Beechgrove gardening guru Jim McColl retires after 41-year run

Jim McColl was at the helm of the BBC Scotland show when it began broadcasting in 1978. Picture: BBC
Jim McColl was at the helm of the BBC Scotland show when it began broadcasting in 1978. Picture: BBC
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He has been a familiar face on one of Scotland’s longest-running television programmes across five decades.

But Jim McColl is about to bid a final farewell from the celebrated gardening show Beechgrove.

The garden guru, who was at the helm of the BBC Scotland show when it began broadcasting in 1978, has cited a nerve disorder for his decision to call it a day at the age of 84.

McColl will tell viewers he has been receiving treatment to deal with “a neuropathy thing with my hands” which has left him struggling to perform simple tasks like button up the top button on a shirt.

Colleagues today paid tribute to the “cultural icon,” who began the show, initially known as The Beechgrove Garden, by digging up a patch of land at the back of the BBC’s Aberdeen studios.

Ayrshire-born McColl was honoured at the Royal Television Scotland Awards in 2016 to mark the broadcast of 1000 episodes of the show.

Speaking during his final show tonight, which goes out at 8pm, McColl will say: “It is time I retired not because I have lost any interest in gardening or my enthusiasm for gardening but just because getting old. I’ll be 84 next birthday – so things are going wrong.

“In the sense that if I get down on my knees, I’m not sure I can get back up again. I have to have something to lean on.

Most importantly I have a neuropathy thing with my hands. I have no power in my fingers. I have no grip. It has just been gradually getting worse.”

Although fans of the programme were kept in the dark about McColl’s condition, some gardening experts had noticed that the broadcaster had been holding some tool awkwardly.

He will also say: “One of the things you want to do when you are showing off on telly, is you want to do it properly.”

Carole Baxter, McColl’s long-time co-presenter, said: “I’m going to miss Jim after working with him for all these years but this is an appropriate time to celebrate his career.

“He is a great gardener and presenter. He shares his wealth of gardening knowledge in a way which engages people at all levels of gardening expertise from none to the professionals.”

Gwyneth Hardy, producer of Beechgrove, said: “ It’s been a big decision, not taken lightly for Jim as he is genuinely passionate about communicating his knowledge of gardening.

“He said to me recently that, gardening is like breathing for him - it’s an everyday activity.

“I’ve worked with Jim for over 20 years and it has been a genuine privilege and an honour to work with a real Scottish cultural icon, who doesn’t see himself in that way, Jim thinks that there’s nothing unusual in what he does.

“This makes Jim pretty unique, he has no ego, what you see is what you get and the audience love him for it.

“That said, even cultural icons have to retire sometime and as Jim will be 84 at next birthday then it’s not unreasonable that he’s thinking of no longer being on our screens. He really has given half a lifetime of service to Beechgrove and our loyal viewers.”

McColl’s departure has emerged a week after Jackie Bird revealed she had bowed out of presenting Reporting Scotland after 30 years.

BBC Scotland director Donald MacKinnon said: “Many thousands of gardeners have been inspired and coached by Jim via The Beechgrove Garden over many years and on behalf of them all, and also for other viewers who simply love him for his knowledge and warmth.”