Set in the fictional Scottish town of Strathaird, This Man Craig was an ambitious 26-week series that debuted on BBC2 on Friday 7 January 1966. Revolving around the 300 or so pupils, their parents and teachers and six housemasters who keep an eye on the children in their care, the drama was headed by actor John Cairney as Ian Craig - a scientist who teaches physics, is a firm believer in giving his pupils a first-class education in the widest sense of the word, and who becomes involved in the lives of those attending the school as well as the other residents of the town.
The first episode, 'With Luv from Rosie' written by David Turner, himself a former teacher, set the tone for the series, which focused on a variety of subjects which included modern and outdated teaching methods, social care, mental health, problem children and bullying. Craig's headmaster gives him the unpleasant task of stopping an older female teacher from using corporal punishment on her pupils. At first it seems as though Craig has won the battle, but when young Rosie Gilmour runs into trouble trying to put into practice the text 'it is more blessed to give than to receive,' her teacher turns to another method of punishment; and its effect on Rosie has startling repercussions.
The second story, 'Patterson,' followed up with a tale of bullying and a troubled student. When a boy is shoved down a flight of stairs and knocked out the teachers and Straithaird Secondary School all seem to know who is responsible. But proving that Kenny Patterson did it is another matter entirely. At 15-years of age, Patterson is already a hard case who is believed responsible for breaking school windows and setting off fire alarms and has a reputation that is summed up by one teacher: 'Patterson only has to slurp his way across the playground and kids' ankles start rattling in their shoes...and he gets away with it because we can't pin anything on him.' The rest of the teachers have given up hope on the lad and want rid of the pupil who they describe as 'rotten to the core.' Craig takes on the thankless task of finding a way to get through to him. But even Craig's wife, Margaret, has scant sympathy with his efforts. And as a cautionary warning the headmaster tells him: 'Don't let your zeal for fighting lost causes interfere with your first duty - establishing the facts.'
Before the year was out This Man Craig returned for a second series, now moved to a Saturday night prime-time slot on BBC2, which began in September to coincide with the start of the new autumn term and given the title 'The Day Before School.' This tackled the problem faced by an established teacher who is overlooked for the post of Head of Biology in favour of a young and dynamic newcomer.
The second story, 'Early Days' asks the question 'Do parents always know what's best for their children?' When one of Margaret's friends dies, her husband is left to look after their two children, Connie and Eric. Connie is anxious to be 'with it' and works in a supermarket but is struggling to cope with her problems and her friends. 12-year-old Eric is starting a new term at Straithaird school as a member of Craig's house. But the father is a travelling salesman, and his job often takes him away from home for days on end. The result is that Connie and Eric are left to fend for themselves.
This Man Craig was a thought-provoking drama series that tackled a number of social problems which it addressed with intelligence and sensitivity. It's 52 episodes boasted some of the top writers of the day including Julian Bond, Ian Kennedy Martin, Dick Sharples, John Wiles and James Mitchell. The series also enjoyed a guest cast of familiar faces like Tom Conti, Fulton Mackay, Andrew Keir, Phyllidia Law, Dandy Nichols, Iain Cuthbertson, Gordon Jackson, Jean Kent, John Laurie, Francesca Annis, Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Deborah Watling, Annette Crosbie and Anthony Valentine.
John Cairney was a handsome leading man who already had an impressive list of credits to his name having appeared in the children's series Redgauntlet and Target Luna, and dramas such as The Master of Ballantrae, Gideon's Way and Emergency-Ward 10. He would later be seen in episodes of Man in a Suitcase, The Avengers, Elizabeth R and was also a regular reader of children's stories on Jackanory. His film appearances included Cleopatra, A Night to Remember and Jason and the Argonauts.
The series was produced by BBC Scotland and filmed at Glasgow’s Bellahouston Academy and Knightswood School. Unfortunately, the series fell victim to the BBC's 'wiping policy' and only two episodes are known to have survived ('Dougie' and 'The Time Wasters,' the latter discovered in 2014), with the rest of the series believed to be lost.
Published on September 29th, 2021. Written by Marc Saul for Television Heaven.