Dr Finlay gives the kirk a headache

IT IS NOT a choice the congregation in Auchtermuchty has had before. There was little else to do on a Sunday morning - sleeping and the television apart - except go to the kirk. Now its members have an option: to be extras, at pounds 55 a day, on the set for a television series. And many have decided this is preferable to worship.

The controversy has been brewing since Scottish Television asked, several months ago, if it could film the remake of Dr Finlay's Casebook in the town.

Muchty was initially delighted. Most of the residents have an affection for A J Cronin's stories of life in rural general practice; many remember the original 1960s series, in which fictional Tannochbrae was set in Callander, in the Trossachs.

Most are also aware that Callander made good money from it. Just like the village of Luss, host to Take the Highroad, which now has a thriving tea-shop.

Today the dispute comes to its climax. The main body of filming begins, but it is also Harvest Sunday, which traditionally pulls in a handsome congregation.

The lay elders who govern the local kirk were confident that the enthusiasm to win parts as extras would diminish when the conflict of interests was realised. The kirk would win.

This has not been the case. The worried elders asked the producers not to shoot on Sunday morning so as not to tempt the congregation. The producers refused.

Tucked away in the farmlands of Fife, Auchtermuchty is a small place of 2,500 people that has enjoyed a long, mostly unremarkable history. Some of the older residents remember as a big event the Royal Visit of 1951. The King and Queen drove past the town on their way to St Andrews, which is also how Sir John Junor discovered the place - en route to play golf at the Royal & Ancient. Readers of his Sunday Express column grew familiar with the town as a bastion of traditional morality. Many thought the town was a figment of his censorious imagination.

But Muchterians became students of Sir John's column and loved his vision of their town - a place, he claimed, where homosexuality could not happen, 'where there is human decency and morality and the old standards to act as a touchstone against modern life'. None loved it more than Muchty's other claim to fame: Jimmy Shand, the celebrated accordionist whose band became a byword for Scottish country dance music. He came to live in the town 35 years ago, and Sir John he says, was quite right about it. 'Values depend on the people, you know what I mean? Here they are great homely people.'

At 84, Mr Shand is one of the elder statesman of the town. He likes Muchty because it is so private it is almost a secret: 'When I was travelling with the band, I used to ring home and ask for a reverse call for Auchtermuchty. Quite a few times the operator thought it was a joke.'

He is not against Dr Finlay. He is sure that it will make Auchtermuchty famous. But he is worried by the potential sacrifice of privacy. 'Where did you get that news about the church business, the differences and all?' he asked. 'You'll cause a stink if you print that. That wouldna' be a good policy.'

The row over attendance at Harvest Festival has just exacerbated older controversies. Not least, a minority of regular kirk-goers dislike the new minister.

The Rev Ann Fraser, who arrived two years ago, is the town's first female minister. 'We find her very nice,' said Mr Shand, 'but, well, I suppose somewhat generally they think it's a male type of job.'

One Auchtermuchty woman complains that the new minister has 'changed everything - she won't have flowers on the communion table'.

Down at the manse, Mrs Fraser is carefully diplomatic. She argues that there is a mixed reaction to Dr Finlay. 'Some people feel it is good for the place putting it on the map; others feel it may upset the village style of life. You know, this is a very ordinary down-to- earth wee place.'

This is perfectly true. But it has changed a great deal over the past few years. There are lots more immigrants, incomers as they are locally known, than there were. 'Unless you were brought up here, you are classed as an incomer,' said Mrs Fraser. 'People have been here for 20 years but still don't belong.' This is said with only a trace of irritation. By Muchty standards, even Jimmy Shand is an incomer.

Few are ready to admit it, but Muchty has strayed from the ideal of moral purity. Unemployment has cast its shadow. Recently 100 people were made redundant when a local foundry was closed. Several years ago it was, unbelievably, the drugs centre of north Fife. Twice the Boar's Head, the local pub, was raided by police. Now it has been converted into a hotel, and the drugs dealers have moved on.

There have been no murders in Auchtermuchty but there was a strange incident, not often recalled by locals, in which a resident, drunk, had rolled underneath a caravan outside another pub, the Cycle Tavern, and taken potshots at passers-by with an air-rifle. 'Wild West shoot-out in Muchty', read one headline.

Peter Wolfes, the producer of Dr Finlay, observes: 'There is a lot of hypocrisy. Small-town politics are taken terribly seriously. Filming really exaggerates these things which are of such minor consequence.'

He has had to tread carefully. The disruption to town life is considerable. The grocery has had to endure days dressed up as a chemists; the town hall has been painted blue and disguised as a police station. 'The responsibility is that we're forcing fame on them, whether they like it or not.'

But, in other ways, Mr Wolfes has been gentle and compromising. It will take time to adjust. The first clash between the known and the new occurred early on. Unknown to Mr Wolfes, some preliminary filming was scheduled on the day in July when Jimmy Shand's granddaughter was being married. It was the filming that had to be postponed. 'It was the big day, the wedding of the decade,' he said. 'He won the day; there was no contest.'

(Photographs omitted)

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' embraces politics, religion, warfare, courage, love and loyalty, say creators
Sport
Sergio Romero saves Wesley Sneijder's penalty
world cup 2014But after defeating the Dutch, Lionel Messi and Argentina will walk out at the Maracana on Sunday as underdogs against Germany
Sport
Scoreboard at the end of the semi-final World Cup match between Brazil and Germany at The Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte
Sport
'Saddest man in Brazil' takes defeat with good grace, handing replica trophy to German fans
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleThe Game of Thrones author said speculation about his health and death was 'offensive'
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Lauren O'Neil in Jamie Lloyd's Richard III
theatreReview: The monarch's malign magnetism and diabolic effrontery aren’t felt
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Sport
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
football
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips
video
Arts and Entertainment
In his own words: Oscar Wilde in 1882
theatreNew play by the Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials - and what they reveal about the man
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m
filmWith US films earning record-breaking amounts at the Chinese box office, Hollywood is more than happy to take its lead from its new-found Asian audience
News
The garage was up for sale in Canning Place Mews for £500,000
newsGarage for sale for £500,000
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile App/IOS Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC)

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Mobile App/IOS...

Front End Developer-JavaScript, Angular J.S, HTML, CSS, ASP.NET

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front End Deve...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil