Time finally called on Local Hero pub as owner revamps legendary film bar

It starred as a friendly, smoke-filled Scottish pub where the large drams and pints of McEwans flowed all night long.

Now, time has finally been called on the pub that featured in some of the best-loved scenes of Scottish film classic Local Hero, almost 40 years ago.

Owner George Wood has been given permission to turn the pub into a licensed cafe and flat, with the curved bar that was designed for the film to be removed.

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The loss of the pub was met with some resistance locally, given the pub’s film heritage. Resident Rachel Kennedy believed that converting the historic pub would be a “loss” to Banff.

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In a letter to the Banff and Buchan area committee, she said: “Its unique history relating to the iconic Scottish film Local Hero makes it a key focus for much-needed tourism in the area.

“If this was to end, it would be a loss to the town.”

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The 18th Century inn, which is a Grade C listed building, was used for interior shots of The MacAskill Arms in the 1983 comedy that pits the fictional village of Ferness against the ambitions of a Texan oil firm.

While The Ship’s role was little known until a few years ago, one of the film’s best-loved scenes was shot amongst the beer pumps and optics of the Banff pub.

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Denis Lawson as Gordon Urquhart (left) and Peter Riegert as Mac (right) in the fictional Macaskill Arms, with the scene filmed in the Ship Inn in Banff.

In a late-night reflective moment, oil executive Mac, who is reassessing his life following his brief but enlightening time in Ferness, asks the pub’s landlord, Gordon Urquhart, if he fancies a life swap, with the publican’s wife Stella to be included in the exchange.

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“I’d make a good Gordon, Gordon,” the American says.

Another scene shows locals having an enthusiastic whipround of 10 pence pieces so that oil executive Mac, slightly awkward in his suit, can make a transatlantic call in the red phone box outside.

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Although the film features in a number of Scottish film location guides and Local Hero fan sites, Mr Wood claimed the links to the business had not brought in any real business.

The Ship Inn in Banff is up for sale and will be sold alongwith its new planning permission for a flat and cafe bar. PIC: geograph.org/Leslie Barrie.
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Mr Wood told The Scotsman: “I have been here for 14 years and I could probably count on two hands the number of people who have come in because of Local Hero. It was never a big tourist attraction.”

He said the pub was up for sale and would be sold with the newly-acquired planning permission.

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Mr Wood’s original plan to turn the pub into two flats was originally rejected by councillors given the impact of the loss of the inn would have on the town’s tourist trade, history and character.

As Mr Wood came back with a proposal to create a flat and a cafe bar, he won the backing of councillors this week.

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Committee chairwoman councillor Doreen Mair supported the new chapter for the famous inn.

She was reported to have said: “If the cafe operator or owner was to build on its reputation as being part of the Local Hero film, especially with the 40th anniversary coming up, I think that would be a good thing.”

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In nearby Pennan, the red phone box which starred in the film will remain in use after a successful local campaign to save it from being removed by BT.