Steve Cardownie: Pub trek with Scotty was out of this world

When watching an old episode of Star Trek on the TV I was reminded of the time I took Scotty out for a drink in the High Street. It was back in 1995 and the City Art Centre was hosting an exhibition featuring the hugely popular TV series.

Wednesday, 12th September 2018, 6:00 am
James Doohan and his wife Wende pictured in Edinburgh during a visit in March 1987
James Doohan and his wife Wende pictured in Edinburgh during a visit in March 1987

It featured an accurate reconstruction of the bridge of the USS Enterprise as well as an extensive prop and studio model collection which were exhibits for the first time.

Edinburgh was the first leg of a European tour and attracted approximately 190,000 visitors. It gave me the opportunity to sit in Captain Kirk’s chair – only ­surpassed many years later when I was privileged to sit in the Lord Provost’s chair when conducting a meeting of the city council.

Many of the visitors to the exhibition came suitably dressed and I ­particularly remember two resplendently dressed Klingons (frae Fife) paying a visit to The Jinglin’ Geordie for a pint where the regulars did not bat an eyelid as they fitted right in – until they started to speak in ­Klingon (which was marginally easier to understand than their Fifer dialect) as the bar staff had great difficulty ­deciphering “two pints o’ heavy neebs” spoken in a language originating from outer space.

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Steve Cardownie: Brexit will prove to be beginning of the end for Union

The star personality of the exhibition was James Doohan, the Canadian actor who played the part of Scotty, the Scots engineer on the Starship Enterprise, who visited Edinburgh for a couple of days to attend the City Art Centre to speak about his experience on the set and sign autographs – no selfies in those days!

I was entrusted to host a lunch at The Dubh Prais (Gaelic for black pot) restaurant, now Hewat’s on the Mile, serving top quality Scottish cuisine. Fellow diners soon recognised the Star Trek actor but in true ­Edinburgh style did not “let on” until, at our insistence, he uttered the phrase ­“Captain, the dilithium crystals ­cannae take it”, which was met by a ­spontaneous round of applause from all those present. After he ­polished off his dish of ­saddle of hare we departed to the nearest pub.

The Mitre beckoned and we were soon standing at the bar having a few drinks. Once more Jimmy – as he told us to call him – was instantly recognised and he was delighted to be met with good natured shouts of “Beam me up, Scotty” by almost everyone who passed through the door. Doohan was married three times and had seven children, the last of whom, Sarah was born in 2000, around his 80th birthday.

He had a few health problems in later life, some of which were put down to his lifestyle, which included a fair amount of ­alcohol consumption, but also partly due to injuries he ­sustained in the ­Second World War. He was “immortalised” with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2004 and despite his poor health he was present at the ­ceremony, his last public appearance.

When asked, he told us he was no fan of ­William Shatner, who played ­Captain Kirk, and told us that they were barely on speaking terms.

He said that he was a selfish man who he also regarded as pompous and self-centred and no one on the set of Star Trek had any time for him.

Doohan auditioned for the part in different European accents but when asked what nationality he thought was most appropriate for the part he replied “It’s got to be a Scotsman if he’s an engineer” and that was that.

He said that he loved Edinburgh, the history, architecture, scenery and culture as well as the warmth of the people. He died in 2005, aged 85, but I will always remember that sunny afternoon in the Royal Mile and what a great character he was.

He thoroughly deserved to be an Honorary Scotsman..

Have an aorta scan – it may save your life

I have just returned from the Leith Community Treatment Centre having had an abdominal aortic aneurysm screening at the invitation of NHS Scotland.

Why is this a good thing and what does it entail? Well, the aorta is the main artery that supplies blood to your body. It runs from your heart down through your chest and abdomen but as some people get older the wall of the aorta in the abdomen can become weak and balloon out to form an aneurysm.

This condition is most common in men aged 65 and older, with an estimated one in 20 men of that age group having an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

The NHS informs us that while large aneurysms are rare they can be very serious. As the wall of the aorta stretches it becomes weaker and it could rupture (burst) and this leads to life-threatening internal bleeding which in eight out of ten cases causes death. However, small or medium aneurysms rarely cause trouble but it is important that they are monitored to see if they grow. What’s more, If you have an aneurysm you are unlikely to have any symptoms, which may lead to complacency.

The Scottish AAA Screening Programme invites men for a screening to detect aneurysms early so that they can be monitored or treated if necessary. Any man over the age of 65 can request a scan. Details can be provided by a GP or can be found at or by calling the NHS inform helpline on 0800 22 44 88.

My scan took five minutes and was carried out by Lorna, a vascular nurse specialist who gave me the all-clear then and there, which means that I will not be required to take another.

It is painless, simple and quick and could give you peace of mind – more importantly it just might save your life!

Boundary review a waste of time

The news that the Boundary Commission is recommending that the number of Scots MPs should be cut from 59 to 53 has rightly been met with derision and incredulity.

At a time when Scotland’s voice in Westminster is more important than ever, it beggars belief that the Scottish electorate could see its representation cut as part of the drive to reduce the number of UK MPs from 650 to 600.

The recommendation that one MP be cut from the Lothians would also be hard to swallow but is unlikely to materialise. If Scotland still requires to be represented at Westminster in four years time then the status quo will surely prevail as MPs will have enough to contend with without introducing an issue that will only serve to foster divisions that exist within the Conservative and Labour parties.

Quite simply, the House of Commons will see this as an unwelcome intrusion (to say nothing of self-preservation) and it will fail to muster the necessary votes it needs to succeed, thereby consigning it to the waste paper bin.