Johnny Beattie to retire from Scots soap River City

“NATIONAL treasure” Johnny Beattie is to retire from Scottish soap River City after 13 years – and more than six decades in entertainment.

Johnny Beattie's career spanned old-style musical theatre and TV soap opera. Picture: David Moir

Beattie, 88, has played the role of family man Malcolm Hamilton in the soap opera since the show’s launch in 2002, featuring in many of its biggest moments.

His final storyline will centre on Malcolm’s ailing health due to vascular dementia and the impact it has on him and his loved ones.

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Beattie’s last scenes with River City, which is set in the fictional Shieldinch, were filmed yesterday for broadcast in June this year.

He said: “I’ve had a great time on River City over the last 13 years. But when I read about the boy, Zayn, from One Direction leaving, I thought maybe it was time for me to go.

“You see, now that I’m 88, I’m nearly as old as my gags. I’m one of the original River City cast members and I’ve had a wonderful time working with great people who have become lifelong friends. It’s strange to say goodbye to Malcolm but the time is right for me. River City, its cast and crew hold a very dear place in my heart – I’m going to miss them all.”

Beattie’s showbusiness career has spanned variety, stand-up comedy, TV and film roles and quiz shows as well as his panto dames.

His many roles established him as one of the giants of Scotland’s comedy scene alongside Rikki Fulton, Jack Milroy and Stanley Baxter.

The 1960s saw the broadcast of Johnny Beattie’s Saturday Night Show, which ran until 1970, and his screen roles have included the movie The Big Man with Billy Connolly and Liam Neeson, Taggart, Rab C Nesbitt and Scotch & Wry.

River City’s series producer Donald MacKinnon said: “It truly is the end of an era for River City and the Scottish entertainment industry.

“Johnny has been at the heart of the show from the very start and will be sorely missed by all cast and crew.

“A terrific storyteller, Johnny always had a tale to tell about his vast career and was a real joy to have on set.

“Everyone at River City wishes him a happy retirement and he’s always welcome to pop back to Shieldinch anytime.”

Deirdre Davis, who plays Johnny’s on-screen daughter Eileen, offered her best wishes to her “father”.

She said: “Johnny Beattie was a national treasure before he came to River City but through the character of Malcolm Hamilton, he’s created someone truly unique.

“As soon as he appeared on screen, viewers took Malcolm to their hearts. I really don’t want to think what it will be like not working with Johnny again – it’s real heartbreak.”

Beattie, who started out as an apprentice in the Clydeside shipyards, became a popular stand-up comic in the 1950s, working in film, theatre, radio and television.

He was a popular summer season performer at the Rothesay Winter Gardens as well as being a regular at the Ayr Gaiety Theatre throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

His work earned him the title of honorary president of the Scottish Music Hall Society.

In the 1960s, Beattie has his own Saturday night entertainment show on BBC1. In 2007 he was awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours.