BBC Scotland and BBC One Scotland and BBC Two Scotland sketch show from Robert Florence and Iain Connell. 22 episodes 2009 – 2019.
Robert Florence and Iain Connell write and perform this sketch show set in a fictional Scottish location that somehow seems eerily familiar. Burnistoun has its own newspaper, furniture store, gym, pub and all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant, radio station and even an ice-cream van.
Characters include Uncle Willie the man who insists on having his own funeral before he dies, wannabe girl-band singer Jackie McGlade who can make any tune sexy except football songs, and John and Terry two pub pals who insist they do not fantasize about each other sexually.
Other Burnistoun characters include disgruntled serial killer The Burnistoun Butcher, and snippy siblings, Paul and Walter, who share high drama inside their ice cream van.
The sweet coming of age film, written and directed by Bill Forsyth and set in the new town of Cumbernauld, was released four decades ago on April 23, 1981.
Then, it felt like a story of our times and gave Scottish life a lighter, more modern feel. A dreamy synth soundtrack unfolded over scenes of fresh housing, concrete walkways and wide open spaces shaped by the promise of a new way of new town living.
The sun always seemed to be shining – or setting – on this place where pretty girls in cool clothes played football and did science experiments at a gargantuan comprehensive, the real-life Abronhill High. Boys were gangly geeks, children were more grown up than the teachers and little sisters were the boss.
Dee Hepburn as Dorothy and John Gordon Sinclair as Gregory in the 1981 classic movie, Gregory’s Girl. It was released 40 years ago today. PIC: Contributed.
For those who saw the film as a kid in the early 80s – possibly on one of the first VHS tapes to come into the house – it seemed to mark a moment. Forty years on, the same still seems true.
Dr Jonny Murray, Senior Lecturer in Film and Visual Culture at Edinburgh College of Art, said: “For many people from a certain generation there is an undying affection for Gregory’s Girl mainly because, for many of us, it was everyday Scottish life as we recognised it put on a cinema screen.
John Gordon Sinclair as Gregory, the gangly schoolboy who got his girl in the end. PIC: Contributed.
“You have the pleasure of watching the film and being able to recognise this incredibly imaginative and humorous depiction of how we lived our lives.”
Medic turned critic, John Quin recalls his time at Glasgow Royal Infirmary in the early 80s in an exclusive extract from his new book, Dr Quin Medicine Man
By John Quin
Glasgow has had a gang problem for years, razor boys like the Tongs and the Fleet. There’s maybe a hundred or more with daft names like the Sighthill Mafia, the Young Shettleston Tigers, the Carmyle Tahiti. Back in the 80s the top gangster was Arthur Thompson. He might nail you to a floor. Drug rivalries made the city ripe for turf wars.
The Doyle family came in as a group package after their house was firebombed. This was part of an ongoing gang feud now known as the Ice Cream War, a conflict that arose around local heroin sales. Ice cream vans would ramble around the meaner estates selling 99s, ice cream cones embedded with pillars of chocolate flake. But they’d also sell you a few bags of scag and a yellow plastic ‘sin bin’ full of used needles nicked from the hospital. The director of Gregory’s Girl, Bill Forsyth, made a movie that chimed with the madness. He named the picture (with dark irony) Comfort and Joy.
I arrive for the morning shift just after seven a.m. to carnage. What were white coats on the backs of my colleagues are now black rags stained with soot. Most of the Doyle family died of smoke inhalation. Maybe about five of them made it to A+E first before succumbing in ITU. I meet my friend Paul at the handover as we swapped shifts, his face smeared with black stains. He looks shell-shocked, exhausted, his pupils large, his sleepless eyes heavy:
“It wouldn’t have been so bad but we had to repeat lots of the bloods. We filled out the forms saying here’s blood from a Mr. J. Doyle. But then we realised they were called Jim and Johnny and Joe. And so we had to do them all over again.”
Some nights I’d cross the car-park in the dark and get back to my room in the residences around two in the morning and play Sons of Pioneers by Japan and stare out at the empty M8 with its flashing yellow signs warning of ice, its slick surface brightly lit by the overhead gantries. Sons of Pioneers, the hungry men. I thought of myself as one of those hungry men, hungry for action. One month in country and I was getting used to it, getting into it. Being in A+E felt similar to being in the jungle under fire. I saw Big Pat, my senior colleague, was another Martin Sheen figure, another Captain Willard who had been in firefights, had ran point more times than he could care to mention. Pat was the guy who shouts ‘fire in the hole!’
And me? I was more like that wired no-nothing teenager from some South Bronx shithole. I came from a slightly tamer variant of the Wild West known as Westwood, East Kilbride: a ‘new’ town famed for its roundabouts. Polo-mint city.
I looked out at the motorway and its shadows and felt the early hours drag by. Watching the occasional lonely car zip west through the rain I knew I should try to sleep but my mind kept going over and over the craziness I’d seen earlier that day. A wee girl of seven with 80 per cent burns, a sight I’d never want to see again.
A+E was my war zone and the trips down there were an adrenalised high away from the steadiness of my ward, my boat if you like. I’d have that line of Captain Willard’s buzzing in my head every time I’d escape the hole, the hell of Casualty and get back to the wards or my kip overlooking the motorway, my hootch: never get out of the boat. I resolved to spend as much time as I could on my own boat: the ward in the block high above A+E.
A+E was like the sea, unimaginable in its fury at times. John Berger compares a doctor’s role to being not dissimilar to that of one of Joseph Conrad’s Master Mariners. But I could see how as a mariner you could become lost and desensitised, and I got a sense of how you could even become despairing, like Pat, thrashing out. Ultimately you might become a total degenerate like Colonel Kurtz, a Harold Shipman figure deciding arbitrarily who would live and who would die.
I would not become a consultant A+E doctor.
That kid, that wee girl. What had I just seen? Something I’d never visualised before and hope would never see again. But I’ve never been able to forget her image. What I saw was seared into my brain. When we see something horrific (something we’ve never come across even in photographic reproduction or TV or the movies) the retina receives the image and relays it the brain where we try to make sense of what has just happened. But I couldn’t make sense of this: not at first.
I’m standing in one of those jaundiced corridors of A+E about to clerk someone in. I’ve got my paperwork in my hands. And then there is a palpable sense of fear. People are running. Then she swept past me on a trolley fast on her way to Room Nine and the paediatric resuscitation team. There was a frantic air, a buzz of panic, and a sudden pallor in the faces of those who would try to save her. I saw the scarlet anger of her injuries. Both of her legs were bright red, this I remember. More of those black soot stains too that reminded me of the Doyle family, stains on her arms, stains on the white sheets. Even now I realise that I have been suppressing something. This is how we deal with true horror. How we try and forget the truly awful detail. But now I remember it all. The red colour was her legs and it extended upwards; the red line stopped on her tummy. I saw something you should never see. And I knew she would die. Here was a child in great suffering. And me? I stood paralysed in uncontrolled pity.
I knew now too that I could never become a paediatrician.
But A+E was, in many ways, less of a Coppola madhouse, at times it was much more like a Mike Leigh movie: a Mike Leigh movie starring some of the saddest dafties on the planet. Bampots like those vacant-faced junkies who injected their femoral arteries with temazepam. They would then look down in appalled wonder at the mottled, marbled, pre-gangrenous appearance of their leg and say: aye, just lap it aff doctor.
Dr Quin, Medicine Man by John Quin is published by Biteback Publishing
Clare Grogan was a waitress at the Spaghetti Factory in the West End – where Stravaigan is now – in 1980 when she was discovered by director Bill Forsyth, who cast her alongside members of the Glasgow Youth Theatre in Gregory’s Girl. Shortly afterwards, her band, Altered Images, signed a record deal for their debut LP, Happy Birthday.
Altered Images went on to tour and release music until 1984 when Clare went solo. She has continued her acting and performing career, adding television presenting and writing a children’s novel, Tallulah and the Teenstars, about a girl who forms a pop band.
I have travelled the world and although I’m biased, I think Glasgow has an amazing amount to offer. The buildings are spectacular, the arts, music and culture scene is incredibly diverse and inclusive. And the curries are the best.
My daughter Elle asked me when she was little if everyone in Glasgow knew each other – I explained that people in Glasgow are the friendliest people I’ve ever come across. We try to keep that flag waving in London where we live.
My earliest memories here are of growing up in Hill Street and being afraid of the Art School building around the corner. I remember my great aunt Winnie playing the organ at St Aloysius Church and watching films sitting on my mum’s knee at the ABC cinema on Sauchiehall Street.
Our neighbours, the Capaldis, gave me and my sisters Margaret and Kathleen chewing gum – which we were not allowed. I also remember my Dad’s spag bols. And new shoes from Clarks at the start of every school term.
I had my first cappuccino in Cafe Gandolfi – still one of my favourite places to meet and eat.
I also love the Kelvingrove Gallery – my parents took us when we were little and I go every year. It’s particularly amazing if someone is playing the organ.
I love the Centre for Contemporary Arts and I love the Citizens Theatre – where I saw my first naked man!
I can’t leave out the No 59 bus…don’t know if it’s still a thing, but it took me everywhere I needed to go and I had the best laughs at the back of the bus on it.
When I think of Glasgow I think of crossing the Kingston Bridge and looking both ways down the Clyde.
It’s still one of my favourite places to shop and I still love running occasionally to all the corners of Bellahouston Park where I used to run when we moved to the Southside.
I love Glasgow every which way – it’s in every bit of me.