IT WAS a showdown the like of which George Square had never seen.

Even battleaxe Mrs Mack would have been running for the hills.

Hundreds of angry Take the High Road fans, incensed that ITV bosses planned to axe the Scottish soap, descended upon the civic heart of Glasgow to make their feelings known.

‘The viewers united will never be defeated’ rang out as the protestors raged, with a rallying chant of ‘Marcus Marcus Marcus, out out out’ directed squarely at Marcus Plantin, ITV’s network director, and the man who planned to put the boot in to a much-loved show after 13 happy years.

Actor Eileen McCallum, who played the mighty Isabel Blair, told the crowd in George Square: ‘’Never forget that you have a voice. Please keep lobbying and keep writing.’’

Glasgow Times:

It is 40 years since the first episode of High Road was screened, and 27 years since those angry scenes in the Square. (Not that one. This is not EastEnders, after all.)

It was a real stramash, with the Take the High Road Fan Club, the Scottish Arts Council, the STUC, Equity, the Scottish Tourist Board, Scottish and English MPs, and, of course, thousands of viewers up in arms about the decision.

Accountants at ITV, reckoning that English audiences no longer wanted to watch a quaint serial about the ups and downs of a bunch of Scots, decided it was time to bow out south of the border, prompting STV chairman Bill Brown to explain that the cost – more than £30,000 an episode - ruled out any chance of the programme being made purely for a ‘local’ audience.

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This had the unsurprising effect of angering fans on both sides of the border, while the Scottish Tourist Board (as Visit Scotland was called back then) was none too pleased about losing all the lovely publicity for the Highlands that the show provided.

Glasgow Times:

The Evening Times and its sister newspaper The Herald, along with multiple titles across Scotland and even in England, covered the story.

An article in The Independent spoke to fans travelling to the demo from Saltcoats Snooker Club in Ayrshire.

“Led by Jean Butler, the coach party from the Firth of Clyde stopped at the shrine of Glendarroch and filled plastic bags with relics,” read the article.

“They were preparing to mourn the fictitious Glendarroch - in reality the Loch Lomond village of Luss - which will fade into history when the Scottish soap Take The High Road is axed by network ITV in September.”

It quoted a Mrs Butler from Luss, who was in ‘militant mood’. “They can’t do this. If they do, I’ll stop watching Coronation Street as a protest.”

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The increasingly bemused writer added: “One of the snooker club members, waving his Glendarroch bookmark, insisted: ‘If we lose Rosyth and Glendarroch, it will be a national catastrophe.”

However, in a finale worthy of any soap cliffhanger, the crowds were delighted to learn at the end of the demo that their beloved show had, indeed, been saved.

Take the High Road was set in the fictional lochside village of Glendarroch. It was filmed in Luss, at Loch Lomond, and began in 1980.

It served as a great launch platform for many Scottish actors, including James Cosmo (Braveheart, His Dark Materials), Joe McFadden (Holby City, Heartbeat and Strictly winner) and Natalie Robb (Emmerdale).

After the 1993 stushie, the show continued, as High Road, for another decade and it is currently enjoying a revival on STV Player which almost a million viewers are regularly tuning in for gentle drama, comedy characters and the occasional murder.

(Famously, Scottish star of stage and screen Alan Cumming was the first person ever to be murdered in Take the High Road, when he was burned alive in Mr Blair’s peat shed.)

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