A Cullen man who starred on the BBC programme David and Jay’s Touring Toolshed said meeting Sir David Jason was “just like meeting your pal”.
Derek Merson, 50, appeared on the BBC Two show – hosted by Jay Blades and Sir David – last week to show off his “Cullen Tapestry”, which he started during the first Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, and is estimated to be around 250ft long.
After having Covid symptoms, and with his now 13-year-old son Oliver being at his mum’s house house in Keith, Mr Merson said: “I thought, ‘what am I going to do with myself, how am I going to pass the time?’ I’ve always fancied having a go at stitching like tapestry.”
He started to decorate his son’s bedroom with Super Mario characters and was “encouraged to add more”.
“Because the lockdown was continuing, I thought I’ll just keep going with this, but I’ll turn it into a pictorial kind of storyboard with what’s happening with the world,” he said.
With toilet roll becoming a finite resource during the early days of the pandemic due to panic buying, the Banff Academy MCR Pathways mentor stitched “good guys” tapestry of Mario on one side, with “bad guys” hoarding the toilet rolls on the other.
Telling The P&J what he wanted to achieve with the tapestry, Mr Merson said: “I wanted to give a big shout out and a big thank you to the NHS and to the people of Cullen for rallying round in such weird and unusual circumstances.”
Celebrating Cullen community
He added: “I also wanted to celebrate the good things that the community are doing for each other, but also people, groups and businesses that I’ve been inspired by during the time that I’ve been stitching this thing.”
The dad, who has not had a TV licence “for years” due to being to preoccupied with the tapestry – which includes famous local landmarks, including the village’s viaduct – saw an advert posted on the Cullen Past and Present Facebook page.
Asking people who do crafts to get in touch about being on a TV programme, Mr Merson said: “I thought, ‘why not, it would be good to demonstrate what I do’.
“I remember seeing the name Touring Toolshed, but it meant nothing to me this programme.”
Filmed in June 2023, the show sees The Repair Shop’s Jay Blades and Only Fools and Horses star Sir David Jason meet master crafters and passionate hobbyists across the UK as they showcase their traditional talents.
After speaking to the show’s production team, the Cullen native said he “was surprised” there was so much interest in what he was doing, with some of the wool he uses being donated by members of the local community.
Discussing being on the show, Mr Merson told The P&J: “They had all this production crew around, which was daunting in itself, and then you think, ‘I’m going through to meet David Jason, no way’.
“It was just like meeting your pal or your next door neighbour, and he was like ‘oh, how you doing?'”
Jay Blades and Sir David Jason ‘in awe’ at tapestry
Both of the celebrities were “in awe” of the tapestry that Mr Merson and his son showcased to them at the Seafield Arms Hotel, and he explains: “Both of them were so curious, asking so many questions and ‘what does this mean and how did you do this?'”
Blades and Sir David were added into the tapestry and summing up his stint on the small screen, Mr Merson concluded: “I was surprised to see TV royalty admiring my handiwork. The two of them were so enthusiastic about it.
“I’m just overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and the positivity that I’m getting from this.”
Along with the tapestry, last week’s episode of the show saw the two celebrities have a pottery class in the Moray village and visit a miniature railway in Fraserburgh.