Beechgrove Garden presenter Jim McColl retires after 40 years

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Jim with co-presenterImage source, TERN TV
Image caption,
Jim McColl with co-presenter Carole Baxter

The BBC's longest-serving gardening presenter is hanging up his trowel after more than 40 years.

Jim McColl, 83, has hosted BBC Scotland's The Beechgrove Garden since the popular TV show began in 1978.

He said his passion for gardening was undimmed but failing grip in his hands was one of the reasons for leaving now.

His words "Welcome to Beechgrove Garden" and catchphrase 'Every day's a school day' have been familiar to generations of Scottish viewers.

Explaining his decision, he said: "It is time I retired not because I have lost any interest in gardening or my enthusiasm for gardening but just because I'm getting old.

"I'll be 84 next birthday - so things are going wrong in the sense that if I get down on my knees, I'm not sure I can get back up again."

Image source, TERN TV
Image caption,
Jim McColl in the early days of The Beechgrove Garden

Jim will announce his retirement when the latest show airs on the new BBC Scotland channel later.

During the show, which will look back at his career, he will tell co-presenter Carole Baxter that gardening has shaped his life.

"It is half my life. I just want to grow old in private … but I'll still garden," he says.

Jim reveals he is getting treatment to help with his loss of grip, but has difficulties and is unable to do things like button his top shirt button.

Gardening colleagues watching the show have previously remarked to him that he has been holding gardening tools awkwardly.

Image source, TERN TV
Image caption,
The cast of the long-running TV gardening show

He said: "One of the things you want to do when you are showing off on telly, is you want to do it properly."

Tributes have been paid to his professionalism and dedication to both horticulture and broadcasting.

Beechgrove producer Gwyneth Hardy said: "It's the end of an era for Jim to be handing over the trowel.

"It's been a big decision, not taken lightly for Jim as he is genuinely passionate about communicating his knowledge of gardening.

"He said to me recently that gardening is like breathing for him; it's an everyday activity."

Image caption,
Jim and his fellow presenters celebrated the 40th anniversary of Beechgrove last year

Carole Baxter, who has worked alongside Jim for 36 years, said: "I am going to miss Jim after working with him for all these years but this is an appropriate time to celebrate his career.

"He is a great gardener and presenter.

"He shares his wealth of gardening knowledge in a way which engages people at all levels of gardening expertise from none to the professionals."

When the BBC began digging up a patch of garden at the back of its studios in Aberdeen, nobody could have imagined that the show would become a hardy perennial like its presenter.

His life and achievements were honoured with a Royal Television Society Scotland award in 2016.

Other stalwarts of British TV

  • The late Sir Patrick Moore is hard to eclipse having presented the Sky at Night for 55 years
  • Melvyn Bragg has been the face of The South Bank Show in its various guises for 39 years
  • Sir Terry Wogan was the face of Children in Need from 1980 until his death in 2016
  • Another gardener, Alan Titchmarsh hosted the Chelsea Flower Show for 30 years
  • Journalist Kirsty Wark has been presenting the BBC's Newsnight since 1993
  • Naturalist Sir David Attenborough is the rarest of species, holding the record for the longest-serving TV presenter at 65 years

He told a BBC Scotland documentary to mark his 80th birthday that his father was a gardening supervisor responsible for all the parks in Kilmarnock.

"It was part of the fabric of our lives really," he said.

"You are much influenced by your environment and that was part of mine."

After a spell working as a gardening adviser in Reading, he moved to Aberdeenshire where he worked on a ground-breaking distillery project that used waste energy to grow tomatoes.

The Beechgrove Garden grew out of his participation in a Radio Scotland series The Scottish Garden.

Jim presented the show from BBC Scotland's Aberdeen base alongside George Barron.

Image source, TERN TV
Image caption,
Jim McColl with former co-presenter George Barron

Donalda MacKinnon, director of BBC Scotland, said: "Many thousands of gardeners have been inspired and coached by Jim via The Beechgrove Garden over many years and on behalf of them all, and also for other viewers who simply love him for his knowledge and warmth, I'd like to thank him."

As well as screening Thursday's Beechgrove at 20:00 on Thursday, the new BBC Scotland channel will also show The Beechgrove Garden Story on Easter Monday April 22 at 19:00.