WW1 Hebridean memories in BBC ALBA Autumn schedule


The BBC ALBA Autumns schedule, launched on 9th September, features a fabulous series of programmes on World War 1 recollections, focused on Hebridean stories, with the centenary of the Great War’s commencement commemorated this year, 2014. One of the programmes in the series of four centres on Tiree.

Alongside this are documentaries, music, sport, children’s programmes and comedy from some of Scotland’s best production companies.

For the first time, original drama commissioned exclusively for BBC ALBA featured in the autumn schedule with Bannan set to air later this month. Bannan producer Chris Young, recognised for his work on the hit comedy series The Inbetweeners, spoke about the first three episodes to be screened this autumn and his future plans for the programme with filming underway once again of the Isle of Skye.

At the launch of the schedule in  Glasgow, Chris was joined by Donald Shaw, the renowned musician and one of the founding members of the group Capercaillie, and he discussed his work creating the perfect soundtrack for Bannan in his role as musical director for the drama. Debbie Mackay, who plays lead character Mairi Macdonald, was also in attendance alongside one of her co-stars, Dòl Eoin Mackinnon. Documentaries are also once again at the core of the autumn schedule, with Cobhair Chloinne, a programme profiling the doctors and nursing staff of the Scottish Paediatric Retrieval Service, highlighted at today’s event.

Dr Mark Davidson, one of the doctors that helps to transport sick children from all over Scotland to specialist care in Glasgow or Edinburgh, spoke at the launch event alongside Emma Olver, who is part of the production team behind the series. Some highlights from BBC ALBA’s new autumn schedule include:

  • Vets: Gach Creutair Beò – a journey following some of Scotland’s vets as they go about their work tending to a wide range of animals from small to large, the tame to the very wild. Stories of joy and stories of sadness as we meet all creatures great and small.
  • John Hartson: Against the Odds – A profile of John Hartson. In a frank interview that acts as the spine of the programme John recalls the highs and lows of his career and of his battle with cancer.
  • Trusadh – BBC ALBA’s flagship documentary series, Trusadh, is back with a fresh and diverse range of programming. The new series launches with Aiseag (The Ferryboat) which charts the creative, musical journey of a major new commission for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, led by Mary Ann Kennedy.
  • Cobhair Chloinne – profiling the work of the dedicated doctors and nursing staff of the Scottish Paediatric Retrieval Service operating out of Edinburgh and Glasgow with cameras following their work for the first time.  The Paediatric Retrieval Service are at the heart of the NHS bringing sick children from all over Scotland to specialist care in Glasgow or Edinburgh.  We see them retrieve children from Inverness, Mull, Dundee, Shetland and closer to home and witness the joy of recovery and the heartbreak of the death of a child.

WORLD WAR I memories series:

Small Hands in a Big War – The history of the Great War from the perspective of children and young people. Their diaries and letters from WWI tell the story of a global catastrophe in authentic and moving voices.  A mix of drama and archive, the series sets the small truths of living through the war against the global backdrop.  The series is narrated by Angus Peter Campbell with a mix of European languages to be heard via the dramas including French, Italian, German, Russian and Gaelic.

All of these are compelling stories.

  • Gillean Grinn – A little over 100 years after the death of a Scottish soldier, Na Gillean Grinn explores the effects that WW1 had on a Hebridean community. Na Gillean Grinn examines how Hebridean communities suffered intangible – and less obvious – ways for decades afterwards. Beyond the collective grief for 149 of the island’s menfolk, there was the ‘hidden’ effect of the return of surviving servicemen who were broken, both physically and mentally. Simon MacQuarrie’s story is the catalyst for how war affected and shaped North Uist and serves as our access point to a wider story. Analysis of the long shadow cast by WW1 is provided by members of the North Uist community with contributions from notable war historians Sir Hew Strachan, Dominiek Dendhooven and Trevor Royle.
  • HMS Timbertown – After the fall of Antwerp in October 1914, 1,500 men from Winston Churchill’s newly formed Royal Naval Division crossed the border into the neutral Netherlands to evade capture from the German Army. 102 of these men came from the Isle of Lewis. These men were interned in a camp in the Netherlands for the duration of the war. Tying the story together for the first time, Angela MacLean retraces the incredible journey the men took through Antwerp, to the border crossing with the Netherlands and finally to the town of Groningen where the local authorities built wooden huts to house the men in a camp which became known as HMS Timbertown.
  • A Great Adventure – 100 years ago, as the First World War took hold, a group of ordinary Scottish women were preparing for an extraordinary journey. These were the ladies of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals, pioneering female medics and volunteers on a mission to help an Ally in ‘Dire Need’, 2,000 miles away in Serbia in Eastern Europe. It started as a ‘Great Adventure’. It would end up closer to a horror story. The organisation was the idea of Dr Elsie Inglis, one of Scotland’s first female surgeons and a prominent suffragette. A Great Adventure is Elsie’s story, and also the collective story of these remarkable women. It’s a story lost in time but the influence of the SWH on the lives of women there-after was greater than most realise.
  • Cairdeas Cogaidh – Donald Meek follows in the footsteps of his great-uncle John Macdonald from Tiree, who was killed at the Battle of Arras in France during WW1.  John’s story has haunted Donald all his life and in this programme we see how his letters and diary entries from the Front take Donald on a poignant and personal journey to France, for the first time, to the place where John fell.  Amongst John’s letters was also one from his officer, Capt John ‘Jock’ Livingstone Stewart.  He survived the war and Donald follows in his fascinating footsteps, first  to Ghana where he became a renowned vet in the British colonial service and an advocate for education, and then to South Africa where he spent his final years pursuing his interest in education and his hobby of fishing .


  • Bannan  – BBC ALBA’s first drama series tells the story of Màiri MacDonald’s return home to the island  which she deserted eight years ago, leaving her family and the place, its claustrophobia and its customs. She initially returns for the funeral of a family friend but the emotional ties [‘bannan’] see her remain on the island.


  • Gaol@Gael – A brand new comedy series from The Woven Thread, ‘Gaol@Gael’ is a three part comedy starring acclaimed singer and actress Kathleen MacInnes as ‘Muriel Scott’ as she sets up a dating website for Gaels. Gaol@ Gael follows Muriel as she travels across the Highlands and Islands trying to matchmake for the lonely, the broken hearted and the downright weird.


  • Live sport continues to be a popular strand on the channel and this autumn viewers will be treated to live action from the SPFL Championship and extended highlights from the SPFL Premiership; live coverage of selected Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh Rugby matches from this year’s Guinness PRO12 competition; exclusive live action from the Petrofac Training Challenge Cup; live action from Scotland’s 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Qualifiers; live international shinty/hurling when Scotland take on Ireland.


  • Horo Gheallaidh – Special, intimate performances from Celtic Connections including Lunasa, Gria, Cherish the Ladies, Mahotella Queens and Elephant Revival. A unique opportunity to watch world-class artists up close, performing stripped down versions of their songs live on our sofa in a way you won’t have seen them before.


  • De a-nis? – More fun and games with the De a-Nis crew Megan and Derek. ·
  • Seoc – Seoc, a small blue alien befriends three earthlings and together they find out more about the world.  Blending adventure and science they learn together.

Margaret Mary Murray, Head of Service for BBC ALBA, says: ‘Our autumn season presents a range of programmes from emotional documentaries to light-hearted entertainment, engaging children’s series to the best of Scottish sport and we are delighted to be launching the package for BBC ALBA viewers today.

‘The screening of Bannan starting later this month will be another milestone for the channel, marking the first commissioned drama on BBC ALBA since our launch six years ago. Bannan has been warmly received by those who have seen it so far and we hope the audience will enjoy the initial three episodes with more to come next year.

Bannan can be seen as another example of the exceptional work being carried out across Scotland’s creative and media sectors and we are proud that BBC ALBA continues to make a positive contribution to Scottish broadcasting, with 22 independent production companies plus both main broadcasters, STV and the BBC, providing programme content. We continue to work hard, however, to ensure that we build this momentum and use our resources for the maximum enjoyment of audiences across Scotland and beyond.’

Note: The photograph above shows Debbie Mackay, Chris Young and Dol Eoin Mackinnon at the lauch of BBC ALBA’s Autumn Schedule.

· · · · · · · · · · · · ·

Related Articles & Comments

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *