Alf Stewart has been in Home and Away since day one and is famous for his grumpy, no-nonsense demeanour, but as the Aussie soap legend ties the knot with childhood sweetheart Martha Stewart on Friday 20th March might we see him crack a smile for a change…?
The nuptials bring a love story that has been central to the long-running soap from the beginning full circle, reuniting Alf with his soul mate more than 30 years after she faked her death following a breakdown.
When Home and Away started, Alf was a single dad raising teen tearaway daughter Roo and both were still grieving for Martha’s apparent demise at sea a few years earlier.
“Martha had a borderline personality disorder and staged her own drowning,” says Belinda Giblin of her alter ego’s complicated history, speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com.
“When she was married to Alf she suffered terrible anxiety and fears of abandonment and didn’t think she could cope, particularly with a young child. In those days no one knew about how to treat mental illness, there was no name for it. Martha struggled and thought it was best to leave her family.”
After three decades the backstory was blown apart for the soap’s 30th anniversary in 2018 when it was revealed Martha was still alive, and she eventually returned to the Bay.
The star-crossed couple entered a careful courtship and now the pair finally get a second chance at happiness, at a time when the Bay needs a boost as it reels from the horror of the hospital siege. It’s a moment sure to warm the hearts of fans, and Giblin is especially happy to see her legendary co-star in the spotlight.
“The wedding is a lovely moment,” she smiles. “And it feels significant for Ray Meagher who is in his 33rd year on the show – Alf has been on his own since his second wife Ailsa died. He’s the godfather of the whole community, looking after everybody. He deserves a break and while Martha’s return was difficult to cope with at first, they have realised how much they love each other.
“Alf knows what she has been through and is the only man who would ever understand her. She’s explained her mental illness and now he is her biggest supporter. They’ve known each other probably since they were teenagers, I think they were meant to have been childhood sweethearts. He is her rock.”
Giblin was hand-picked by old pal Meagher for the role, as the pair’s off-screen friendship goes back decades. “We did our first ever TV job together in black and white on a show called Matlock Police in the early 1970s. I was about 21 and I think Ray’s character raped and killed mine in the episode!
“We got on like a house on fire and became great mates but hadn’t actually worked together since then. Home and Away’s producer asked who he wanted to play Martha and he suggested me!”
Giblin has been an enduringly popular face on Australian TV drama for decades, and UK viewers may remember her as super bitch Allison Carr in classic melodrama Sons and Daughters, an imported daytime hit for ITV in the 1980s.
She’s also cropped up in Home and Away before in two small guest roles, as she recounts: “I played Cynthia, ex-wife of Michael Ross who ran the caravan park with Pippa in the early 1990s,” she says. “Don’t ask me to tell you anything about the character because I can’t remember!
“I also came in as a blind lady who rescued Alf from a burning caravan. You could say I saved his life so he could eventually marry Martha years later!”
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