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Caithness writer's Weir of Hermiston adaptation on BBC Radio 4


By Gordon Calder

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Colin MacDonald adapted Weir of Hermiston from the final novel by Robert Louis Stevenson. Picture: Alan Hendry
Colin MacDonald adapted Weir of Hermiston from the final novel by Robert Louis Stevenson. Picture: Alan Hendry

A NEW drama penned by a Caithness writer and with a star-studded cast, including an actress from the far north, is being broadcast on BBC Radio 4 this weekend.

Colin MacDonald, who grew up in Wick and now lives in Edinburgh, has adapted Weir of Hermiston from the final novel by the celebrated Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson. Helen Mackay from Thurso plays the lead female role in the two-part drama which begins on Sunday afternoon.

Stevenson died while writing the novel and it remained unfinished but, using the author's notes, MacDonald completed the story and dramatised it for radio.

"It’s a great tale," he said. "It’s got romance, murder, hangings and wild adventure.

"It’s set in Edinburgh and the Pentland Hills in the early 19th century. It’s a real movie for the ear, and if you’re feeling cooped up in the house on Sunday it might be a nice diversion."

MacDonald has worked with Helen Mackay before.

"It was terrific to work with Helen again," he said. "She is a tremendous actor and brought such energy and sparkto the role of Christina Elliot."

Phyllis Logan of Downton Abbey fame plays Kirstie, and rising Hollywood star Jack Lowden – who was in the films Fighting With My Family and Dunkirk – plays Archie Weir. Veteran Scottish actor Paul Young takes the role of Lord Hermiston.

Helen Mackay plays the lead female role in the two-part drama Weir of Hermiston.
Helen Mackay plays the lead female role in the two-part drama Weir of Hermiston.

Weir of Hermiston is a return to work for Mackay, who gave birth to daughter Nell last year.

The first episode of the drama will be broadcast at 3pm on Sunday. Episode two is at the same time the following Sunday.

Meanwhile, MacDonald is working on a film for Amazon Studios in Los Angeles which tells the story of Raasay crofter Calum MacLeod who, when thwarted by local government, set out to build a road across his island himself – a task that took him 10 years. MacDonald wrote a successful drama for BBC Radio 4 about it previously.

He then will be writing a sixth series of Shardlake, based on the historical mystery novels by C J Sansom, for BBC Radio 4.

A sold-out screenwriting workshop due to be held at Lyth Arts Centre on Saturday was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic but plans are being made to hold it later in the year.

"It’s something I am looking forward to hugely," he said. "To work with writers in Caithness is something that is vital to me."


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