A 1966 profile of Dr Finlay – Bill Simpson – one of the popular doctors on our TV screens
Some of the most successful television scries have been those involving the medical world. Shows such as “Emergency – Ward Ten”, “Ben Casey”, “Dr. Kildare”, and “Dr. Finlay’s Casebook” have all enjoyed long and successful runs. Why are TV doctors so popular? Maybe it is because they are comforting in times of worry and distress. A number of actors who have portrayed doctors have found great success with the public. “Ward Ten”, for instance has established the careers of many young actors and actresses. Richard Chamberlain shot to world fame as Dr. Kildare: so did Vince Edwards as Dr. Casey. Bill Simpson as Dr. Finlay, together with Andrew Cruickshank as Dr. Cameron, his partner, have given viewers many hours of enjoyment as they go about their duties in the fictional Highland town of Tannochbrae.
It was while working on the series that Bill Simpson met a young actress who eventually became his wife — Mary Miller. They were married in July, 1965, in Scotland. Bill’s co-star, Andrew Cruickshank gave the bride away.
Barbara Mullen, who plays Janet, their housekeeper, in the series also attended the wedding. Such is the happy atmosphere which exists in a show like “Dr. Finlay’s Casebook”.
Bill Simpson was born in Ayr on September 11, 1931, and was brought up mainly in Dunure, a tiny fishing village which has been used as a location for one of the “Finlay” episodes.
Always keen on acting, he left a job as an insurance clerk to enrol at the Glasgow Drama College. So that he could pay his way through college, he took on a job as a cashier in Butlin’s Holiday Camp at Ayr during the summer. After joining a repertory company in Edinburgh he was later offered work as announcer and newsreader on Scottish Television. He intended to stay for six months to earn enough money to buy some clothes, but he stayed for two years. After joining the Citizens’ Theatre Company in Glasgow he decided he would try his luck in London. One of his earlier jobs in London was playing the part of a man who stole a bottle of milk in “Z Cars”.
It was while he was rehearsing this part that an offer came his way to test for the part of Dr. Finlay. He had an audition on a Friday and was told he would hear the result of it on Monday.
“I think that was the longest weekend I’d ever spent in my life,” he says. “But the wait was well worth it when I heard that I’d got the part.”
He admits that when he went along to the audition he did not realise he would be auditioning for the leading role of Dr. Finlay.
Today he is a major TV star. Like Dick Chamberlain and Vince Edwards, those other docs, he has also made discs. He recorded his first in 1964 — an ‘oldie’ called “I Love You for Sentimental Reasons”. He did not actually sing on the record, but recited in his warm Scottish brogue.
There must be many millions of people who have wished their own doctors looked like these favourite TV docs!