10 Things You Didn't Know About Taggart

You’ve watched Jardine, Robbie Ross and Taggart himself crack crime on the mean streets of Glasgow – but do you know who to credit with the creation of the series? And just why did Mark McManus once attack a co-star’s wig? Here's our list of 10 things you didn’t know about Taggart.

Taggart

1: The creator of Taggart, Glenn Chandler, "nicked" the detective's name from a gravestone.

It was in the early 80s that the controller of drama at Scottish Television invited Chandler to try his hand at writing a crime thriller about a Glaswegian cop. Chandler had a modest reputation thanks to some TV plays he'd written, and relished the chance to write a major show. Shortly after getting the job, he went out for a walk in Edinburgh and, crossing through a cemetery, glimpsed the name Taggart on a headstone. And his hero was born.

2: Taggart was actually called "Killer" when it was first broadcast in 1983. This is because it was initially intended to be a mini-series following one story over three episodes. This explains why it lacks the Taggart theme, opening with an oddly gentle piece of classical music instead. The story, which featured Jim Taggart working alongside his first sidekick Peter Livingstone, was so successful that the ITV network immediately commissioned a full series under the name Taggart.

3: Jim Taggart may have been a bit on the dour side, but Mark McManus was a practical joker – especially when co-stars annoyed him. One victim was Annette Crosbie – best-known as Victor Meldrew's long-suffering wife – who featured in a 1987 edition of Taggart. Being a perfectionist, she kept asking McManus to rehearse together. McManus, who usually read over his lines just once before filming, became so annoyed that during one scene he went to light her cigarette and "accidentally" burnt away part of her wig with an extra-long flame (a gaff which later featured on It'll be Alright on the Night). While making the next episode, McManus quipped to a co-star, "I hope you're not gonna be any trouble or I'll set you on fire like the last one!"

4: The famous theme song from Taggart is called No Mean City and has an illustrious pedigree. It was written by Mike Moran, an acclaimed musician who wrote the classic track Barcelona for Freddie Mercury. He also wrote a song called Snot Rap for Kenny Everett, but we won't dwell on that. No Mean City is sung by Maggie Bell, the former lead singer of the 70s Glasgow band, Stone the Crows. The band disbanded prematurely after their guitarist died after being electrocuted by his microphone during a gig – a tragic, freak accident.

5: James Macpherson, who played the trusted sidekick (and eventual leading character) DCI Jardine actually applied to become a policeman in real life. He even got as far as an interview, but abruptly decided to abandon that path and take up acting because he simply felt he wasn't tough enough to be a copper. Still, police roles have defined him as an actor – having starred in not only Taggart but The Bill as well. And he's played that other Scottish detective, Rebus, for spoken word books.

6: It's almost surprising just how many places around the world have been hungry for the mean streets of Glasgow. Taggart has been broadcast in over 60 countries, including Afghanistan, India, Japan, Sri Lanka, Brunei and Bosnia. Wonder how they all translated the word "murd'rrr"?

7: The Taggart crew certainly do their homework when it comes to the gorier side of policework. As well as having police officers on hand to provide insights on how crime scenes look, the team also consult the forensic department at Glasgow University – where the boffins show the make-up team slides of real wounds to inspire their rather disturbing "art". By the way, they often use minced beef and chicken bones to create realistic injuries. Bet you're glad we told you that.

8: Maryhill police station actually exists – but Taggart is never shot there, and the team have created many fictitious Maryhills over the years. Indeed, in just the past six years, five different buildings have served for exterior shots of Maryhill, and three different studios have served as the interior. They have nothing in common, which why the headquarters can look so different in various episodes. The different locations were used to fit in with filming schedules and cut out travel times.

9: The years 1993 and 1994 proved a time of great crisis for Mark McManus and the rest of the Taggart team. In October 1993, McManus's wife lost a long battle against cancer and, not long after, Mark himself was struck down by terminal pneumonia. It was an arduous, painful experience that series creator Glenn Chandler remembers clearly.

"We knew that Mark was going to die," he recalls. "And we also knew that Mark wanted us to carry on after him." And so they did – beginning the first post-McManus episode with Taggart's funeral. In real life, over 2,000 people gathered to give Mark a final send-off.

10: It's a testament to Taggart's popularity that, not only did it carry on after its central star passed away, but it's actually become the longest-running police show on TV. It's been going for 25 years, which beats The Bill (one year younger) and that other epic police series, Dixon of Dock Green, which managed 21 years. Mark McManus would have been proud.