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McLeish joins the cast in extra time for acclaimed new Laurel and Hardy movie

New Scotland manager Alex McLeish during the media unveiling at Hampden Park, Glasgow.
New Scotland manager Alex McLeish during the media unveiling at Hampden Park, Glasgow.

It sounds like a trick question: “What’s the connection between Scottish football and Laurel & Hardy?”

And although some cynics might respond the answer should be “Another Fine Mess”, there’s a more surprising connection, given who pops up as an extra in Jon S Baird’s new film about the Hollywood duo: none other than Alex McLeish.

The Gothenburg Great, who is now the Scotland manager, has always been interested in the antics of Stan & Ollie, and started talking to Dons-daft Baird when the pair were at the 2017 Scottish Cup final between Aberdeen and Celtic.

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As the film director recalled: “I went up and spoke to Alex and said: ‘Hi, I’m Jon, I did Filth [the acclaimed movie starring James McAvoy].

“He told me that he had had enjoyed it and asked what I was doing now.

“I told him about Laurel and Hardy and he replied: ‘Well, I am in their fan club.’ And that was how the idea started.”

McLeish only has a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in the new film, which has just been nominated for three BAFTA awards.

Director Jon Baird pictured at Peterhead Harbour.

He’s the man who is reading a broadsheet paper in a glitzy hotel as Stan Laurel, played by Steve Coogan, walks towards the reception.

But it was a chance for Peterhead-born Baird to work with one of the stars he idolised as a youngster when he regularly stood on the terraces at Pittodrie in the early 1980s.

He said: “Alex just has a little role. He’s in the background in one of the scenes.”

Yet clearly, the two men revelled in the project every bit as much as the comic duo marvelled in their myriad collaborations.
A prestigious new American list of must-see global destinations in 2019 has included just one location in Britain.

And the New York Times has chosen…drum roll… Aberdeen among its 52 selections.

The newspaper’s top three visitor sites across the world were Puerto Rico, Hampi in India and Santa Barbara in California.

But it spoke highly about the attractions of travelling on the Caledonian Sleeper, praised the beauty of Deeside and preponderance of majestic castles in the region and extolled the refurbished royal railway station at Ballater.

Positioned at No 24 in the glossy travel guide, Aberdeen finished above the likes of New York, Hong Kong and Tahiti.

Its recommendation read: “Just as many famous European overnight train routes, like Paris to Berlin, have been retired, the Caledonian Sleeper, the train that travels through the night from London all the way to the north of Scotland, is rolling out new carriages in time for summer.

“For adepts of slow rail travel, the new cars preserve the romance of overnight trains, in contemporary comfort, with a choice of hotel-style suites, classic bunk beds or seats.

“The Highlander route to Aberdeen leaves Euston Station in London in the evening and hits the Scottish coast by 5am, so travellers who take an early breakfast in the dining car can enjoy coastal views as the sun rises.

A 1963 photo of Ballater station with decorative timber in green, as seen prior to its closing in 1966.<br />Photo from Ballater & Crathie Community Council

“Once off the train, Aberdeen and its surroundings offer historic castles set in fields of purple heather, in pine woods and along the dramatic coastline.

“There are hiking trails around the Queen’s estate at Balmoral, and rail buffs can visit the former royal train station in Ballater, closed since 1966, and ride on the Royal Deeside Railway a short drive from there.”
While one could easily compile a laundry list of the items blown about during last week’s blustery weather, the Leopard has spotted one particularly on-the-nose example.

A woman in the south of Aberdeen woke up on Tuesday morning to discover the heavy winds had left a rather surprising memento in her garden.

Not keen on adopting the idea of “finders keepers, losers weepers,” she quickly took to social media in the hope of a reunion with its rightful owner.

She wrote: “If anyone is missing something off their washing line, it’s hung up at number four for collection.”

The hopeful neighbour also posted a quick snap to help with identification – a white bra, dangling from her garden gate – in a prime case of airing one’s dirty laundry in public.

However, it seems as though any hope of a happy ending has come apart at the seams.
The Leopard understands that, perhaps unsurprisingly, the item has not been claimed.

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