Hamish Macbeth

“We are entrepreneurs Lachie Jnr: what care we for the EEC?” Lachie Snr to Lachie Jnr

Filicide. Cannibalism. Substance abuse. Domestic violence. Robbery. Poaching. All at 7.15pm on a Sunday evening.

Hamish Macbeth

Robert Carlyle as Hamish

I’ll put that list into some context: following my interview with Barbara Rafferty I decided to rewatch episode one of Hamish Macbeth, ‘The Great Lochdubh Salt Robbery’. It introduces the village of Lochdubh, located somewhere on the West Coast of Scotland, where the titular local policeman tries to keep order in his own, unique, style.

Before it started the Radio Times called the series “quirky”, which is perhaps too easy a label for something as multi-layered as this.

As well as the playing out of a clever whodunnit, surely the raison d’être for any police drama, we are also introduced to the glorious cast who make up this ensemble piece. It’s near impossible to pick anyone as stealing the show here, although the McCrae’s do get most of the best lines (as they would continue to over the next three years).

So it’s kudos to Robert Carlyle himself for holding it all together as the Northern Constabulary’s finest, staying just on the right side of believability as the mad goings on of Lochdubh conspire to make his idyllic life just that little bit busier.

And I’ll say it again: all at 7.15pm on a Sunday night on BBC1. Of course, it was the clever nature of the script that let them get away with it all – nothing bloodthirsty, graphic or gory about this episode, just the dawning realisation that the entire village has been eating…well that would spoil the surprise.

Special mention should go to John Grieve, in one of his last TV roles before his death in 2001. A star of stage and screen for over 50 years, it was as the canny shipman Dan MacPhail in BBC Scotland’s other enduring, yet sadly increasingly forgotton, hit series the Vital Spark in the 1970s that brought him his greatest fame. His final, lopsided, run after Alice’s car is as sad an ending as you would expect.

Twelve years on and I’m still not sure BBC Scotland has bettered Hamish. I’m now going to have to rewatch the rest of the series to fully remind myself why!

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