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high road

Take the High Road

Take the High Road was a soap opera produced by SMG Productions (Scottish Television) and set in the fictional village of Glendarroch (exteriors were filmed in the real-life village of Luss on the banks of Loch Lomond). It started in February 1980 as an ITV daytime soap opera, and was dropped by the network in 1993, although various members of the ITV Network (notably Central Television) continued to screen the programme, while others (such as Yorkshire Television and Carlton Television) had no interest in doing so. In 1994, the series' name was changed to just High Road, and from then on it continued to be produced by Scottish Television, for a Scottish audience, until it was cancelled in April 2003.

Take the High Road was introduced as a replacement for Garnock Way, which contained very similar characters and actors to the original characters of Take the High Road, and had also spun off from a Scottish Television soap called High Living.

Much of the early scripts were written by Michael Elder who also made guest appearances in the Show. Books by the same name as the show were also produced by him. In the early days of the scripting, the show was fairly credible, however as time went on poor storylines were to follow. It remains however one of Scotland's Exports and perhaps is best remembered abroad.

During the course of its existence, Take the High Road went through a few major changes and face lifts. Perhaps the most noticeable was the renovation of Blair's store: everything was kept behind the Cashier's desk as was Scottish culture in the old days; and shortly after Brian Blair was released from prison it was transformed into a walk-around store.

There were a few themes in Take the High Road, in line with Scottish culture, namely the idea of Elizabeth Cunningham the rich lady laird who owned the village and neighbouring farms, and the theme of Protestant religion which was always present. It also entertained the feeling that outsiders were simply not welcome into the small close-knit community, something which may exist in any small village. Modernity was coming, and the way of thinking of the first to final lairds was completely different.

Toward the end of the show's life, it had tackled many social issues such as lesbianism, suicide and drug abuse, which was new to Scottish Television, although not new to the ITV network.

Perhaps one of the reasons why Take the High Road was eventually cancelled was due to the poor scripting in its final years. For example, one of the leading characters, Mrs Mack, had been transformed from a traditional Presbyterian battleaxe to a party animal who enjoyed going to football matches. Such a character change was simply not believable. In other bids to stop the show going under, Andy Cameron, a well-known older Scottish comedian, was introduced to the show. His introduction, however, did not attract younger viewers but firmly raised the average age of the viewer to at least 60. Another famous Scottish comedian who appeared in the show was Hector Nicol

Take the High Road will be remembered for its changes and, at times, its very stereotyped casting of a Scottish village, rather than its fame as a soap, although its way of bringing together modernity with the old ways of the country really give it credit.

During its run, Take the High Road was always one of the highest-rated television programmes in Scotland, and had an extremely loyal following throughout the rest of the UK. Indeed, when the series was cancelled by the ITV Network, so many protests were received from viewers in England that some ITV regions re-instated the programme.

The show is noted for having in its cast, Alan Cumming (X2: X-Men United), in his first acting credit.

Sponsorship

Take the High Road was sponsored by Brooke Bond Scottish Blend tea from the beginning of 1992 until 1994 and was sponsored by Mothers Pride bread from 2000-02.

Cast List from Episode 1

Cast List from the final episode

Books

These books were all written by Michael Elder except from Summers Gloaming which was written by Don Houghton.

UK ITV Regional Scheduling

ITV Region
Programme Schedule Pattern
Start Date
Days Screened
End Date
Anglia Television 1980 ???
ATV Midlands & Central Television 1980
Border Television 1980 1990s - 1830 Mondays and Fridays, later 1930 Tuesdays, between 1999 - 2003 it was shown on Fridays at 2.35pm 2003
Channel Television As Westward as Westward/TSW then TVS from Jan 1986 then asMeridian from January 1993. as Meridian
Grampian Television 1980 Mondays and Fridays 1900 As Scottish
Granada Television
HTV West & Wales 1980
Scottish Television (STV) 1980 Late 1980s - Tuesdays and Thursdays at 18:30, then Tuesdays and Fridays at 18:30.
1990 - mid 1993: Mondays and Fridays at 18:30.
Mid 1993 - Sept 1993: Mondays only at 18:30.
Sept 1993 - Mid 1996: Fridays at 19:00.
Mid 1996 - Jan 1998: Tuesdays at 19:00.
Jan 1998 - Jan 1999: Fridays at 19:00.
20:00 was used initially before reverting to the customary 19:00.
Jan 1999 - mid 2000: Mondays at 19:00.
Late 2000 - 2003: Sundays at 19:00 - with Summer breaks. High Road was then axed due to Yorkshire soap Emmerdale going 5 nights a week, and viewing figures for the Scottish soap dropped.
Southern Television & Television South & Meridian 1980 ??? Dec 1995
Thames Television & Carlton Television 1980
Tyne Tees Television 1980 As Yorkshire As Yorkshire
Ulster Television 1980 Down to weekly Sundays in 2003 at 1230. Scottish, Grampian, Border and Ulster being the only regions left showing the series by this time. 2003
Westward Television & Television South West & Westcountry
Yorkshire Television 1980 Thursdays and Fridays 1230 later changed to Wed/ Thur 1450. Axed in August 1993 and was final English region along with Tyne Tees to resume the series in 1996 weekly on Fridays at 1450.| End of 1998 after Granada takeover??

Theme tune

There were 4 versions of the theme tune over the 23 year run. The first version was performed by Silly Wizard and was used until 1982. This version was quite "Scottish folk band" in style and pretty lively.

The "Silly Wizard" theme tune was replaced by an orchestral version in 1982. This orchestral version was used from 1982 until 1986. It featured wind and stringed instruments and had percussion.

The third version was a different orchestral arrangement and was used from 1986 until episode 727 at the beginning of 1990. This new orchestral version was more violin led than the former, which had made more use of wind instruments, and featured no percussion.

In 1990, the fourth, rock-style version made its debut and continued to be used until the end of the series. This version was electric guitar led (played by session guitarist Duncan Finlay) and featured percussion during the "middle" section. From 1994 when the programme name was shortened to High Road, the length of the closing credits was cut, so the closing theme was faded in just before the mid point. The theme tune was written by Arthur Blake.

Another version was released on record in 1980 and was also performed by Silly Wizard.

Closing credit styles

Originally the font used on the end credits was white. From 1980 - 82, all the credits would scroll up the screen and were centrally justified. The character name and actor names were on separate lines and the same presentation was used for the production credits. The copyright date was displayed on the Scottish Television end board and was displayed in Arabic numerals.

In 1986, a new font was adopted for the closing credits. For the cast list, the character and actor names were displayed on separate lines and were centrally justified. These credits were displayed on separate slides and there were usually about 3 or 4 names on each slide. The character name was shown in a pale blue colour. The actor name would be shown in a darker blue, and the text was noticeable larger and bolder.

For the production credits, the job title would appear at the far left of the screen and the person's name would appear underneath but slightly indented. Like the cast credits, these were all displayed on separate slides. The director credit would usually appear last. The copyright date continued to be shown in Arabic numerals.

In 1990, changes were made to the presentation of the credits although the font remained the same. From 1990-94, the credits were centrally justified, and were all scrolling. The character and actor names would appear on separate lines, and the same procedure was used for the production credits. This also marked the change where the copyright year would be displayed with the last credit rather than the Scottish Television end board. For the majority of 1990 - 94 episodes, the director credit would appear last. From 1991, the copyright date was shown in Roman numerals.

From 1994, the character and actor names would appear on the same line and the procedure was followed for the production credits. The font size was noticeably reduced to allow this. These credits were all scrolling. From 1994, the producer credit would appear last.

From 2000, the end credits followed exactly the same procedure as the 1994 introduced style although the font style was changed and the colour was changed to white.

Unusual credits sequences

On very rare occasions, episodes ended with unusual closing credit sequences.

In early 1990, Archie Menzies died. For the episode showing his funeral, no credits were actually shown. Instead, a solo piper played the "Take the High Road" tune while the other characters were gathered by his graveside. A board was shown at the end, paying tribute to the actor who had also died, Paul Kermack.

In mid 1991, Carol McKay and Tee Jay Wilson got married. At the end of the episode where the wedding ceremony had just started, the characters' singing of "O Father, all creating" was used for about half of the closing credits, before the regular theme tune was faded in.

In a late 1991 episode, Carol and Tee Jay's baby daughter died from cot death. No music was used for the closing credits.

At the end of the episode featuring the village concert in 1992, the credits are played over a scene of the characters gathered on stage singing. The regular theme music is faded in at a very late point.

At the end of a 1999 episode, Runrig's "Loch Lomond" was playing during a party scene - this continued and was used for the closing credits.

In the final episode, Lachie McIvor and Mairi McNeil get married. The credits roll over the guests walking out of the church. Instead of the usual theme music, the credits are accompanied by the wedding piper's playing of "Mairi's Wedding". At the end of the credits, the following caption is displayed:

Since 1980, High Road has been a piece of Scotland in homes across the UK and overseas.

Scottish Television would like to thank the cast, the crews and the writers who worked on High Road over the years.

HIGH ROAD 1980 - 2003

Producers

Repeats

Take the High Road was repeated on Sky Soap, the episodes shown in early 1997 were from the beginning and 1989 episodes were being shown when the channel ended in April 1999. Early "High Road" episodes from about 1994/95 were shown on Sky Scottish in 1997/98.

Take The High Road has been repeated on Life One since 14 February 2008.The channel started showing from episode 1000 from 1992.

External links

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