Success kills off `McSocrates', Scotland's working-class hero

HE WAS the epitome of Scotland's rejection of Thatcherism: surly, scruffy, unemployed and with an attitude problem. But now Rab C Nesbitt, Scotland's favourite comic philosopher, is to hang up his string vest.

The heavy-drinking character, played by Gregor Fisher, was once called "McSocrates with a drink problem". His staple diet of a "poke" of chips fits the stereotype of the working-class Glaswegian. Nesbitt may still evoke a recognisable aspect of Scottish life, but Fisher's off-screen graduation to a house in the country and a Jaguar convertible, thanks to his fee of pounds 250,000 a series, has left him tired of the part.

Audiences for Rab C Nesbitt have been falling for some time, after 15 years and 55 episodes of Rab's life in Wine St, Govan, on BBC2. And even though the BBC wanted to make a ninth series, his declining popularity seemed to echo the fact that Scotland is changing from the land of angry shipyard workers that Nesbitt represented.

Govan, birthplace of Sir Alex Ferguson and Billy Connolly, is no longer a hub of national discontent. Unemployment is one-third of its level in the mid- Eighties, much of the tenement housing is gone and a science park is being built there, as well as BBC Scotland's home.

But Rab will certainly not disappear. Many of the words in his patter have become part of the national language, words such as bampot or dunderheid, for idiot; boak, which means sick; and swally, a booze-up.

Ian Pattison, creator and writer, said: "Rab's now got a bad back, he drinks a lot less than he used to and he wears spectacles because he was having increasing difficulty reading. The character has evolved over the years, as we all have, and who knows where we'll all be in a couple of years."

In the meantime, nostalgic Scots can look forward to an "autobiography" of Rab C Nesbitt, which Mr Pattison said he is planning to write.

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