Douglas Eadie, who has died at the age of 79, was one of the pioneers of modern Scottish film and television.
He was part of the team behind How To Be Celtic, a five-part Channel four documentary screened in 1983 not long after the broadcaster was launched.
Douglas was also behind the Gaelic docudrama in 2000 about Kay Matheson and the removal of the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey, and between 1995 and 2013, was commissioned to produce six series of the Transatlantic Sessions for BBC and RTE about the Celtic roots of traditional music in the USA.
More recently he worked with director Robbie Fraser on Hamish (2016), a documentary on the life of cultural activist Hamish Henderson, and Final Ascent: the Legend of Hamish MacInnes (2019).
Culture and politics
A man of great intellect and tenacious mental and physical energy, he possessed an encyclopaedic knowledge of Scottish history and culture and acute political instincts.
John Douglas Eadie was born in the Craigie area of Perth on May 11 1943.
He was the second son of Elizabeth Roy Wood and John Eadie. His older brother Norman predeceased him.
Their father was a master carpenter who worked for the joinery firm of John Soutar. In that same year William, the invalid son of John Soutar and a leading figure in the Scottish literary renaissance, died aged 45.
Douglas grew to be a great admirer of William Soutar’s poetry and would revisit these connections many years later in his film The Garden Beyond.
Douglas attended Craigie Primary School and Perth Academy before going to Edinburgh University.
He was a keen cyclist and had a lifelong engagement with mountaineering, climbing all but four of the Munros and joining the Torridon Mountain Rescue team when he and his family lived in the West Highlands in the 1970s.
At Edinburgh he studied English and American literature at university and it was there he met Deirdre Atkinson, who was studying medieval English literature.
They both graduated in 1966 and that September they married. Through the British Council they immediately took up teaching posts at an English language-learning school in Venice.
After two years they returned to Scotland, to Glasgow, where Douglas was appointed deputy editor of Scottish Field magazine, which at that time had a circulation of more than 60,000.
Deirdre and Douglas’s first child, Emily, was born in 1968, and their second, Ben, was born two years later.
By then the family had moved to Edinburgh, where Douglas was, as he put it, “unsuitably and briefly employed” by the Scottish Arts Council as a literature assistant.
But this job enabled him to mix with the writers, artists and musicians of Edinburgh’s pub culture, and from 1970 to attend meetings of The Heretics, where he heard readings from Norman MacCaig, Robert Garioch and John Herdman, Gaelic singing from Dolina MacLennan, Gaelic poetry from Sorley MacLean, and musical contributions from Billy Connolly and Aly Bain.
His next job was with the Films of Scotland Committee, a government-sponsored quango that made documentary films recording different aspects of Scottish life.
Change of direction
But Douglas was frustrated by the inbuilt conservatism of Films of Scotland’s official status. In 1972 he made what he described as a kamikaze break with the Films of Scotland by moving with his family to Kinlochewe in Wester Ross.
He was reacting against what he called “the ulcerous romanticism” of the Scottish imagination as a by-product of economic imperialism.
The films he made in the following years were an attempt to “drain the ulcer”. He also wrote book reviews for The Scotsman, where his candid opinions appeared under the pseudonym Colin H. Week an anagram of Kinlochewe.
In 1973 he produced Passing Places, a two-minute film featuring fiddler Aly Bain and guitarist Owen Hand being driven around in a vintage Bentley, accompanying the actor Bill Paterson as he sang a spoof hillbilly song about how to negotiate single-track roads in the Highlands safely.
It became the longest-running public service information film ever made and is still viewable on the internet.
Other films exploring Highland history and Gaelic culture followed, including Sorley MacLean’s Island (1974), which Douglas scripted and directed, and The Caledonian Account (1976), directed by Brian Crumlish.
The latter was a dramatisation of an imagined journey along the Caledonian Canal by its builder Thomas Telford (played by Bertie Scott) and Walter Scott (John Bett), during which they discussed their views of the Highlands, tradition and progress.
Life of poet Soutar
In 1977 Breck Films made The Garden Beyond, the first independent Scottish production to be networked on BBC One. Bertie Scott played William Soutar and Harry Stamper was an uncannily lifelike Hugh MacDiarmid in Douglas’s sensitive yet unsentimental recreation of Soutar’s life and work.
By then the family had relocated to Fife, first to Markinch and then to Glenrothes, before settling a few miles up the road in Cupar in 1982. Their third child, Brigid, was born in 1983 and their fourth, Jack, in 1985.
Douglas was instrumental in setting up the Scottish Association of Independent Producers, which campaigned for a Scottish film authority to invest in film the same amount of money as was being spent by the Scottish Arts Council on other art forms such as opera and drama.
In the early 1980s Douglas collaborated with Mike Alexander and Mark Littlewood of Pelicula Films to present ideas to the new Channel 4 and How To Be Celtic was their first production.
More work for Channel 4 followed including a documentary on traditional music called Down-Home in 1985 presented by Aly Bain, followed the next year by Aly Meets The Cajuns.
Other music-based documentaries took Douglas to Norway, Moscow, Germany, and New York to make the last for The Jazz Apple (1989) about the Cowdenbeath-born saxophonist Joe Temperley.
Douglas was a dedicated family man, although his work often took him away from home. He took great pride in the various achievements of not only his children but also his 10 (plus one on the way) grandchildren.
He died at Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy with Deirdre and their children at his bedside. True to his no-nonsense character, he did not want a funeral and donated his body to medical science.
You can read the family’s announcement here.