Robert Urquhart

Robert Urquhart obituary in “The Independent” in 1995

By the early Seventies, Robert Urquhart was finding acting increasingly frustrating and spent more time on his business interests in the Highlands. He had no respect for much of the material he was offered and turned an old house in the picturesque fishing village of Ullapool into the Ceilidh Place, which started as a coffee shop, before serving food, then adding music and room for dancing. It was furnished with pews from an old church and Urquhart staged concerts there by Robin Hall and Jimmie MacGregor, who had won national fame with their appearances on the Tonight television programme.

The actor still managed to find a handful of good roles throughout the Seventies, mainly on television. They began with that of Wing Commander MacPhearson in The Pathfinders (1972-73), following the air crews who flew in advance of bombing raids to pinpoint targets for the main force. He played an ageing, drunken journalist, Vic, searching for a quiet life in the provinces in The Reporters, written by Arthur Hopcroft and first seen as a Play for Today (1972), and a Welsh property-owner trying to save his stately home from the taxman and the filthy rich in The Inheritors (1973). The concerns of this character echoed his own for the wilds of Scotland, worried that the oil men would ravage the beautiful countryside. In The Aweful Mr Goodall (1974), Urquhart was a widower, Jack Goodall, a former MI5 colonel drawn back into the world of espionage despite retiring to a comfortable Eastbourne flat.

On television, he also played the Quartering Commandant in Brideshead Revisited (1982), the teacher George Jenkins in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1978) and Tom Stockman in Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, as well as acting in the acclaimed series The Old Men at the Zoo (1983), adapted from Angus Wilson’s novel, and the David Puttnam First Love Channel Four television films P’Tang Yang Kipperbang (1982) and Sharma and Beyond (1984). He also wrote and acted in a Sixties series called Jango.

Urquhart’s career turned full circle when, in 1984, he starred in The Thrie Estaitis at the 36th Edinburgh Film Festival.

Anthony Hayward

Robert Urquhart, actor: born Ullapool, Ross and Cromarty 16 October 1922; twice married (one son, two daughters, and one son deceased); died Edinburgh 21 March 1995.

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