Why BBC’s Call the Midwife was an insult to the Hebrides – Brian Wilson

The Call The Midwife Christmas special saw the midwives head to Lewis and Harris (Picture: Gareth Gatrell/BBC/Neal Street Productions)
The Call The Midwife Christmas special saw the midwives head to Lewis and Harris (Picture: Gareth Gatrell/BBC/Neal Street Productions)
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The Christmas special of the BBC show Call the Midwife, set on Lewis and Harris, was one implausible scenario after another, writes Brian Wilson.

My limited knowledge of the BBC programme Call the Midwife suggested that, in among the child-births, it reflected social attitudes and conditions in the East End of London in the 1960s.

However, when the Christmas Special took it to Lewis and Harris, I would have bet a few bob on such sensitivities and insights being replaced with the usual rag-bag of clichés and stereotypes. And I would have won my bet.

Hard, Presbyterian religion, of course, had to be at the centre of events. As one implausible scenario followed another, we found the boatman – with an even more implausible accent – refusing to take the heroic team to a lighthouse on the Sabbath, although the lives of woman and unborn baby were at stake.

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This would never have happened, as a moment’s research into the doctrine of “necessity and mercy” could have confirmed.

Even allowing for dramatic licence and the passage of half a century, it is disrespectful and insulting to tell the world otherwise. OK, it was entertainment rather than documentary.

But if they were going to alight upon the Hebrides at all, there might have been some acknowledgment that these islands provided a kernel of the future NHS when, in 1912 – not 1964 – the Dewar Report delivered such a devastating indictment of medical conditions that the system of district nursing was created.

There might even have been parallels to draw. Whether in Poplar or Possil, Lewis or Lewisham, it was poverty and poor housing which dictated low life expectancy.

But hurrah, it all ended with a ceilidh and the scenery was wonderful. “Super telly” – so who needs historical accuracy or respect for people and beliefs?