Late actor’s strong connection with South Uist revealed in new book

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A new book, charting the life and times of late Scottish actor Iain McColl, describes his strong connection with South Uist.

McColl, a familiar face in Scottish televsion comedy for more than 20 years, passed away in 2013 following a battle with cancer.

After an unconventional start in showbusiness – McColl worked for a time as a stripper – he rose to national prominence during the 1980s and 1990s with roles in sitcoms ‘City Lights’ and ‘Rab C Nesbitt’.

More recently, he was cast in Martin Scorsese’s blockbuster movie ‘Gangs of New York’ and appeared in an episode of another popular Scottish sitcom, ‘Still Game’.

When not in front of the camera, McColl’s personal issues were well documented. Throughout his life he struggled with drink and drug problems, spending time in jail in 2005 for repeated drink driving.

Before he died, McColl had begun recording the ups and downs of his colourful career in what was to be his autobiography.

An early chapter of his life, of which many may be unaware, was marked by the time he spent on South Uist.

McColl’s mother, Annie MacDonald, hailed from Garrynamonie in South Uist, where he and his sister spent every summer holiday during their childhood.

After leaving school, McColl relocated temporarily to South Uist. He spent a time harvesting tangle off the island’s beaches to supply the Alginate Factory, then based at Lochboisdale.

As a mark of his affection for South Uist, McColl requested that when he died his ashes be scattered on Garrynamonie machair.

Last month, his wishes were fulfilled with part of his remains scattered on the machair and the rest interred in Hallan Cemetery.

However, although McColl started the process of recording his own life, the onset of his illness meant he was not able to complete the book himself.

As a result, the task fell to his sister, Martha Brindley, who acted as McColl’s carer during his final months.

She said: “Iain had started the book, but as he became more ill he realised he would not be able to finish it himself.

“He said to me ‘Sis, promise me you will finish this book for me.’

“As I was his carer during the last months of his life, he and I spent a lot of time chatting. I had a dictaphone, which I used to record our conversations and collect some stories for the book.

“From there I compiled the stories. I gathered others from friends and fellow actors.”

Now the book, which is set to be released, is produced in two parts. The first, composed by McColl himself, is autobiographical and covers his childhood up to his early 20s.

The second part of the book, complied by his sister, is made up of stories.

McColl himself chose the title for the book, ‘McColl of the Wild’, which also deals with some of the difficulties he faced during his life.

Martha continued: “Iain himself wrote about when he was drinking too much, about the bi-polar disorder he suffered from for a long time unrecognised, and his battle with depression.”

However, she thinks her brother would be proud of the final result.

“I think he would be delighted and have a wee chuckle.

“The book contains an acknowledgement to all the people of Uist – for what they had to put up with when Iain and I were young!

“I hope people get a laugh and remember him with fondness.”

‘McColl of the Wild’ will be published as an eBook on Amazon at the end of August, and as a paperback shortly afterwards.

Self-published and financed by Martha, all royalties from the book will go to the Beatson Cancer Care Centre where McColl spent his final days.

Pictured: The cover of ‘McColl of the Wild’ featuring a photograph of Garrynamonie machair.