Tales from the salmon netting on the River Spey in the north east of Scotland

8. Jock Stewart’s Big Walk Around Scotland

July 23rd, 2008 by John Bennett
 Jock Stewart's Big Walk Around Scotland: Play Now

Sandy Geddes, skipper of the summer crew, and his first mate, Robbie, were leaning on the netbox, watching a pair of mergansers flying up the river when the Gaffer pulled up in the pickup to collect the fish.
“Oh aye, I meant te say – we’ve got a visitor coming at the end o the week,” said the Gaffer as he tallied the fish.
“Oh aye, fa’s that?” asked Sandy.
“Jock Stewart.”
“Fa’s he?”
“He’s thon boy fae off the telly, is he?” said Robbie with some excitement. The Gaffer nodded.
“Fit boy?” asked Sandy who didn’t watch TV and whose only knowledge of television personalities was that his wife and her mother had it in for someone called Barlow, who they both thought had “ideas above his station.”
“Kaen, that boy fit dis the tours roon Scotland…” said Robbie, who watched a lot of television with his mother.
“That’s it,” said the Gaffer, “he did ‘Jock Stewart’s Scotland’, ‘Jock Stewart’s Mountains’ and now he’s doing another een where he’s walking right roond the country, it’s g’te be cried ‘Jock Stewart’s Big Walk Around Scotland’.”

The salmon fishers were used to an audience, and there were often a couple of dog walkers or rod fisherman watching them work the river, but they never let that affect the way they dressed, however, it was a remarkably smart looking summer crew that turned up on the day of Jock Stewart’s visit. Sandy was wearing his best pair of waders, Robbie had run a comb through his hair and even Black Alec had gone so far as to wash his neck. The only disappointment was the students.
“Look, at ye,” said Robbie, “ye look like a pair of wild tinks fae the Belts.”
“We’re keeping it real,” said Gonzo who had back-combed his long mane of hair for the occasion, while the Stingman had put on his Public Enemy t-shirt especially.
Robbie was about to say more when a long wheel base Landrover, towing a large, expensive-looking caravan lumbered up the track from the main road.
The driver of the Landrover, a middle-aged man with thick, grey shoulder length hair hanging over his open-collared cambric shirt wound down the window.
“Is this the salmon fishery?” he asked.
“That’s right,” said Robbie.
“I’m the director of Jock Stewart’s Big Walk Around Scotland, can I speak to err…Sandy, please,” said, the grey-haired man, casting an eye over the production notes lying on the dashboard.
“That’s me,” said Sandy stepping forward.
“Excellent, excellent,” said the director opening the door, and sizing Sandy up with the lens that hung on a silver chain around his neck. “O.K., lads let’s get set up,” he said, turning to the film crew sitting in the back of the Landrover.
“Where’s Jock,” asked Robbie as the film crew unloaded their gear and started setting up.
“Er, he’s still in bed,” said the director looking round at the caravan, “he’s feeling a little under the weather. It’s this ‘flu that’s going round.”
“I thocht he wis supposed tae be walkin the length o Scotland, hoo could he be deeing that if he got a lift here in the caravan,” said Black Alec to Jake as the director walked off to supervise the crew.
“The boy’s ill, Alec,” said Jake smiling, “he’s got the ‘flu that’s gan aroon.”
“Fit ‘flu is that?”
Robbie frowned. “The een he cocht in the hotel bar last night – he wis in there til three o’clock fae fit Sylvia Main telt me fan I wis picking up ma paper.”
When the film crew had set up, the director took Sandy to one side.
“There’s just a couple of things I want to go through while Jock gets prepared. Firstly, he doesn’t really like people looking him directly in the eye. Now, I know it’s a little difficult to get used to, but he gets a lot of attention, so it would be good if you asked your men not to look directly at him.” Sandy nodded his head.
“Also, we’re going to have to get rid of those two,” said the director pointing to the Stingman and Gonzo, “we want to keep this as authentic as possible.”
“Well, they’re part of the crew,” said Sandy hesitantly, “I mean, he’s the Stingman.”
“Look Sandy, I don’t mean to be obtuse, but our viewers expect a certain type of thing from Jock’s programmes. And that,” said the director pointing at the two students, “is not it.” As Sandy pondered how best to break the news to the students, a middle-aged man wearing a purple shellsuit stuck his head out of the caravan.
“Jeremy,” he shouted, “where’s ma lighter, who’s seen ma lighter?” Jeremy rolled his eyes.
“Don’t worry Jock. I’m coming. I’m coming.”


“What do you mean we’re not authentic. We’re authentic as it comes,” said the Stingman indignantly.
“Boys, I’m sorry, but there’s nithing I can dee. It’s fur the TV.”
“We’re keeping it real,” said Gonzo.
“The director disna want that.”
“You could stand up for us on principle,” said the Stingman.
“Aye, but he said he widna dee it if you were in it. He said there wis plinty ither things he could film.”
“Aye, and we’re nae missing oor chance jist because you twa nivir made the effort tae pit on daecent claithes,” added Robbie, and Gonzo was about to reply when the caravan door opened and Jock Stewart stepped out. A miraculous change had come over the portly television presenter. Gone was the purple shell suit, replaced by a brightly coloured voluminous kilt and a puffy white shirt with a lace up collar such as pirates used to wear.
“Wid ye look at thon sark,” said Black Alec, amazed by the frilly, open-collared shirt Jock was wearing.
“Noo there’s an authentic Scotsman fur ye,” said Jake smiling at the students.


“Sandy, Sandy, Sandy, my auld friend, hoo are you?” asked Jock, striding over to were Sandy stood mending a net.
“Very well, Jock,” said Sandy, a little awkwardly.
“Hoo lang has it been, Sandy?” asked Jock, slipping his arms out of the straps of the small canvas knapsack he was carrying.
“Sorry,” said Sandy, looking perplexed.
“Since we last met…look, Jeremy, has he no been briefed,” said Jock angrily, as he turned to the director. Jeremy filled Sandy in as Jock walked back to his mark.
“Sorry Sandy, one of the conventions we follow is that Jock is an old friend of all the people he meets. It helps the folks at home to feel more comfortable with the format. You know, they all believe that Jock is their friend so, of course, any friend of Jock’s must, by extension, be a friend of theirs.”
“So Sandy, Sandy, Sandy, hoo lang has it been?” asked Jock a second time.
“A long time,” replied Sandy uncertainly.
“Aye weel Sandy, it’s ‘richt guid’ to see you again, de ye mind the capers we used tae hae…” said Jock wrapping his arm round Sandy and grinning broadly at the camera.
“Cut,” shouted the director.
“What is it this time?” asked an enraged Jock, “that was fine for me.” The Director pointed to the river bank behind the two men where the Stingman and Gonzo had somehow managed to accidentally wander into shot.
“We’ll take it from your piece to camera…” said the director after the students had been moved away and severely warned about further encroachment.
“This is my old friend Sandy Geddes, captain of the salmon boats on the River Spey. It was Sandy that taught ‘wee Jocky Stewart’ all he knows about the salmon. Isn’t that right Sandy?” said Jock wrapping his arm round Sandy again.
“Aye, that’s right Jock,” said Sandy, slightly confused by the presenter’s detour into the third person.
“Aye, Sandy,” said Jock suddenly breaking into song,

“for we twa hae run aboot the braes,
And pou’d the gowans fine,
But we’ve wander’d monie a weary fit,
Sin auld lang syne.”

“O.K, cut there. That’s perfect Jock, perfect,” said the director when Jock had finished singing, “now let’s get the boys in the boats and get some of the action shots.” As the film crew moved their equipment down onto the bank Jock reached into his sporran and pulled out a packet of Superkings, lit one then offered the packet to Sandy. Sandy shook his head and pulled out his pipe.
“Look Sandy, ye don’t know if there’s a massage parlour around here do ye. In Elgin or something? I need a good rub down,” said Jock winking at Sandy.
“Mebbe, but I widna really kaen,” replied Sandy thoughtfully, “but ye could aye nip inta the Doctor’s surgery in Fochabers, if it’s a bad back ye’ve got.” Jock seemed nonplussed by the idea.
“So where are you off te next?” asked Sandy trying to keep the converstaion alive.
“We’re off to a distillery tonight,” said Jock rubbing his hands together, “then back to Marbella.”
“Oh, are you off on a holiday?” asked Sandy.
“No, no, I live there. Get away from this manky weather. It’s very ‘tax efficient’ as weel, if you know what I mean…actually, if you’re interested in moving out there, I’ve got a thing going with these Russian guys who run a timeshare complex…it’s a great deal…only thirty miles from the sea,” said Jock rummaging in his sporran and handing Sandy a card he found there.


The salmon crew, minus the students, spent the rest of the afternoon rowing up and down the river to satisfy the demands of Jock and the director, and by the time they were finished they were all thoroughly disenchanted with the process of film-making. However, their spirits lifted when they returned to the bothy where they discovered the two students sitting on fishboxes drinking beer and reading magazines.
“Have a drink boys,” said Gonzo, pointing to two cases of beers and a bottle of whisky standing next to the large pile of glossy magazines.
“What on earth…” said Jock. Jake walked over and picked up one of the magazines.
“Oh, my god, will ye tak look at her, she’s nae shy,” he said, showing the magazine to the rest of the crew.
“Her mither mist be richt proud o her,” said Robbie, shaking his head.
“Faur aboots did ye get aa this fae?” asked Sandy.
“The mobile lending library,” said Gonzo, pointing at Jock’s caravan. Jock turned red and started spluttering.
“Aye, it’s not a walking tour of Scotland that he’s on…” said the Stingman, placing heavy emphasis upon the verb, however, before he could continue he was interrupted by Sandy.
“Look boys, gie Jock back his, er…reading material.”
“They’re no mine, they’re nothing to de with me,” said Jock hastily.
“Jock, what do you think of her,” asked Gonzo, holding up the magazine he was reading, but Jock had already disappeared into his caravan.
When Jock Stewart’s Big Walk Around Scotland aired in the New Year there was no mention of his visit to the salmon fishery at the mouth of the Spey, or his old friend Sandy Geddes, with whom he’d ‘pou’d the gowans fine’ and had taught him all he knew about the salmon.

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