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Alfred James "Alf" Stewart is a fictional character from the Australian Channel Seven soap opera Home and Away, played by Ray Meagher. The character debuted on-screen during the serial's pilot episode on 17 January 1988. Meagher is the only remaining original cast member still present. Meagher has currently played the role of Alf for over 28 years.

Casting

Meagher was cast in the role of Alf after appearing as a supporting character in numerous roles. He was one of only eight older actors that were cast in the serial's original line up.[1] Upon receiving his first regular role Meagher said "It's good for me to play someone like that after all the other blokes."[1] During an interview published on the Channel 5 website, Meagher revealed that he did not audition for Alf and the producers originally saw him for the role of Tom Fletcher (eventually played by Roger Oakley).[2]

Meagher holds a Guinness World Record as the longest-serving actor in an Australian serial for portraying Alf since 1988.[3] As of 2011 he is the only remaining original cast member still present.[4] During flashbacks to the character's past, Alf was portrayed by Max Buckley and Robert Jago respectively.[5][6]

In April 2010, it was announced Meagher was taking a break from Home and Away, so he could travel to London to star in the West End production of Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Meagher said "[Home and Away] have very generously allowed me to do Priscilla in the West End from 20 September roughly until early March."[7] Meagher returned to the West End in October 2011. However, the actor, whose contract was up for renewal in 2012, said he was committed to staying in Home and Away because he still enjoyed the role of Alf.[8] Meagher is the only cast member whose contract entitles to extra holidays.[9]

In February 2013, Meagher told a reporter from the AAP that he had signed a five-year contract with Home and Away. But he is allowed to leave providing he gives six months notice.[10]

Development

In his early years Alf was described as a "good-natured rogue with a finger in every pie."[1] Meagher said that although some people think he is miserable, he sees him as an "upstanding member of the community".[11] He further added "He can be a bit grumpy and gets stuck into people and you have to be quick to catch his apology if he is wrong, but on the whole he is a big softie."[11]

Alf has shown a keen interest in business. Whilst serving on the Surf Club Committee, he also works as a bartender. He also owns a bait shop and takes part in recreational fishing.[12] Meagher often changes dialogue to suit Alf's speech.[9]

Alf's first on-screen relationship is with Ailsa Hogan (Judy Nunn). Writers decided that they pair would marry early on.[1] When filming began heavy rain disrupted filming for two weeks. Nunn almost missed her own wedding due to the producers trying to get her film.[1]

Meagher has stated that Alf's most memorable storyline is when he develops a brain tumour. He had to film the scenes twice, once with his co-star Nunn and the other without. Meagher said that it was an emotional experience.[9]

Alf's relationship with sister Morag Bellingham (Cornelia Frances) has often been strained.[13] There has been a lots of fights and antagonsim between the pair. Morag later softens towards him after they reach an understanding.[13] Frances said: "underneath she will always care for him and look after him." Frances felt it perhaps not the best development because she enjoyed their "wonderful fights".[13]

Alf's life changed when he was reunited with his teenage sweetheart Viv Standish (Maggie Kirkpatrick), who told Alf that she had given birth to their son, Owen, and put him up for adoption.[14] Alf then learned that Owen had died after being attacked by his son Eric "Ric" Dalby (Mark Furze).[14] Alf attends Owen's funeral and when he sees his grandson, he is tempted to approach him, but he decided to take Morag's advice and wait.[14] Meagher stated, "Alf feels a responsibility to this kid, especially since his dad was a ratbag. Alf's also been a bit of a failure in the fatherhood department, so in a way, Eric is a life raft – a way for him to make up for the past."[14]

Storylines

Backstory

Alf grew up in Summer Bay and took an interest in business. His father Gordon and Scottish grandfather Angus also lived in the Bay. By the time he was thirty, he owned the Summer Bay Liquor Store, the Summer Bay Caravan Park, a boat hire service and a yacht brokerage.[1] Alf married a local woman called Martha Baldivis and they moved into the Summer Bay House at the Caravan Park. They had a daughter called Ruth. In 1985, Martha drowned and Alf decided that he could no longer live there and he let the Caravan Park decline, but looked after the house. He met Ailsa and they began dating, despite Ruth's dislike of her. Alf decides to sell the business and home to the Fletcher family.[15]

1988–

Alf first appears in the pilot episode of the show, in which he sells the Summer Bay Caravan Park to Tom and Pippa Fletcher, unable to cope with living there following the death of his wife, Martha, three years earlier. By now Alf is involved in a relationship with general store owner Ailsa, who he marries in 1988, despite the disapproval of his daughter Ruth (Roo) and the revelation that Ailsa was convicted of the murder of her abusive father.

After briefly separating, Alf and Ailsa reunite in late 1988, unexpectedly becoming parents to Duncan the following year. Alf later discovers he has a daughter, Quinn Jackson, from a previous relationship, but she rejects her father. In 2000, Ailsa reveals she also has another child, conceived after she was raped by a prison guard. This child turns out to be Shauna Bradley, who already lives in Summer Bay.

In 2001 Ailsa collapses and dies suddenly as the result of an undiscovered heart condition. Two years later a still distraught Alf has a nervous breakdown and begins seeing visions of his dead wife. It's later discovered he has a brain tumour.

In 2004 Alf discovers he has another long-lost child when he is reunited with his terminally ill former girlfriend, Viv Standish. The revelation leads Alf to realise local bad boy Eric Dalby, whom he loathes, is his grandson. After a difficult start the two build a relationship. The following year Alf is reunited with yet another long-lost family member when Roo introduces him to Martha, the daughter she gave up for adoption in 1988.

In 2008, Alf is left upset when his best friend Sally Fletcher decides to leave the Bay. Sally and her daughter return to the Bay five years later, and she reveals that her daughter is dying and the only way to save her is to go to America for treatment. Alf helps her raise the money for the treatment.

Alf decides to visit the Canberra war memorial with some students when he realises they do not care about ANZAC Day. As he looks around the memorial, he starts to suffer flashbacks to his time in Vietnam. Later that night, the students and Alf sleep outdoors in trenches as part of the war experience. Alf continues to suffer flashbacks and wanders off by himself, before collapsing. He is taken to the hospital and diagnosed with PTSD. He initially refuses to deal with it, but eventually opens up to a therapist.

In popular culture

In 2010 Facebook fan pages caused controversy in the Australian media. One of the pages in question was titled Alf Stewart Rape Dungeon.[16] It was regarded as a smear campaign against the actor and there were calls for the social networking site to be more closely monitored.[16] The pages also featured false YouTube videos of Alf and Meagher's voice threatening to rape other cast members.[17] The page gained 9500 users as fans.[17] However, other sections of 'the media' have pointed out that the 'pro-rape' Facebook page is merely a joke, and not promotional.[18]

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