Margot McCuaig with A Celtic State of Mind – The life and times of Jimmy Johnstone

His flame-red curls like a fire in the glen, grace and poise juxtaposed with underdog victories, the self-destructive nature of a classic rogue, and the ability to play football like it was an art form…

Perhaps the life and times of Jimmy Johnstone was always destined to be the perfect story for a silver screen classic.

Adaptations of Jinky’s life are almost as numerous as the amount of defenders he left in his wake after a single mazy waltz down by the Jungle.

Jimmy Johnstone would not be content with taking on just the one. At the last count, his intriguing tale had inspired four feature-length documentaries, and Margot McCuaig has been involved in the writing and directing of two of them.

Listen to the latest episode of the award-winning A Celtic State of Mind

Margot described working on 2006’s ‘A Bhoy’s Life’ as, “A brilliant experience. (It was) a very emotional time because it wasn’t long after Jimmy had passed away.

“I knew Jimmy and had spent a fair bit of time with him… That was quite challenging so soon after his death to be involved in that, but I think what we made was something that was really honourable for him, and the fans really appreciated it.”

When Margot finally struck out on her own in the world of film-making after serving her apprenticeship for Celtic, she decided to direct another Jinky biopic in 2016, “It was a real privilege doing the Jimmy Johnstone film that I did myself for Purple TV,” recalled the award-winning director. “Jimmy’s grandson played Jimmy, and that was just amazing.”

“He was such a shy boy, very different from his grandfather, but he just sunk into it wholeheartedly. He was fantastic.

“(It was) overwhelming having all this camera crew and being asked to play his grandfather… in little romantic scenes and stuff, but fair play to him. He was great. He just added that additional level that made it special.

“The premiere of the Jimmy Johnstone film was held at the IMAX cinema (in Glasgow). We had the VIP reception over at the BBC, and a piper piped everybody over. That was an amazing night with amazing guests, Lisbon Lions, other Celtic personnel and, most importantly, Jimmy’s family.

“It was overwhelming just how well it went down and how much the family appreciated it. That’s the important thing because you want to treat somebody like Jimmy Johnstone’s memory and legacy with respect, and I worked really hard to do that. They were just like so thankful at the end that his story came out the way it did.

“Agnes (Jimmy’s widow) is amazing. She’s very straight down the line. She’s very Scottish. She didn’t bother (about going to the football). She didn’t even bother about not seeing The European Cup final. She drew some fantastic laughs.

“At the same time while she’s quite hard and to the point, you could tell how emotional she was.

“One of the important things to me in that film was the fact that Jimmy’s daughters also contributed, and the remarkable this was that no one had ever asked them to contribute anything about their father before. They had always just asked James because he was a boy.

“Because I had never seen them in anything before, I was quite apprehensive… It was really important to me because I want to have a gender balance in my films regardless of who the subject is, and I thought this was going to be really difficult to talk them into it. They were really appreciative of their chance to talk about their dad, and they were brilliant.

“(Jimmy) always stayed with the community he grew up with. That’s the people he trusted, that’s the people he wanted to be with… Despite the fact of being one of the greatest players in the world, his head stayed with him and his community, and I think that’s enormous.”

Paul John Dykes

Margot paid tribute to Jimmy Johnstone in episode 33 of A Celtic State of Mind. You can listen to the show here:

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