My conversations with Gregor Fisher over a quarter of a century haven’t exactly revealed an actor who is baby deer-at-the-edge-of the-alligator-pond worried. Yet, his eyes have always been open to the possibility of being savaged in the headlines.

It’s understandable. As philosopher alkie Rab C Nesbitt, Fisher carried with him both acclaim and mass interest in his private life.

Yet, today, in Glasgow’s Oran Mor bar, Fisher is relaxed and not just because he’s tucking into a very nice roll ’n’ square. This is perhaps not quite what his doctor would have ordered, given a fairly recent heart complaint, which is now all sorted.

But not only is he in an upbeat mood as we meet to chat about his latest TV sitcom (more of later), he offers an honest and heart-warming story, the like of which he’d never have revealed in the early days of fame.

When his daughter Cissie was about to marry recently, Fisher’s actor friend Juliet Cadzow (who stars in River City as Suzie Fraser) wondered what her pal was going to give his daughter as a wedding present.

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“I hadn’t a clue,” he admits. “Juliet said, ‘I’ve been thinking, Fishy. Do you remember that painting you had by the Edinburgh artist, Gordon K Mitchell?’ “Of course I did. This painting was of two jugs, and the one jug was looking at the big, elegant jug and it was called The Proposal. And it was surreal and curious and Cissie loved it. So did I, but I promised it to her one day.”

But that day never arrived. Post-Rab, Fisher hit hard times. “Every painting in the house was sold, including the Beryl Cooke of Rab C Nesbitt. I can’t remember why particularly, but it’s part of acting life. The bills kept coming and the lifestyle didn’t change. But the work didn’t appear. The dug and the weans had to be fed.”

However, Ms Cadzow had a proposal to bring the Proposal back. “Juliet said she would try and find out who bought the painting, and quietly ask if you could buy it back?” He calls up some mock indignation. “But I said. ‘It could cost thousands. I’ve got a wedding to pay for. Control yourself!’ “Anyway, off she went. And three weeks later, she said her sources told her the owners didn’t wish to sell the painting. But she added: ‘Fishy, I’ve got a hold of the number for the artist. Why don’t you commission him to paint something else?’”

Unknown to Fishy, his actor pal had written a lovely letter to the artist. “And Gordon K Mitchell wrote to me, saying as a freelance, he’d been in a similar position, having made promises to his children, and reneged. But given the painting was gone, he offered to paint me another picture, no charge, that would be very close to the original.

“I was overwhelmed. He said, ‘You’ve given me a great deal of pleasure and fun over the years, Gregor. I’d be delighted.’ He adds: “On my way home I’m going over to meet Gordon and I’ll take it to Bristol and give it to Cissie. I know she’ll be blown away. And I’m going to capture the moment on film.”

What has made Fisher open up more than ever? Is it the fact he’s now 67? Perhaps there’s an earned trust. Perhaps, more than likely, there’s a realisation we’re not getting any younger. He speaks of illness in the family. When he leaves this meeting he’s off to buy roll ’n’ slice (has to be Mortons rolls) for a friend who’s seriously ill.


He’s certainly unguarded when speaking of his personal life. Gregor Fisher, a father of three, was adopted as a child, by the Fisher family, only to be handed over to another family, the Leckies. His early life lacked constants. As an adult he has continually moved home, around the west of Scotland, to Lincolnshire, to London. And then to France for the past few years.

But he still lives there? That’s a surprise, Gregor? “Yes, it surprises me as well,” he smiles. “Our maximum used to be four and a half years in a house. This is coming up for nine. But there will be an issue to address. Cissie lives in Bristol and any grandchildren will be there. So that could be the next home. For a while anyway.”

Where is home, really? “I don’t think I’ve ever known where home is. I have an affinity with Scotland because this is my country. But home will be where Vic [his wife] is and my children. If I want to come back here I’ve always got somewhere to stay. I think it’s to do with having a childhood that was a bit pillar to post and unsettled.”

Fisher speaks warmly of life in France. He has great neighbours, such as actor Iain Glen. He grins as he admits his French still isn’t great. He shakes his head when he admits he can’t grasp the new technology on his new car.

But here’s a trickier subject. Growing up in Renfrewshire, he left school without qualifications and tried his hand at a series of dead-end jobs. All that Barrhead High offered was a clue he may be good at acting. Yet, having been accepted into the RSAMD, Fisher left before his course was complete.

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What was the story behind that? The actor sips his tea. “I think there was a certain antipathy towards me at drama school. I didn’t quite fit the mould.”

Why? Was it because RP was the only acceptable accent then – and you sounded like the bloke who’d worked in a toilet factory?

“Yes,” he agrees, “but it also had a lot to do with personalities. And one of the lecturers took against me.”

He reflects: “Lennox Milne, the wonderful old Scottish actress used to say, ‘Och, yes, drama school teachers – failed actors.’ “Now, that was maybe a wee bit hard. But I think it was partly true. I’ve never been good at being told. And I was maybe a bit recalcitrant. (He still finds it hard to take direction; ‘I’m revved up, ready to take off and they want to give me f****** notes.’) One of my teachers thought it was madness for me to leave. He reckoned I needed the certificate to say I was a fully qualified out of work actor.”

Fisher believes actors are born. Not made. “You can refine what you do. But that’s about it. Yet, when I left I was worried that I had made the wrong move. However, I wanted a job. The big thing in those days was getting an Equity Card and when someone offered me the chance to get one doing Theatre In Education I took it.”

It’s a tough place to start. Appearing before bored high school pupils, most actors will confirm, is like swimming with sharks, except rather more dangerous. But he had the boldness to take the plunge.

HeraldScotland: Gregor Fisher in The CockfieldsGregor Fisher in The Cockfields

“I don’t think I was super-talented. Although, maybe I thought I was. I’m not entirely sure. I think I was capable of something, although what that ‘something’ is I still don’t know.”

He laughs: “When I get phone calls asking me to do things I often think, ‘Are you sure you want me? Are you sure you don’t have the wrong number?”

Fisher is aware of the contradictions in his argument. He believes in his own talent, yet he says he is never quite sure why anyone would wish to pay good money to hire it. But many producers did. And still do. Including the producers of The Cockfields, the story of family disquiet set on the Isle of Wight. It’s a sitcom but it doesn’t follow the form of a traditional set-up and gag format.

It’s about a family dynamic, about how they all rub against each other like sandpaper. It’s observational. It’s not going to leave your sides aching, as is the case with most sitcoms these days, but it’s as safe as three pairs of underpants.

Fisher plays overbearing control freak Ray, partner to Sue (a very irritating woman) played by Sue Johnston. It’s an unexpected pairing given Johnston is 10 years older. Is this crotchety typecasting, Gregor? Did Vicky watch it and say, ‘There’s a bit of you in this character?’ “She hasn’t thus far but she may yet do so,” he deadpans.

He enjoyed the filming in the Isle of Wight, when it wasn’t raining. “It was fun to make. In the main.”

What made it less fun? “There’s so little time in filming these days. Bang, bang, bang. But everybody was very pleasant.”

He was cast as a replacement for the late Bobby Ball. “Yes, poor Bobby, going out with the Covid.” Did he have reservations about stepping into the dead man’s shoes? “None whatsoever. It’s a job, isn’t it? At the end of the show there will be a remembrance to Bobby Ball.”

What of the work he’s offered these days? He laughs. “Look at me,” he says, nodding in the direction of his Little Plum tum. “What you see before you was never going to play the lean and hungry Cassius, or the like. Except maybe on the wireless. I was always going to get a certain type of role.”

The comedy figure? “Yeh,” he shrugs, in half agreement.

Yet, he isn’t hungry to play the acting world’s most challenging creatures. Certainly not on stage. “I met Pattison (Ian, Nesbitt’s creator) to chew the cud yesterday and he said to me, ‘Why don’t you do a play? The Homecoming?’ I said that’s what people think a crusty old **** should be doing. But I did the Homecoming when I was 24 at Dundee Rep, with Roberta Taylor who ended up in EastEnders [she played Irene Raymond]. And Juliet Cadzow.”

He grins: “I had to put Copydex on my face and tissues and crumple it to make me look old. They must have seen me as some crusty old **** then.”

He adds: “There has never been a choice. The business decides that’s what you should do.”

You don’t have a screaming desire to play Lear, then? “None whatsoever,” he says, shaking his head for emphasis. “I saw a crit yesterday for The Dresser, starring Matthew Kelly and Julian Clary. Matthew Kelly came out of it OK.”

The point he was making was that Clary didn’t. There would be a risk in doing a great piece of work. But only if you’re not a very good actor, which Julian Clary isn’t. “Anyhow, I don’t get excited about theatre any more. It’s not like when Bill Brydon did The Ship, The Big Picnic. What a show. That’s the sort of show I would be interested in appearing in.”

Would he? Really? Maybe. “But I’m not going to appear in a back street theatre that’s half full. Anyway, when was the last time you were in a theatre and saw a show that made you go, ‘Wow!’ “ I told him about the new Johnny McKnight play, Joke. He’s not convinced. “I don’t fancy it. I’d have to dae it. And then again the next night. And the next. Then they might want me to tour for six months. Naw.”

Why isn’t he working for BBC Scotland? Why didn’t he, for example, play the gangster in Guilt? “I know nothing of BBC Scotland. And they know nothing of me. I don’t hear from anyone in this fair land. I don’t hear from anyone in the Comedy Unit [which made Nesbitt] for example. Things have moved on. That’s the way of it.”

He gets offers of television but they don’t always suit. “I’m offered some guff. There was one Netflix thing about flying boats in which I had to hit someone with a big stick. It was based on a video game. I think I was offered it because the character in the packaging looks like me.”

Fisher is a good-natured grump these days, happy in the knowledge his three children [Cissie, Alexander and Jamie] are grown up and doing great. What of life away from the job? His Sunday nights, he says, see him watch Countryfile, then Antiques Roadshow and he goes to bed to read. “Vicky stays up to watch Line of Duty or Ridley Road.”

Does he still reflect upon his past life? Having traced his ancestry with writer and friend Melanie Reid for his memoir The Boy From Nowhere, do the doors of revelation continue to open? “I haven’t continued to look, and the people I did discover have died, because they were quite a bit older,” he reflects. “My half-brother, John Kerr, who was a journalist, is gone.

“But having said that my agent phoned the other day with some added information. And it was all about the man who I was brought up by, John Leckie. It showed him in a different light, and he had revealed some kindness. But I don’t crave any more information. I’ve got enough, thank you.”

Talks on a stage show of Rab C Nesbitt have evaporated. Does he miss Rab? “Not really but that in itself is quite interesting. You can’t really miss anything you’ve ever done. It’s not real. You have a life outside of acting. There are other things that have been, and are, more important.”

He adds: “I’m now going to see my pal in the spinal unit. Calcification of her spine. A woman who has climbed every Munro. Health is everything. Tick tock tick tock.” Fisher stands to leave. I say it’s been good to catch up. He agrees but there’s a cheeky glint in his eyes which suggests he’s still not entirely comfy with the dynamic. “You can understand why people can’t always trust the boys in the press,” he says, grinning.

The Cockfields, starts on Monday, 10pm, Gold