Andy Stewart

57 – First showing of The White Heather Club

May 7, 1958

THE White Heather Club was initially conceived to fill the early-evening 6-7pm slot.

Previously, the BBC had closed down at this time.

Producer Iain MacFadyen worked on the 1957 Hogmanay broadcast and wanted to develop it for a new programme, named after singer Robert Wilson’s White Heather Group.

The man most synonymous with the show is Andy Stewart, but he was never intended to be a part of it. MacFadyen needed someone to sing bothy ballads and Andy subsequently auditioned in the toilets at the BBC.

He appeared on the first programme with Robert Wilson hosting, but just a few days before transmission it was discovered that it had been recorded on faulty stock and so had to be re-shot. Robert wasn’t available so Stewart stepped in – wearing trousers!

A year later, after Wilson stepped aside, Stewart took over as host on a permanent basis as the ceilidh went from strength to strength.

It began as a fortnightly programme, became weekly, and then more and more BBC regions started showing it, peaking with 10 million viewers.

Regular performers included Jimmy Shand, James Urquhart, and Anne and Laura Brand, while Robin Hall and Jimmie MacGregor took over as hosts in 1963, although Andy returned regularly.

Its shortbread-tin view of Scotland has since been described as kitsch and the Penguin TV Companion voted it one of the worst 20 TV shows ever.

But for millions of fans, they’d echo the show’s closing song, Haste Ye Back.