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Hamish Macbeth is a fictional police officer who serves as his town's 'bobby' in a series of mystery novels created by M. C. Beaton (Marion Chesney). The novels are published in the UK by Constable & Robinson. In an interview, the author recalls,
|“||"I was at a fishing school in Sutherland in the very north of Scotland, and I thought, what a wonderful setting for a classical detective story, 11 people isolated in this Highland wilderness. So Hamish Macbeth was born."||”|
Hamish Macbeth is the eldest of seven siblings and has three brothers and three sisters. His parents are crofters and as the eldest son, Hamish is expected to contribute to his family's income. He lives in Lochdubh's police station and keeps some sheep and chickens and grows some vegetables. He is occasionally guilty of poaching a salmon, sometimes for himself, but often as a gift or bribe for others.
Hamish has a reputation for laziness. He loves the town of Lochdubh (meaning 'black lake' (loch) in Gaelic and pronounced Lokh-DOO) and is content and at peace with his life and lacks ambition. Of great concern to Hamish and his fellow villagers is the threat of possible closure of Lochdubh's police station, something his superior and archenemy, Chief Inspector Blair, would like to see. Hamish avoids promotion, occasionally even deliberately destroying attempts to give him recognition for his accomplishments. His position as "local bobby," sees him sometimes left out of official investigations and he must often work outside official channels, as the detectives from neighbouring Strathbane CID do not appreciate his help. Despite this, it is Hamish's natural "Highland curiosity" and local knowledge and intuition that combine to solve crimes.
Early in the series, Hamish has an on-again, off-again love affair with Priscilla Halburton-Smythe, the daughter of a wealthy local landowner. The affair ultimately ends in a broken engagement; thereafter, his luck with women, including Elspeth Grant, a reporter with whom he has a relationship, is poor. Hamish is very attached to his pets, first his dog Towser, then in later books his dog Lugs (Scots for "ears") and a "domesticated" wildcat named Sonsie (Scots for "cheeky").
Hamish is tall and thin. He has hazel eyes and long eyelashes and fiery red hair.
This series of novels is set in the Scottish Highlands, in the fictional village of Lochdubh, in the real county of Sutherland. Although Lochdubh and the neighbouring town of Strathbane are fictional places, the series refers to real Scottish towns such as Dornoch, Dingwall and Inverness.
Police in Strathbane
Hamish Macbeth was adapted into a BBC Scotland television series. Running for three series between 1995 and 1997, the titular police officer was played by Robert Carlyle: the first and second series comprised six episodes, the third had an additional 2-part series finale to make eight episodes. The series bore little relation to the content of Beaton's novels - Macbeth and Lochdubh transferred, in name at least, but little else survived.
The author was not happy with the Hamish Macbeth TV series. “It wasn’t like the books, I wrote about a six-foot laid back highlander and I got a 5ft 8” Glaswegian with a chip on his shoulder,” Beaton says. “It was an unfortunate experience.”
Despite numerous offers to create a TV series of Agatha Raisin, Beaton is put off after Hamish Macbeth’s demise.
“It’s on its third TV option now, they keep trying and trying, it does put you off a bit.”
It seems as though Beaton is often left out of plans from her own creations, as she explains. “They wanted to do a making of Hamish Macbeth without even mentioning me at all,” Beaton joked. “However, it does lead to ideas to killing people.”