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.
More Midsomer Murders blog stories


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3 responses to “Midsomer Mystery

  1. C J Adams

    Reference the origin of the Christian name “Cully Barnaby”. My family all come from S/Northant’s, Buckinghamshire, and Oxfordshire. Cully is a local nickname for a village girl dating back to Anglo-Saxon times. Whereas girls from the town were often literate and well-bred, village girls seldom were; consequently, if a townie boy fell in love with a village girl he was duty-bound to inform his parents that she was a cully-a village girl-before he asked her to marry him. His parents then had the right to approve or disapprove of the marriage, dependent on her parents social status in the village. Her parents had no say in the matter, of course, because in the eyes of the townies they were “country bumpkins”. Ironically, village girls were usually good wives and mothers, and few townie boys who did marry “cullies” seldom regretted doing so.Certainly not my grandfather, the Reverent William “Gardener” Adams, who married Fanny Barton a “cully” from Tingewick Buck’s in 1920, and enjoyed a 70 year marriage, produced 15 legitimate children, and at the last count 10 illegitimate children…and the reason why he was called “Gardener” is because he had a bicycle and went from bed to bed!

  2. gerard o'dwyer

    I think Cully is a good daughter to Tom. You have your mother’s eyes and nose. You are so smart and sexy and charming and most beautiful woman i have ever seen.

  3. Author Graham may say she’s “always” liked the name because, like most baby boomers, she watched the “Lassie” television show in which “Cully” was the older friend (in his late sixties at least) of Timmy and the Martins who owned the next farm over from theirs in Calverton. His name is Cully Wilson in the show, which ran from 1954 through 1974. To “cull” is, of course, also a verb that means to “gather” or “glean” data from a source.

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