Machair (TV Series)

Machair was a Scottish Gaelic television soap opera produced by Scottish Television Enterprises between August 1992 and September 1998.

The series was created and developed by Peter May and Janice Hally who was also the storyliner and principal scriptwriter. As there was no history of large-scale television drama output in the Gaelic language, the pair spent two years of preparatory work on the creation of the show. Their initial proposal for Head of Drama at Scottish Television, Robert Love, included details not only of the characters and storylines for the show but details of the process required to find, recruit and train actors and writers. They went on to conduct actors' workshops, screentests, and writing courses to train the talent they had found to a professional standard for television.

Machair was written in English and translated into Gaelic, then given English subtitles and broadcast at peak viewing time. Although the concept was initially greeted with derision by the press, when the show aired it received unanimous praise from reviewers. Kenneth Roy, television critic of Scotland on Sunday, described it as 'a credit to the company (Scottish Television) and a smack in the face to those of us who were doubtful' and after a few episodes said 'it is even better than it looked at first glance quite simply the best thing to have happened to television in Scotland for a long time'. Viewers were in accord with him as it achieved a 30% audience share and made it into the Top Ten of programmes viewed in Scotland, in spite of the fact that fewer than 2% of the Scottish population can speak Gaelic. It was nominated for awards for production and writing from The Celtic Film Festival and Writers Guild of Great Britain.

Along with Janice Hally, Ann Marie Di Mambro was a scriptwriter for the series. Among the Gaelic writers employed were Donald Smith, Iain Finlay Macleod, and Aonghas 'Dubh' MacNeacail. Regular cast members included Simon MacKenzie, Anna Murray, Kenny MacRae, Duncan MacNeil and Tony Kearney.

It was shot entirely on location on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides from 1992–96, and after 1996 interior scenes were shot in the Studio Alba which was originally built to accommodate it in Stornoway. The series was funded by the Gaelic Television Committee, and according to government reports, had the effect of creating jobs and boosting the economy in the islands.

The writing and producer team of May and Hally made the first ninety-nine half-hour episodes. After they left, further episodes were made but audience figures dropped and the show was cancelled, leading to the misconception in the press in more recent years that the show was not successful.

The programme was given a second screening on BBC Alba, the dedicated Scottish Gaelic language digital television channel and is now (from September 2011) being repeated on that channel.