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What! Mr Scott was Black Bitch?

SPACE. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise, her five-year mission to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilisation. TO BOLDLY GO WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE BEFORE.

Do dooo, doo do do do do... and so it goes on. Words that are instantly recognisable and can make you think of a certain TV show without even having to mention its name - Star Trek.

No doubt we all watched it when we were growing up. I can even remember watching the cartoon version of it on Saturday nights in the 70s, and we're all aware of its regeneration over the years. I could never really call myself a fan of the show and will admit to being somewhat bemused at the whole "trekkie" phenomenon, but I'm familiar enough with it to have taken an interest when the whole Star Trek saga took a local twist.

A story came to light on the news at Forth One and here in the Evening News, that the West Lothian Enterprise Committee is hoping to create its own Star Trek attraction in Linlithgow. This has come about because Linlithgow is the birthplace of Scottie, the chief engineer of the Starship Enterprise, who was played by James Doohan.

When I first took in this news, I assumed that the actor James Doohan was born there and then thought it strange that hardly anything had been made of this fact already; this, I thought, would have been highly irregular, Jim.

But no. When I actually paid attention to the details, it turns out James Doohan was actually Canadian-born and it was the CHARACTER he played in the series that hailed from Lithgae, which is what the committee are seeking to mark with a special exhibition in Annet House Museum.

I've been to Linlithgow on a number of occasions, for both business and pleasure, but I will always remember my first visit when we drove past one of Scotland's oldest pubs and saw its name, The Black Bitch.

I couldn't believe what I was seeing! Here I was, plainly a naive city lad, unaware of the history behind a pub and indeed a town, pretty much just a few miles down the road. On first sight, it may appear an offensive name for a boozer and somewhat controversial in this day and age you might say, but thankfully, this is one part of our culture that the right-on politically correct brigade HAVEN'T managed to interfere with.

The town's coat of arms has a black bitch dog against an oak tree, which represents a story not unlike Edinburgh's Greyfriars Bobby.

In this tale it was a black greyhound whose master had been imprisoned on an island in the middle of the loch and sentenced to starve to death. The greyhound used to swim out every day to her master with food and ended up saving his life. The locals took the symbol of the dog's loyalty and bravery as their own and so, people from Linlithgow are proud to be known as "Black Bitches".

Barring the canine one, this is the only place in the world where, if you get called one, then it can be accepted with an element of local pride and identity.

This, of course, means that we can now call Scottie a Black Bitch as he is officially from this historic town. One of the leading writers of Star Trek, Dorothy C Fontana, was approached by the committee and after checking her books, confirmed that this was fact. Albeit fiction, if you see what I mean.

But how did he get from the banks of Linlithgow Loch to team up with James T Kirk, McCoy and Uhura? A quick train into Waverley Station and then onwards to explore strange new worlds? I just hope it wasn't on a day when the signal workers walked out, otherwise he might never have boldly gone anywhere.

I just wish the writers of the show had really done their homework and scripted some authentic East of Scotland dialect into Scottie's lines. What I wouldn't give to hear Scottie going ballistic at Captain Kirk along the lines of "Jesus, Captain. We cannae maintain warp speed much longer. Pressures are approaching critical point - ya big donut, ye!"

But it's testament to the popularity of the science fiction TV show that even the birthplaces of its characters can create such excitement.

As I said I'm not a huge fan and as such the only other character whose birthplace I really know is Mr Spock, who hailed from Vulcan, which is a far-off, remote place where the inhabitants are a strange bunch totally devoid of human emotion - a bit like Dundee.

So if things continue the way they seem to be, this exhibition will no doubt be a welcome bonus to West Lothian's efforts to attract more and more people to its towns. A prominent councillor and well-known Hibbee, Willie Dunn, has even expressed a desire to hold a Star Trek convention in the area.

These conventions are legendary. Trekkies from all over the world converge on one place en masse, often in costume, and attend talks and discussions and buy and exchange memorabilia over the course of a weekend. A bit like the Thomas the Tank Engine specials at Bo'ness and Kinneil, just without the Fat Controller.

So in one sweep we can mix science fiction with Scottish historical fact. And what a right interesting combination it makes.

A Scotsman, born in a small town which dates back to the 12th century ends up boldly going where no man has gone before on a spaceship called the Starship Enterprise.

Now that IS illogical, Captain.

 
 
 

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