det Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby, played by John Nettles.
But Laura confesses that even though she has played the role since the pilot episode in 1997, she has no idea where the name Cully comes from. And it seems no-one else on the Midsomer team knows either.

Talking to the Chiswick-born actress recently in a beautiful Midsomer pub, she told me. “I hear, and this could be a complete fabrication, that it’s sort of West country.
“But that’s all I know. It’s never really explained in the novels by Caroline Graham which inspired the TV series. I’ve never met any other Cullys or had any letters.”
Jane Wymark, who plays Cully’s mother and Tom’s wife Joyce Barnaby, also admits she’s in the dark. “I don’t know. Nobody knows. When I read the books, before I met Caroline, I thought Cully might be Victorian street slang. A cully is like a thief or pickpocket. I didn’t think that was very likely, but I didn’t know of any other reference for it.
“So I said to Caroline when I met her, ‘Where did the name Cully come from?’ And she said, ‘I’ve always liked it.’ That’s all she said. Probably if you asked her she’d say the same thing. She’s not going to tell.”
According to the Collins English Dictionary, “cully” is 17th century slang of unknown origin for pal or mate.
An internet search also reveals that the name Cully was brought to England by the Normans in 1066. The ancestors of the Cully family lived in Derbyshire, in the area of Cully.

The final film in the current Midsomer Murders series – Four Funerals And A Wedding – is screened on ITV1 at 9pm next Sunday. But it’s not to be confused with a very special event which will be seen on screen next year – Cully’s own wedding.
We’ve yet to meet the chap but he’s played by Sam Hazeldine, the son of Salford-born actor James Hazeldine, best known as Bayleaf in London’s Burning, who died in December 2002 from septicemia following heart surgery at the age of 55.
It was a very poignant piece of casting for John Nettles, as you can read in the MEN tomorrow – along with Laura’s hopes that her TV wedding may inspire her boyfriend to go ahead with the real thing.
Click on It’s Murder In Midsomer for more about the series, links to the locations, an excellent fan site, plus a spot of film and TV history.
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