Peter McDougall

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Born in Greenock, McDougall's early years were spent working in the shipyards. In his early twenties he moved to London and worked as a housepainter, and when painting Colin Welland's house talked of his days swinging the mace in the Orange Parades. Welland suggested he write a play about this. Never having even read a book in his life, McDougall set to work on Just Another Saturday, a remarkable drama which studies sectarian divide, family loyalties, machismo and growing up. The BBC bought the play but political pressure forbid production for a couple of years. In the meantime McDougall penned Just Your Luck for the BBC's Play For Today, which again used the themes of Catholic and Protestant division in its story of a Greenock teeenager who is made pregnant by a Catholic boy. It caused a massive reaction in Scotland, both of praise and outrage. When Just Another Saturday was finally transmitted in 1975, McDougall found his first drama had scooped the revered Prix Italia. He subsequently penned the charming half hour play A Wily Couple and in 1976 his most unusual work, The Elephants' Graveyard. Featuring a delicious performance from Billy Connolly, who had cameoed in Just Another Saturday, the 50 minute two hander was a poetic and philosophical study of two men who meet one day while hiding from the wives they have told they are working. Beautifully directed by John MacKenzie, this is 50-minutes of television magic. McDougall's next work, Just A Boy's Game, is his most dazzling piece, a shocking and yet strangely endearing drama which followed Jake McQuillan, a young Greenock hard man. Featuring an astounding performance from soul singer Frankie Miller, this was one of the most violent and dark dramas television ever produced, liberally sprinkled with McDougall's trademark brilliant one-liners and grimly honest observations on life. A move to STV to make the enormously controversial A Sense of Freedom (1979), based on the story of Jimmy Boyle, was the final collaboration of the writer with director John MacKenzie. His works in the Eighties included a study of Edinburgh in the grip of heroin, Shoot for the Sun (1986) (TV), and his most difficult work, Down Where The Buffalo Go. The later starred Harvey Keitel in the story of an American solder based at Holy Loch whose marriage is crumbling. McDougall's only produced work for television in the 90s was Down Among The Big Boys, another study of family loyalties disguised as a crime thriller, starring Billy Connolly and Douglas Hentschel.Aside from his outstanding achievements in television, McDougall has worked in film, amongst his many scripts rewrites of The Long Good Friday. It is in his television work that he is best showcased, having created his own world of thick accents, brutal violence and gallows humour. Jeremy Isaccs described him as having imported the western into British filmmaking, but his influence gores further, as the new wave of Scottish films like Trainspotting and Bumping The Odds can see. Television has been a great deal less interesting without him in recent years.
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