IT’S probably the most famous one of its kind, but the red phone-box visited by fans of hit film Local Hero is now in a “sorry state”.

A call, to coin a pun, has now been made for BT to spruce up one of Aberdeenshire’s most unlikely visitor attractions.

While campaigning in Pennan, the village featured in the movie, Banff and Buchan SNP candidate Eilidh Whiteford found the box was in desperate need of a lick of paint and its door was off its hinges.

“Pennan is one of the iconic tourist destinations on the Moray Firth, made famous by Local Hero, which over 30 years later still draws people to the village,” she pointed out.

“One of the biggest stars of the film is the red telephone box from where the American oil executive calls home to the USA.

“It was therefore very disappointing to see it in the condition it was in: badly in need of a spruce-up and with the door propped up against the wall having come off its hinges.

“I’ve contacted BT on the matter and I hope that they will take action to remedy the situation in time for the tourist season.”

The local SNP councillor for Pennan, Ross Cassie, added: “It was very sad to see this cinema icon in such a poor state. Even on a rainy afternoon when I went to see it, Pennan was full of tourists, many of them taking photographs of the phone box. I hope BT will get this repaired soon.”


WHAT many of these unsuspecting tourists don’t know is that the current phone box is, in fact, a fake. The box used in the 1983 comedy drama was merely a prop but the film became so popular BT agreed to install a real one so that people visiting the location would not be disappointed.

The box has had a listed building status since 1989.

Even though the film is now 32 years old, its popularity has endured and continues to draw visitors from all over the world to Pennan to take snaps of the box and even call home.

Some of them may be surprised to find that the wonderful beach, which features in many loving shots, does not belong to Pennan at all but is on the west of Scotland, near Mallaig. A cardboard church was built by the film crew near Camusdarach Beach to make the two locations look the same.

One of the other anomalies is the baby that appears in several scenes. It’s never clear who the baby belongs to – a bit like the penguin that inexplicably wanders around the school corridors in Gregory’s Girl, director Bill Forsyth’s earlier film.

It’s all part of the quirky charm of the movie that gained Forsyth a Bafta for Best Director. Some claim it is the greatest Scottish comedy of all time, beating Whisky Galore, which Forsyth has admitted was one of his inspirations.


HOWEVER, while there are some similarities, with the canny villagers triumphing over big money and big government, the characters in Forsyth’s film are more rounded than the ones in Whisky Galore.

An enthralling story, excellent actors – many of whom, like current Dr Who Peter Capaldi, have gone on to carve out impressive careers – and stunning scenery all combine to make movie magic. Its fans include former US vice-president and environmentalist Al Gore who was won over by its appeal and told chat show host Oprah Winfrey that it was his all-time favourite film.

Even the soundtrack was a hit and is believed to have made more money than the film itself despite being Dire Straits’ frontman Mark Knopfler’s first film score. It was such a hit that Knopfler ended up incorporating the theme into the encore of Dire Straits’ concerts. Paisley singer-songwriter the late Gerry Rafferty also makes an appearance on the soundtrack, singing the vocals on The Way It Always Starts.

Other Scots who feature in the film include comedian Rikki Fulton, Only An Excuse’s Jonathan Watson, Taggart star Alex Norton, John Gordon Sinclair of Gregory’s Girl and Star Wars actor Denis Lawson.

There is also an asteroid named after one of the characters – 7345 Happer, discovered in 1992 and named after Felix Happer (Burt Lancaster) who wanted a comet to be named after him.


IN THE film, Happer is the eccentric chief of a huge American oil company that wants to acquire the village of Ferness (Pennan) to make way for a refinery. Expecting opposition from the residents, he sends a minion from Texas to Scotland to pave the way. He chooses a hard-nosed young executive called Mac (Peter Riegert) for the job mainly because his name sounds Scottish even though he is actually of Hungarian extraction.

In Scotland, Mac teams up with the local oil company representative, Danny Oldsen (Capaldi) who takes him to Ferness where he gradually becomes charmed by the residents and his surroundings. Mac starts to feel torn about the oil company’s plans, not knowing that the villagers are fed up with their hard life and are quite happy to sell although they pretend they aren’t in order to get a better price.

However, the plans for the refinery reach an impasse when it is discovered that the beach is owned by an old beachcomber, Ben Knox (Fulton Mackay) who lives in a shack and refuses to sell up. Happer flies over to negotiate but finds he has much in common with Knox and decides to locate the refinery offshore and build an observatory instead.

All live happily ever after and in the last scenes the phone box is featured again with the phone ringing out unanswered as Knopfler’s Going Home plays to the credits.

It’s an image that sticks in the mind and is why tourists are continuing to make their way to Pennan even now.