The Places That Inspired My Village Are Long Gone Now ..Sunk beneath the Fruid; TOP TV WRITER REVEALS THE SCOTTISH ROOTS BEHIND EPIC DRAMA Story of the Century Started with a Shepherd in Borders Hills

Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland), March 31, 2013 | Go to article overview

The Places That Inspired My Village Are Long Gone Now ..Sunk beneath the Fruid; TOP TV WRITER REVEALS THE SCOTTISH ROOTS BEHIND EPIC DRAMA Story of the Century Started with a Shepherd in Borders Hills


Byline: Steve Hendry

The creator of BBC drama The Village has revealed his inspiration now lies sunk beneath the waters of a reservoir in the Scottish Borders.

Bafta-winning writer Peter Moffat wrote the series - which tracks an English village and its inhabitants across the 20th century - after conversations with his dad Jack as he was dying from prostrate cancer.

Peter discovered details of his own family, from Tweedsmuir in the Borders, that he had never been aware of.

Their lives were far removed from that of the former barrister, who also created legal dramas Criminal Justice and Silks. And he wanted to pay some kind of tribute on screen.

He said: "I didn't really know a lot about my great grandfather or my grandfather. Tweedsmuir was where they lived and worked.

"When my dad got ill, we knew he had finite time to live, and he just started talking about that stuff and I just became really, really interested in it. My great-grandfather was a shepherd and went to bed when it got dark. He'd get up in the middle of the night to go to work for a bit, then go back to sleep.

"When it got light, he would get up again, he and his dogs would eat a bowl of porridge and then be out on the hill all day, working. That was his life.

"My life now is north-west London. I have just come out of a coffee shop where everyone is speaking Russian and it's a million miles from that time and those people.

"My daughter has just started at Oxford University, studying English literature and she is big into Nabokov. I mean, what? It's amazing.

"I just thought how weird that I have lost touch with all that stuff and it would be very interesting to look back at that.

"I started with my own family but broadened it out into a more general exploration of that life at that time."

If that was the spark which inspired the series, it was ignited when Peter discovered the cottage in which his forebears had lived in was gone, sunk under Fruid Reservoir, near Moffat, when it opened in 1968. He said: "The cottage which they lived in isn't there any more, it's under a reservoir.

"We had family picnics around there when my dad was posted to Edinburgh with the Army for a couple of years. But I wasn't too aware of the fact this was my dad and my ancestry in terms of geography, we were just having a picnic and getting wet."

The Village stars John Simm, Maxine Peake and Juliet Stevenson.

Set in the Peak District, in Derbyshire, with the first six episodes covering 1914 to 1920, the camera never leaves the village and the impact of all the great social and political events which have shaped modern Britain are told through the people who live there.

The character of Bert Middleton, the second oldest man in Britain, plays a key role, living across the entire hundred years.

Peter said: "None of the 28 characters is based on anyone I know but what happens, inevitably, is you draw on bits and pieces of your own life and there are bits of colour which come from my own family.

"My mum Norma, for instance, had her left-handedness beaten out of her at school and that is in the first episode.

"Bert's story is incredibly different from her story but you use what you've got from your own background and you make it up really.

"I hope it is as historically accurate as possible. That was very, very important to me.

"Rather than hitting the books, I went up to Derbyshire and found old people to talk to and that felt like the right starting point. …

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