THE film chosen to close this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival is a remake of Whisky Galore, the world-famous Ealing comedy based on the true story of a ship that sinks off the coast of a Scottish island during the Second World War.
Its cargo of whisky is washed ashore, a godsend to the islanders who’ve been left unwillingly teetotal by wartime rationing. They race to hide their ill-gotten gains before Her Majesty’s Customs & Excise officers can find it.
As a young copywriter, I loved the original story by Scottish writer Compton Mackenzie. So when a brief came in to make a TV commercial for Tennent’s Lager, I based my script on it and titled the ad Tennent’s Galore. We filmed it up on the north-east coast at Portsoy. Nothing went smoothly. On the location recce, our director scrambled up a cliff to scout a camera position. His producer looked terrified. “Don’t worry,” I said, “if he falls off we’ll get another one.” He looked at me as if he wanted to hit me. Later, one of the crew told me that a month before, he’d been producing a car ad on a cliff-top road in Spain. His director, a famously bad-tempered man called Roger Lyons, became furious with the cameraman who was too scared to climb over the safety barrier to get a low angle shot of the car. Roger Lyons lost his temper and yelled: “I’ll effing well do it myself!” Those were the last words he spoke because he caught his foot on the barrier and fell 100 feet to his death. No wonder my wee joke went down so badly.
Two days before filming, our heroine was stopped at Heathrow Airport as she boarded the plane to Scotland. They searched her and found a stash of cocaine, I can’t say where. That wasn’t the last of our troubles. To film the scene of the ship’s cargo floating into the bay, we had to roll fifty heavy wooden barrels down a sheer cliff path to the beach. This excited the real hero of our film, a talented Border collie, who gave chase. One of the barrels hit his leg and made him lame.
Finally we found a new dog and a new heroine. The ad was a great success with the Scottish public. Much to my surprise, it was nominated for a Bafta award. We were invited to the awards ceremony. Princess Anne was there as well as a lot of famous actors and actresses.
It was the first time advertising agencies had been invited to take part. It was to be the last time. Our ad won the award. I wanted to leave early but Big Les my producer had other ideas. He said “Gonnae give me the Bafta.”
“Why?” I said.
“I just want to swan around for the rest of the night looking famous,” he said, with disarming honesty.
It was a free bar and Big Les took full advantage. Considerably refreshed, he pushed his way into a group photograph of celebrities. He clonked Richard Wilson, the star of One Foot In The Grave on the head with the heavy metal Bafta. When the actor turned round, enraged, Les looked down at him and added insult to injury by shouting Wilson’s catchphrase: “I don’t belieeeeeeve it.”
The following year there was no category for advertising agencies.
We’re all one big, occasionally happy, Hibees family
On Sunday night, some poor soul couldn’t make it to the Hibs Player of the Year Awards so I got called off the subs bench. It was the first time I’d ever worn a suit to Easter Road.
The first person I recognised was Jason Cummings, resplendent in a three-piece suit, with a diamond earstud and his Pirlo barnet starting to grow out over his collar.
He was in great form, going round the tables chatting up the guests. Every time he passed a mirror he would stop and take a wee look at himself.
I found myself sitting next to a polite young man with a bushy beard. After ten minutes of chat, I asked him his name. It was Kevin Thomson, I just didn’t recognise him with all that growth round his chin.
He was intelligent and articulate, with a lot of good stories and I think he has the makings of a good manager when his playing career comes to an end.
Also at our table was a brand new Hibs season ticket-holder, leader of the Scottish Labour Party Kezia Dugdale. If you’ve been paying attention to your Facebook timeline, you might have seen the series of interviews all the Scottish leaders have been having with Gary Tank Commander. The first one was with the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
She was good, taking all his insults with a laugh but Kezia was better. Asked if she would make a better job of running the NHS than Lib Dem Willie Rennie, she said: “I’m not a big fan of Willie.”
Given that she came out publicly just a few short weeks ago, that is a fall-about funny line and it was clearly not rehearsed.
After the speeches – loads of applause for Alan Stubbs, less for Rod Petrie – the awards began. The first up was the Players’ Player of the Year. It was no surprise when John McGinn took the prize.
Soon after came the Player of the Year award. At this point, Jason’s head went up and he stole another wee glance in the mirror. But it wasn’t to be his night. John McGinn won again.
Despite the suits, the posh dinner and the stage, this felt like a family do.
The fact that Hibs’ season could still go either way, from triumph to disaster, lent an air of togetherness to the occasion. My money’s on the Hibs family to have something big to celebrate come May 24. There, I’ve said it.
Long to rain over us
I’VE been singing Purple Rain all week. I can’t get it out of my head. I loved the wee man almost as much as I loved David Bowie and I can’t believe we’ll never see him swagger on to the stage again and cast his spell over us. The most wonderful thing about the internet is that it gives us access to every song, interview and video. So if you want to see Prince at his devastating best, type “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” into Google and wait until the end. He plays the final guitar solo and he absolutely steals the show. You may never see a more blistering piece of fretboard shredding in your life.