The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil on BBC ALBA

Jonathan Melville 4 January, 2012 10

Thanks to BBC ALBA, this Saturday viewers have a rare opportunity to catch a screening of John McGrath’s classic 1974 Play for Today film, The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil.

Originally staged by the 7:84 theatre company, the play tells of the exploitation of the Scottish Highlands from 1746 until 1973, the suppression of the clans, the Clearances and the oil boom of the 70s. All of this is told through drama and music, drawing in the audience with humour that pulls no punches as it delivers its political message.

The BBC’s version of the play, starring Bill Paterson, John Bett and Alex Norton, is hardly ever repeated on TV and is unavailable on DVD. I watched it in the BFI’s Mediatheque in London a few years back, but this is a much easier way to enjoy the film.

You can hear clip from the play on the BBC Education site.

BBC ALBA will air The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil on Saturday 7 January at 23.25 and it’s worth recording just in case it doesn’t appear on iPlayer the next day.

BBC ALBA is now available on the following platforms:

  • Freeview channel 8
  • Virgin Media channel 188
  • Sky channel 168
  • Freesat channel 110
  • Live on BBC iPlayer

Update, 4 January – BBC ALBA has confirmed this evening that the programme has not been selected for iPlayer (rights issues?), so watching it on the night or recording it is going to be the only way to see it unless there’s a last minute change of policy.

Here’s the National Library of Scotland on the play: