A NATIONWIDE appeal has been issued to help track down missing episodes of classic Scottish television series - as it emerged they had been all but wiped from the archives.
The British Film Institute hopes to track down long-lost episodes of programmes like Para Handy, The One O’Clock Gang, Dr Finlay’s Casebook, The Adventures of Francie and Josie and Garnock Way - the forerunner of Take The High Road on STV.
As with other classic TV series such as Doctor Who, Dad’s Army, Till Death Us Do part and Top of the Pops, there is no record of many episodes o these shows anywhere.
Now the BFI, which runs Britain’s national film and television archive, wants people across Scotland to search attics, basements and even their garden sheds.
This the first time the BFI, which runs a Missing Believed Wiped campaign in the hope of tracking down missing material, has issued an appeal relating to some of the best-known Scottish TV shows which are poorly represented in the archive.
The Filmhouse cinema in Edinburgh is hosting a special event in December to help promote the appeal, which will include a screening of a recently-discovered drama starring a young Sean Connery, an episode of It’s Lulu and a previously-lost episode of Doctor Who.
BBC chiefs recently revealed that nine previously-missing episodes of the long-running sci-fi series, starring second Doctor Patrick Troughton, had been recovered in Nigeria - 45 years after they were last seen on TV.
Many British TV series were wiped or destroyed shortly after their original broadcast, either for cost-cutting reasons or by mistake.
STV has no full programmes of the Adventures of Francie and Josie, which ran between 1961 and 1965, while just one episode exists of The One O’Clock Gang, which ran from 1957-64. All episodes of the original Para Handy series which the BBC broadcast in 1959-60 are missing. Of the 191 episodes of Dr Finlay’s Casebook made between 1962 and 1971, just 68 have survived.
Dick Fiddy, co-ordinator of the BFI’s Missing Believed Wiped campaign, which has been running for more than 20 years, said: “Every year sees long-lost episodes and behind-the-scenes footage returned to the BFI by members of the public. Sometimes they buy them at jumble sales or discover that a member of their family worked on a series and kept episodes for posterity.”
Scottish film and TV expert Jon Melville, editor of the Reel Scotland website, helped persuade the BFI to focus on TV shows produced in Scotland as part of its campaign.
He said: “I think it would be a surprise to most viewers that many series are so poorly represented in the archives.
“There’s a general assumption that programmes are kept forever and wheeled out for repeats every few years, but even a still-popular series such as Dad’s Army doesn’t exist in its entirety.
“When colour TV was first introduced in the 1970s it was assumed that nobody would want to watch black and white recordings. With no such thing as VHS or DVDs, there was no easy way for the BBC or STV to make money from their programmes so it made sense to record over them or wipe them. As a TV fan I find it heartbreaking so much is missing, but I can understand some of the reasoning from a business perspective.
“It’s quite possible people have some of these episodes at home, particularly if a member of the family worked on a programme.
“It has been known for directors to have copies of their programmes recorded for posterity and to be put in the attic for the future. Some old Doctor Who tapes even turned up at a car boot sale in New Zealand, so these things can pop up anywhere.”
Staff at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery discovered the poor state of the archives of classic television shows from north of the border while they were researching the comedy exhibition Tickling Jock, which covers the golden age of Scottish comedy up to the mid-1970s.
Exhibition curator Imogen Gibbon said: “We’re delighted to hear of a national appeal for footage of these much-loved shows.
The information gathered for the exhibition was obtained from published accounts and memories of fans - there was little surviving footage to demonstrate the wealth of Scottish variety performers who moved onto our TV screens from the 1950s.
James Rice, programmer at Filmhouse, added: “We hope we can raise awareness about the number of Scottish series still missing and would urge anyone who knows of old cans of film or videotapes gathering dust in the attic to check them out.
“If any classic programmes are returned before December we hope we can show them at the event.”
Tickets for the Missing Believed Wiped event at the Filmhouse in Edinburgh on 1 December are due to go on sale in the next few weeks.