Paul is alive and fishing

FOR someone who has been dead for the last two years Paul Young is looking remarkably well. The 58-year-old actor, who is perhaps better known these days as a fisherman thanks to series like Hooked on Scotland and Hooked on Fishing, laughs as he checks what purports to be his CV published by the Internet Movie Data Base - the film bible of cyberspace - which claims that he passed away on July 15, 2000, in Cheshire, England.

"I haven’t been to Cheshire for some time," he says, noting that it’s not the only mistake on the list of credits under his name. "I didn’t do that... never appeared in that... and I’m sure I would have remembered playing a character called Sgt Cocks," he says scoring through the offending entries.

Thankfully there’s still an impressive list left by the time he’s finished, including parts in Iain Banks’ The Crow Road, Michael Winner’s western Chato’s Land with Charles Bronson, and the parliamentary sitcom No Job For A Lady in which he lined up with the formidable Penelope Keith to play a crusty old Labour stalwart.

However, mention his name now and those who don’t instantly go weak at the knees expecting a quick burst of Wherever I Lay My Hat, immediately think of fishing rods, bait, and the legendary one that got away.

"I say I’m an actor who fishes," says Paul. "I’ve been interested in acting and angling since I was a lad in Joppa and I’ve been lucky to be able to carve out a career with them both."

He adds: "My dad, John Young, was an actor, and in those days the only real opportunity to act in Scotland was in theatre. To do that you had to work in a repertory company and after the war my dad became a member of the Gateway Theatre in Leith Walk.

"My own first contact with showbusiness came when I was about seven and went with him to collect his wages. The lady who managed the theatre - a wonderful lady called Sadie Aitken - spotted me and asked my dad if I’d like to play Tiny Tim in their production of A Christmas Carol? Which I did. It was my first professional engagement and my dad played my father, Bob Cratchet. Ian McNaughton, who went on to direct Monty Python’s Flying Circus, played Scrooge, and I remember it very fondly. But of course in those days it was just a bit of fun."

If that first taste of stage-work took him all the way into town and the sunny climes of Leith - a whole bus ride away - his first bash at angling came much closer to home. He recalls: "When I was 13 I used to fish down at the promenade at Portobello with my pals. We’d fish for flounders until the summer when the mackerel would come. Occasionally we’d get codling but we didn’t eat a lot of them - the old sewage pipe at Seafield, you know."

Educated at Parsons Green Primary and then George Heriot’s, the teenage Paul soon discovered another talent. He had a voice for radio, and it was then too that his mum - who had previously had nothing to do with the world of entertainment - decided to establish Scotland’s first theatrical agency, Scotts, the Scottish Casting Office, Theatre, Television and Screen, in York Place. Hardly surprising then that the work poured in for Paul, and by the time he was 17 and sitting his Highers he was also presenting Round-Up, a weekly kids show on STV. He says: "Because of my love of fishing I had always wanted to do something like marine biology but Round-Up proved so popular that I was contracted to do another 26 episodes.

"That meant taking a year out before going to university. But the programme then ran for four years and I never did get to university."

Instead he "just drifted" into acting, doing odd bits and pieces and, although following in his father’s footsteps might have seemed the most natural thing for him to do, the young Paul took some convincing. In fact, in 1966 he found himself bobbing about the North Sea between Dunbar and the Isle of May, a DJ on the original Radio Scotland, an illegal pirate station.

"I was actually the first ever voice to be heard on commercial radio in Scotland because when we went on air I did the announcement," he says with a touch of pride, and he can still remember those historic words: "‘This is Radio Scotland on 242 metres on the medium wave’. It was a fabulous time even though it could be rough. We had some fair old weather out there and, as the studio was in the stern, if there was a big sea and the back of the ship went down quickly, the turntables would speed up. You’d have Andy Stewart sounding like Pinky and Perky, but people loved it because it was irreverent." It was also where he met his wife, Sheila Duffy, who went on to found Radio Clyde.

"She’s now doing something completely different," he laughs. "She’s a probate genealogist, tracing beneficiaries of contested wills."

After that, and a brief stint in London where he shared a flat with the pre-Sweeney Dennis Waterman, Paul decided that Scotland was the place for him, but being back home didn’t stop his career and he was in demand from film directors, such as Winner, and television producers, including Coronation Street.

But fame of a different kind was to come when, together with his good pal Ricky Walker, he dreamed up the concept of Hooked on Fishing, an angling programme with a difference.

"I don’t think anyone was more surprised by their success and how they appealed to anglers and non-anglers alike. The producer cleverly decided that it shouldn’t be about catching the biggest and the best and me being an expert. Instead we just went somewhere different each week to see what happened. We’d maybe go to Mull to try to catch a salmon, or we’d maybe go to Orkney to do a bit of sea-fishing."

The format worked and four series later Hooked on Scotland hopped channels from BBC to STV where for two years it become Hooked on Scottish before one final move, to the Discovery Home and Leisure Channel which saw it renamed again. Consequently Hooked on Fishing is now in it’s fifth year and screened five nights a week. "While we were at STV we decided that we would film abroad occasionally but now we spend about eight weeks of the year travelling," says Paul. "A fishing rod is like a little magic wand that takes you to places that the ordinary tourist doesn’t get to go to. This year already we’ve been to Argentina, Chile, Florida, Ireland, Norway, and Russia."

He adds: "Sometimes I have to remind myself how lucky I am because when you are just watching your line and the water you could be anywhere. Occasionally you have to zoom out to realise ‘God! This is the Rio Grande in Tierra del Feugo, the most southerly land mass in the world apart from Antarctica and I’m here fishing for sea-trout that could be bigger than 20lbs.’

"Then there was the time I was in Costa Rica and suddenly looked up and became aware that in front of me was the tropical rain forest and above it a volcano throwing out boulders the size of Volkswagen cars every 25 minutes."

However, it was in the waters off Mexico that Paul had his scariest moment fishing. "I don’t have a fear of water but you have to be hugely respectful of it," he says. "And we have had a couple of instances where skippers have pushed their luck. Once, in Mexico, when the Pacific rollers were coming in and towering above us I turned to see this enormous wave thundering towards us. I shouted to the skipper who gunned the boat straight into it, riding it until we tipped over the top with the water breaking down the sides of the boat. It was terrifying as all you can do is stay as low as you can to stop yourself being swept overboard. If the wave had hit us straight on, that would have been the end."

Laughing he adds: "Just a bit different from fishing at the end of the pier at Portobello, eh?"

Hooked On Fishing. Monday to Friday on Discovery Home and Leisure at 3.30pm.

Goblin is a prime catch for the fisherman’s friend

Goblin Ha’ Hotel

Gifford, East Lothian.

Tel: 01620-810 244

WHAT a beautiful day. It’s October 1 in East Lothian and it’s warm and sunny," says Paul Young, deciding that, nice as it is, the traditional restaurant of the Goblin Ha’ Hotel in Gifford loses hands down to the al fresco informality of a table in the spacious beer garden.

"I’m a great liker of fish, as well as just a fisherman," says the actor, who has managed to snatch an hour away from the BBC radio studio in Pencaitland where he is currently recording a crime thriller.

Consequently, like many at lunch time, he’s looking for something tasty, quick, and filling. As such it’s just as well that the menu at the Goblin Ha’ boasts a varied selection of fish as well as curry, lasagne, lamb, and venison.

A quick look through the options and Paul soon settles for the smoked haddock and leek risotto, accompanied by a low-alcohol beer.

And it’s the beer that catches my eye too. Beer-battered haddock with chips, mushy peas, and tartare sauce. After all, what better choice than ‘fish and chips’ for what is basically a pub lunch.

When the food arrives Paul’s risotto is presented in a large, deep bowl. Two substantial haddock fillets rest on top of gooey white rice flecked through with leek. The dish is topped with two thin wafers of cheese - melted in the middle and burned a crisp brown around the edges.

Investigating them suspiciously Paul confirms: "Yes, it’s definitely cheese." However, he seems less than convinced that he should eat them and puts them to one side.

Meanwhile, my ‘fish and chips’ have been put down before me. The fish, fried in a light golden batter that does literally melt in your mouth, is so fresh and white that it could have been caught earlier in the day.

"It’s only when you are faced with a really fresh fish that you realise what fish should actually taste like," says Paul.

He’s right, and the tartare sauce is the perfect accompaniment, although the mushy peas are just a bit too vinegary for my liking.

Working his way through his risotto, Paul comments: "The rice is rich and gluey and the leek tasty. It really is lovely but then haddock always was one of my favourite fish."

Even with slightly inflated prices for what is a pub lunch, the Goblin Ha’ lives up to it’s reputation for good fresh food, and is definitely worth a visit when traversing the east coast.

BILL

Smoked haddock and leek risotto 9.00

Beer-battered haddock with chips, mushy peas, and tartare sauce 7.75

1 x bottle low-alcohol beer 1.50

1 x Ginger beer 1

Total 19.25