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Issue 30 - John Barrowman

Scotland Magazine Issue 30
December 2006


This article is 12 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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John Barrowman

Christopher Fisher meets Captain Jack from sci-fi television series Doctor Who, now starring in his own spin-off series Torchwood

Tell us about your five favourite places in Scotland. “I would say Glasgow over any other major city. I was born there and for me it has everything, and the people are really friendly and welcoming.

“Next would be Edinburgh for the Castle, the Royal MiIe and The Witchery. I ate there once and if you want to find some showbusiness, this is the place, especially during Festival.

“Recently I did an American television programme where I visited Lady Cawdor at Cawdor Castle. The castle supposedly inspired Shakespeare to write Macbeth. Coming from the theatre, I thought it would be a great place to choose. On the original site of the castle there is a tree that still stands in Lady Cawdor’s cellar, although it’s dead. The story goes that during that period, peoples’ donkeys would roam and wherever the donkey lay down was figured to be a good place to build a home. So the donkey lay beside this tree and the castle was built.

“It’s near Culloden Moor, site of the Highland battle. It’s a very haunting place and very moving, especially on a quiet foggy day. It’s fun going on the tours by big strapping Scotsmen!

“The Highland colours are wonderful. You get this overcast sky, with the sun beaming through and hitting the mountains. Fantastic.

“Burns Cottage is my final choice. As a child in America my mum and dad organised Burns suppers. We travelled around the States and my father would do the Immortal Memory, my mother would sing Burns songs. Anytime I go to Ayrshire I’ll always go to his birthplace. To sit in that atmosphere, knowing that’s where he wrote about all those women he loved, is just beautiful.”

John Barrowman’s Scotland


See the city from high above via The Glasgow Tower, on the move on an open-top bus or from a Clyde cruiser.
Tower, tel: +44 (0)141 420 5000 City Sightseeing Glasgow, tel: +44 (0)141 204 0444 Cruiser, tel: +44 (0)1475 721281

Head underground to the hidden community of The Real Mary King’s Close, rise up to perch on ancient Arthur’s Seat, stay on the flat and wander through Princes Street Gardens.

Mary King’s Close, tel: +44 (0)8702 430 160 The Witchery, tel: +44 (0)131 225 5613 CAWDOR A fairy tale stronghold. Other attractions nearby include impressive Fort George, spine-chilling Bronze-age cemetery at Clava Cairns or harmonic dolphin cruises along the Moray Firth.

Fort George, tel: +44 (0)1667 460 232 Phoenix Boat Trips, tel: +44 (0)1667 456 078 Culloden, tel: +44 (0)1463 790 607

John’s right to feature this area, there are many delightful places to be found. The Black Isle peninsula mixes savage coastline, quieter woods, scenic towns. For a constantly changing view, go to the Cairngorms;Britain’s largest national park.

Visiting Burns National Park is like stepping into one of his tales. Learn about his life in the cottage, step into his fiction with a visit to Brig O’Doon, location for the climax of Tam O’Shanter. Tour The Statue House.

Cottage, tel: +44 (0)1292 443 700

A quick chat

John Barrowman has a Scottish alter-ego. Is there a Glaswegian behind that American?

“I often speak with a Glaswegian accent; when I’m with family, or in Scotland. But when I’m an Englishman my accent is American.”


“American kids mocked my Scottish accent. Rather than be bullied, I decided to beat them at their own game, and learn how to speak like an American. The irony is I’m always hired out in the United Kingdom as an American, never as a Scotsman!

Tell us about your childhood.

“I was born in Mount Vernon, Glasgow, went to Mount Vernon Primary School and loved my Scottish childhood. I stayed until I was nine. My fondest memories are family Christmas parties; we’d go round to my dad’s three brothers in turn, year by year. At New Year we would have a family Hogmanay party and my gran would cook a huge meal. We’d play games and we still do all that. I’ve been to see our old house there. It was odd, my memory is of a really big house and it’s not at all! It’s like going back in time; in America many of the places I knew as a teenager have been knocked down.” You moved to Illinois when you were nine after work relocated your dad.

How did leaving Scotland feel?

“My experience was different from my family’s. My dad left his family, my mum was an only child so her mother came with us. My sister was preparing to go to Glasgow University so that was hard.

My brother was going to play for Rangers Juniors, that was difficult too.

For me it was an adventure. I was excited about the plane. I left friends behind, but I wasn’t at a crucial point in my education.

Every two years we went to Glasgow and Troon to see friends. Whenever we returned we would go on a trip to the Highlands, or somewhere. It was good, except it always rained.” You’re involved in The Duke Of Edinburgh Award Scheme.

How did that happen?

“I’m a believer in motivating young people, and encouraging them to strive for their goals and dreams. That’s what the scheme is about, teaching them life skills. I’ve a similar scheme in America, The Dreamers’ Workshop. We are smaller with less money and promote life skills through theatre. I can represent my family, my community and homeland through these schemes.”

Tell us what it was like being in Doctor Who.

“Amazing. I’m ecstatic about the fact that they’ve given me a spin-off series, Torchwood. If you’d asked me as a kid of six, if I would appear in Doctor Who, I’d have laughed at you. It’s my biggest dream come true. My mother used to take me out as a kid, and I used to be afraid to walk in front of shop windows on Sauchiehall Street in case the dummies would come and shoot me!

Tell us about Torchwood.

“In the show Torchwood is an intriguing organisation based across the UK with a base in Glasgow. I actually might be doing something there soon, which I’d love.”

What do you make of your character Captain Jack?

“He is not your typical hero; it’s great that the BBC have written a bisexual character into main-stream television who is accepted by children and their parents.”

What do you miss about Scotland?

“Besides Black Pudding supper, I miss the people, the sense of humour. Even when we were in Florida we kept a very Scottish sense of humour and it’s great to get back to that.”

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