MANY HAPPY RETURNS Robert Dawson Scott meets the man whom we have all been counting on.
You can count the elections that Gavin Anderson has been trhough by the scuff marks in the carpet under his desk. ‘Parliamentary election 1983’, he points, ‘Regional elections 1986, European Assembly elections 1984.’ His chair has been shifting imperceptibly to the right overthe years, but he assures me this is not politically significant. Which is just was well, really, because Mr Anderson’s job it is, as deputy returning officer for the six City of Edinburgh constituencies, to ensure that elections are conducted in a due and proper manner. Don’t be fooled by the deputy bit. There is a full blown returning officer, a certain Bob Cowan, but as is the nature of these things, it is the deputies who do all the work while the top men just go to the Holyrood garden parties. Same principle in Strathclyde I am assured.
Does he get caught up in it all, I wondered, in the drama, the excitement. Mr Anderson scuffed the carpet a bit more. ‘lt’s fun and it's terrifying. Once the nominations close, we’re on a treadmill of deadlines. If anything goes wrong and we don’t spot it, it’s usually irrevocable and you find yourself on the 6 o’clock news. Obviously I can’t check all 350,000 ballot papers individually. And any one of the extra staff can foul it up.’
1,600 extra people have been taken on by Lothian Region to run the election administration and that’s just for these six seats. A windfall for a few of the unemployed perhaps? No chance. Most of the extras, especially those who do the actual counting, are people
who work in banks and insurance companies because ‘they have a good enumerative facility.’ Dr to put it another way, they can count. More to the point, they can go on counting when most people would have crosses before their eyes. All the enumerators will have done a days work before the count and the returning officers and their staffs will have been at it since 6am. No wonder they get a bit testy when they’re asked to adjudicate another spoiled ballot paper at 2 in the morning.
Still, look on the bright side, at least it isn’t proportional representation, I quipped. You could see he didn’t think it was funny. ‘A considerable number of the public have some difficulty in coping with the existing system of putting a cross in the correct box. How they would cope with anything else must be a matter of some concern.’
Conveniently, just at that moment, living proof of the ingenuity of the British voter for finding new ways of getting it wrong, a capacity which, Mr Anderson counselled, you under-estimated at your peril, walked through the door. She had put her cross against a candidate she didn’t want to vote for on her postal vote. Hard to imagine, but there it was. She thought that she couldn’t change it and since she lived in a marginal constituency she was very upset. It appears, however, that the rules on spoiled papers are more lenient than most of us realise. so long as it is not possible to identify the voter and so long as the voter’s intention is clear, you can do what you like. ‘You mean I can just cross it out and make another cross?’ Her joy was unconfined. ’It would only be spoiled if I was sick over it or something?’ MrAnderson rose elegantlyto the occasion. ‘I think that would probably depend on what you had had for supper.’
Rathersurprisingly, Mr Anderson was not terribly polite about the legislation which governs these things. ’ll’s very weak, full of flaws.’ (We have to be careful to distinguish between a lawyer’s version of ‘full of flaws’ and yours or mine.) ‘Look at this’ he went
on warming to his theme and explaining how instructions in the rules governing the size of capital letters on the ballot paper were inconsistent with the proforma ballot paper in the same set of rules and how, if you were to set out the polling card which you get through the post according to the rules, it would be unnacceptable to the post office. ‘You see? Riddled with inaccuracies.’ Did I mention that Mr Anderson was a lawyer?
_ FULTON MACKAY
Fulton Mackay. who died last weekend. was a true renaissance Scot: an accomplished actor. a passionate artist. an acclaimed writer and essayist and an industrious worker for children‘s charities.
The British public will most fondly cherish him as the starchy. spit and polish prison officer Mackay in the popular television series Porridge. It was. he would say. a comparitively easy characterization inspired by first-hand knowledge of the military martinct gleaned from his years in the Black Watch. Mackay however was just one role among many and has assumed undue significance in any assessment of his forty-year career.
Born in Paisley in 1921 he was raised in (‘lydebank and initially trained as a quantity surveyor. a first calling he shared with Bill Paterson. When acting aspirations became paramount after the Second World War. he became a student at RADA and later spent a productive decade at the (‘itizens’ in (ilasgow. The broad range and vigour of his labours were remarkable for he was a hard-working actor who distinguished himself in every field of his profession. On stage his best performances included the one-legged war veteran llughie in Bill Bryden‘s Willie Rough and Bill Ford in Brydcn's production of Old
Movies at the National in London. Television brought a multiplicity of characterizations including the fiesty cancer patient in (ioing (ienrly whilst the big screen used his talents more sparingly in films like Stephen Frears' (irons/roe. Defence oft/1e Realm and. most notably. as the wise beachcornber Ben in Bill Forsyth‘s Local Hero.
lle accepted most challenges. from playing Frosch in Die l’lerlermuris to appearing as a comic foil to Morecambe and Wise. from Ibsen to Pinter. front Pirandello to Porridge. and always illuminated them with his trenchant sense of observation. at glint of humour and an unerring humanity.
My own encounters with Mackay came during the production of Local Hero when he was generous with both his time and hospitality. proud of the advances being made by the Scottish film industry but protective of Bill Forsyth lest he be intimidated
by the hero-worship then surrounding him.
Mackay"s commitment to Scotland was wholehearted and unassailable. manifested in his work for the Scottish Film Production Fund. the Scottish Actors ('ompany. Scottish Theatre (‘ompany and through his constant decision to work here at the Lyceum in the early Seventies and on film from Ill Fares The Land to Holy ('i!_\'. A 'lad o’ pairts' — the vitality of Scottish culture is diminished by his passing. (Allan Hunter)
TRIVIAL PENGUINS TO BE WON
A few issues ago we offered you the chance to win the Scottish edition of Trivial Pursuit. Since we realise that some of you couldn’t bring yourselves to believe there was anything trivial about Scotland we now offer you, courtesy of Penguin Books, some trivial winnings on other subjects.
We have six sets of the latest four titles in the Penguin Utterly Trivial Knowledge collection to be won by the first six people drawn from a hat on Friday 26 June who correctly answer the questions below.
The Royalty Game, The TV Game, The Pop Game and Travel Trivia are the latest titles and are published on 25 June at £1 .75 each. 0ur questions are taken from the books. Send your answers on a postcard to The List,
14 High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1TE.
0 On Travel . . .
Where did Charley’s Aunt come from? 0 On Rock. . .
l e. v- VHF!
I“ :rv GAME__ 0
Who had a 1978 hit album entitled ‘Parallel Lines’?
0 0n the Royals. . .
What operation did the Queen Mother undergo ten days before Charles’s wedding?
What is the nickname of the staff photographer in ‘Lou Grant’?
WIN AN EVIL DEAD T-SHIHT
We want to get something nasty off our chests. Or at least off our hands and on to your chests. We have ten almost-as- nasfy-as-the-film Evil Dead T-shirts to be won.
These cult objects are made from tasteful black cotton with luminous ink and designed by Graham Humphries- the artist who did the graphics for both Evid Dead films.
Evid Dead II is subtitled Dead Before Dawn. All you have to do is give us the most appropriate subtitle for the next Evil Dead film assuming that the action has moved from a cabin in the backwoods of middle America to Great Britain on General Election night- ’The
Day of the Dead’ or ’Returns of the Living Dead’?
Send your answers on a postcard to to arrive by Fri 26 June, to The Evil Dead T-shirt Competition, The List,14 High Street, Edinburgh EH11TE.
The List 12 — 25 June 3