River City celebrates 20 years with a special episode


The first episode in 2002 centered on the wedding of Tall Ship owner Tommy Donachie (Eric Barlow) and Eileen Hamilton (Deirdre Davis). Unfortunately, Eileen’s jealous ex-husband Raymond (Paul Samson) has arrived, causing chaos.

The first episode of River City aired on BBC Scotland on September 24, 2002.

Since then he has transmitted 1344 episodes, and had 19 marriages, 11 births, 46 deaths and 22 murders.

The villain of the series, Lenny Murdoch, had 13 assassination attempts. Nine of these “kills” will return in a special anniversary episode that will be available from Monday.

BBC Scotland’s flagship soap has launched hundreds of careers and is a training ground for TV talent.

Roisin and Raymond river city

After winning the lottery in 2004, Roisin throws a lavish wedding for her and Raymond – Beckham style complete with thrones and crowns. It was suitably over the top but, sadly, the couple didn’t have happily ever after and their marriage ended in divorce.

death of archie buchanan river city

As part of the show’s fifth anniversary celebrations in 2007, disgraced lawyer Archie Buchanan (Gilly Gilchrist) made a dramatic exit after embezzling clients’ money, cheating on his wife Gina (Libby MacArthur) and drugged his mother Liz (Eileen McCallum). After being emotionally tormented by her cruel son, Liz accidentally kills Archie, with sisters Gina and Eileen (Deirdre Davis) stepping in to protect her by dumping Archie’s body over the edge of a cliff. But death doesn’t last forever in Shieldinch, and Archie made a dramatic comeback months later.

The show’s producer, Martin McCardie, started out as an actor.

“I played Lenny Murdoch’s friend, who was quit in season one,” he said. “Technically, I’m still in jail.”

He returned as a writer in 2005 and said the show lasted 20 years because it was able to adapt.

“It has gone through many different incarnations,” he said.

“Going from half an hour to an hour, back to half an hour again, different writers, different actors, different stories, different ways of doing it, and that’s one of the reasons it lasted because he changed and adapted as he went.”

tall ship pub explosion

As part of River City’s 10th anniversary celebrations, a dramatic episode saw owner Raymond (Paul Samson) blow up the Tall Ship pub in order to cover up his murder of criminal Sean (James Cunningham). Elsewhere, after being mowed down by Sean, Deek (Gordon McCorkell) fights for his life in the hospital with his best friend Bob (Stephen Purdon) by his side and ends up dying.

river town big bob eating disorder

This 2014 episode centered on the story of ‘Big Bob’ (Tom Urie)’s battle with an eating disorder, highlighted the impact on his health and family, and won the Edinburgh writer Louise Ironside a prestigious award from the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.

Stefan Denis

Stefan Dennis swapped Neighbors for River City when he played Dr. Marcus McKenzie from 2002 to 2003. His character was killed off after being murdered in a revenge attack.

Over the years, River City has both helped launch careers – like Outlander’s Sam Heughan – and also welcomed established actors to its Dumbarton set such as Stefan Dennis, best known for playing Paul Robinson in Neighbours.

Una MacLean, Dawn Steele and Alison Peebles all played key roles. Susan Boyle, Lorraine Kelly and Judy Murray all had cameos.

Although some people may have used the scheme as a stepping stone to further work, it has also been invaluable in retaining Scottish talent in Scotland.

Mr McCardie said: “‘For someone like me, when my family was small, when they were growing up, I wanted to work in Scotland and a lot of my time before that was working elsewhere.

“This place has given me the opportunity to work in Scotland and be here for my children growing up and it’s huge for me to have been able to do that through River City.”

johnny beattie river town

In 2015, Johnny Beattie left River City in an emotional storyline that saw Malcolm’s health deteriorate due to vascular dementia. Johnny had played the character since 2002 and died later in 2020 at the age of 93.

baby david river town

After being pushed down the stairs by evil stepmother Martin Kennedy (Ann Louise Ross0), Kelly-Marie (Carmen Pieraccini) gives birth, prematurely, to her son, David. As the baby fights for his life in the hospital, Alex (Jordan Young) and Kelly-Marie have a heartbreaking decision to make. The doctors eventually deliver the devastating blow that baby David has brain damage and will not survive without life support.

It’s not just on screen that the change has taken place. River City has become an important part of the screen industry.

A report from Screen Scotland in June showed the TV and film industry contributed almost £568million to the Scottish economy in 2019 and the Scottish government hopes this can double to £1billion pounds sterling by the end of the decade.

“There’s more work in Scotland than I’ve ever seen in my life in TV and TV series and that’s a challenge for us,” Mr McCardie said.

“We get people on and then they get on to these other shows as well, so we have to continually get people through the system, we have to plan that ahead.

“You’re always looking for new writers, new cameramen, you’re looking for DOPs (directors of photography), you’re looking at succession planning all the way through.”

ruby and joe river city

A grooming story involving Joe (Douglas Rankine), Ruby (Zindzi Hudson) and Caitlin (Gayle Telfer Stevens). For several months, policeman Joe cared for his girlfriend Caitlin’s teenage daughter, Ruby. It ended with Ruby becoming pregnant with her son and Joe dying at the hands of Maggie (Kathryn Howden) with a candlestick.

andy gray river city

This episode is a special tribute to actor Andy Gray who died in 2021 and played the character of Pete Galloway in River City from 2016.

20th anniversary

This special 20th anniversary episode sees faces from the past return as Bob and Angus slip into the multiverse

A 20th anniversary episode will air at 10 p.m. Monday as part of the celebrations.

The one-off special sees Bob drinking from a bottle of mystical liquor and waking up with his best friend Angus, in a multiverse where many lost friends from their past still exist.

Stephen Purdon, who plays Bob, is the only original actor from 2002 still working on River City.

He said, “I was just kind of in and out every few episodes, every two or three episodes coming in for a little comedy relief.”

Having started the role at the age of 19, he said it was “crushing and humbling” to play such a pivotal role in the anniversary episode.

“When I think back to my younger self who still lives with my mother and comes here as a young boy and now thinks that I’m married with two kids and I’ve been here for 20 years, I guess that’s breathtaking when I actually say that.

“Bob grew as a character and I grew as a person too.”

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