Warning: contains Alf Stewart spoilers.
Just because you’ve lost touch with someone doesn’t mean you don’t want to know when they fall into a sinkhole. That the point of Facebook – for keeping an eye on the triumphs and misfortunes of people you once knew but now can’t be bothered to talk to. Soap characters though, aren’t on Facebook. The closest you can get to nosing on their timeline is checking out the front covers of TV listings magazines in supermarket queues to see who’s been getting married/murdered or, commonly, both.
It’s shameful when you think about it. Soap characters are people with whom we probably spent half an hour a day (an hour even for the Australian ones, if you did the decent thing and also caught the lunchtime airing in school holidays), five days a week, for years and years and years. Then adulthood calls and pouf! It’s sayonara Harold, goodnight Madge. Take Alf Stewart of Home and Away. Once, the man was your straw-hatted rock. And now? Did you even bother to tune in for his 60th birthday celebrations in 2005? Thought not.
Assuming that you’ve been an adult with responsibilities that have kept you away from Summer Bay for at least 10, maybe even 20 years now, here’s what Ray Meagher’s Alf has been going through while you’ve been merrily living life without giving him a single thought. It hasn’t all been organising the surf carnival, hunting bunyips, running the annual sausage sizzle and visiting Donald Fisher in the Whitsundays you know; Alf’s had it rough. And the very least you flamin’ mongrels can do is read about the time when…
He almost died in a sinkhole
A simple trip to Summer Bay High to discuss the delinquency of Alf’s grandson Ryder ended in disaster. A massive gas explosion in 2018 opened up a sinkhole under the school, trapping Alf and his daughter Roo. Unable to move under the rubble, Alf had a heart attack and thought his time had come, so he confessed to a dreadful secret: Roo’s mother Martha, thought drowned three years before Home and Away started in 1988, was still alive!
He was an unwitting bigamist
That whole Ailsa marriage? Not legit. Alf learned in 2018 that due to her personality disorder, his first wife Martha had faked her own death by drowning, leaving him and their daughter Roo. That made his subsequent marriage to Ailsa (curly hair. Had served time for the murder of her abusive father during which she was assaulted and impregnated by a prison guard and then gave the baby up for adoption, died of a heart attack in 2000, just to remind you) accidentally unlawful. Alf married his original wife Martha for a second time in 2020, the old romantic.
He almost died of a brain tumour
For a while in 2003, Alf started acting weird. Some thought he was developing Alzheimer’s like his dad (also played by Ray Meagher in this flashback to Alf’s childhood), but no, it was a brain tumour. The tumour was pressing down on the part of Alf’s brain that made Judy Nunn, who played his dead second wife Ailsa, reappear as a recurring guest star in a multiple episode run. Ghost Ailsa kept trying to lure Alf to join her on the other side, culminating in a mid-brain surgery hallucination in the form of an It’s a Wonderful Life homage in which Ailsa showed Alf what Summer Bay would be like if he’d never been born.
He negotiated his sister’s hostage release from Nigerian rebels
In 2000, Alf’s little sister Celia was spreading the word of the Lord as a busybody missionary over in Nigeria when she and her companions were kidnapped and held hostage. Who sorted it? Not an international government body, but bait shop owner and president of the surf club: Alf. Off-screen, Alf ponied up the $50k it took to get Celia out, leaving him in a sticky financial situation back at the caravan park.
He almost died in an earthquake
This was back in 1996, so you may actually have been there for this one. Summer Bay was rocked by some tectonic plate-shifting, which destroyed Alf and Ailsa’s general store and triggered his dicky ticker giving him one of his many heart attacks.
He (very probably) had sex with his niece
Don’t judge Alf for this one, or his niece. They weren’t to know. (That said, considering the sheer volume of secret relatives returning decades after being given up for adoption in Aussie soaps, it would be sensible for any and all acts of sexual union to be preceded by a DNA test.) When the daughter a 15-year-old Colleen had given up for adoption arrived back in the Bay in 2003, now a grown-up named Maureen, she hit it off with Alf and eventually moved in with him. When he wanted to propose marriage, she got cold feet and left town. Five years later, a dug-up time capsule revealed that Colleen was the product of an affair between Alf’s dad and her mum, making Colleen Alf’s half-sister and Maureen… his niece. We won’t speak of this again.
He carried the Olympic torch
Okay, this was actually pretty nice for old Alf. Initially his feelings were hurt when Summer Bay High principal Donald Fisher was selected among the local dignitaries to carry the 2000 Sydney Olympics flame, but after some shenanigans, Alf got to jog that little burner right on through the Bay too.
He went to prison for nine months (and then again for nine weeks)
Following a nasty mayoral campaign, Alf was framed for embezzling money from the surf club by his dirty tricks-playing opponent Mayor Josh, who was trying to get rich from a development project that would destroy Summer Bay. Alf was wrongly convicted in 2006 and went to prison for nine whole months before his name was cleared. (Thus allowing actor Ray Meagher to star as mechanic Bob in the stage musical of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.) Just four years later in 2010, Alf went back to prison for nine weeks after being framed for the murder of Penn Graham (which allowed him to return to the musical for its London run).
He discovered the existence of not one but four surprise grandchildren
Literally all four of Alf’s grandkids were either kept secret from him or re-entered his life years after being given up for adoption. There are probably more out there, half a dozen other wayward teens who need Alf’s steady hand and moral guidance. First there was Roo’s daughter Martha, the product of a teenage pregnancy and given up for adoption. (She briefly got viewers’ knickers in a twist by becoming a pole dancer). Then there was Bryce, the son of Alf’s estranged son Duncan, who didn’t tell Alf that Bryce existed until the kid was five years old because Alf didn’t approve of Bryce’s mother Caroline. Then came tearaway Ryder, the son of Alf’s surprise American daughter Quinn, who’d been the product of a fling he’d had with a nurse during the Vietnam War. And finally came Eric/Ric, son of Alf’s surprise dead wrong’un son Owen, the product of a teenage relationship Alf had with Viv “The Guv” Standish (judging by her name, a professional darts player). Owen has been born in secret and given up for adoption. The Alf genes are strong.
Additional Alf events
- In 1998 Alf got into trouble at the caravan park for letting a blind woman drive his car (Sidenote: Belinda Giblin, the actor who played the blind woman now plays Alf’s resurrected first/current wife Martha)
- In 2000 Alf’s home was destroyed in a mud slide
- In 2005 Alf turned 60 and Sally Fletcher gave a lovely speech at his birthday party
- In 2009 Alf went on a shark hunt after a severed hand was found in the Bay
- In 2010 Alf was traumatised by the Summer Bay Race Riot
- In 2012 Alf caught Malaria helping to build a school in Thailand with Sally and Milco
- In 2015 Alf suffered PTSD from fighting in the Vietnam War
- In 2017 Alf heroically rescued a badly burned Marilyn from a bush fire. Bravo, sir, bravo.
Home & Away currently airs on Channel 5 in the UK.