Warning: contains spoilers for Ghosts series 5 episodes 1 & 2.
Until now, you might have called Mat Baynton’s Ghosts character a lot of things (self-obsessed, delusional, a terrible poet…), but Scottish wasn’t among them. Then in series five episode two “Home”, Thomas casually dropped the intel to a pregnant Alison that he was “as Scottish as the bonny heather” and would stand by her and “the wee bairn”, never mind that Mike is – obviously -the wee bairn’s father.
Alison was as nonplussed as the rest of us and unsure as what to make of the revelation. Later in the episode, Thomas embraced his Scottish roots once again by joining Pat’s side in the North v South debate, telling Julian: “Haud yer wheesht, I’m as Scottish as shortbread in a tartan tin, sir!”
So what was going on? Had all those centuries of unrequited love simply dicked Thomas in the nob, or was he telling the truth about being a child of bonny Scotland?
Speaking to Nathan Bryon on the BBC Inside… Ghosts podcast, “Home” writers Mat Baynton and Jim Howick explained that the Scottish gag goes all the way back to Ghosts’ very first broadcast episode.
“It one hundred percent goes back to [when] in episode one, the pilot, the first ever episode of Ghosts, Thomas shouts ‘Answer the question damn your eyes!’” Baynton explains. “Tom Kingsley our director asked – I mean, I gave a pretty big line reading – and he asked me to go even bigger. I think it’s in the outtakes, that moment.”
He’s right, you can see it below:
“Immediately after the scene we were walking back to the green room and Lolly [Adefope, who plays Kitty] or someone went ‘you sounded Scottish’, and we joked about – and this is a line from a Tom Basden play that I was in – maybe Thomas is one of those Scottish people who is basically English and then you suddenly see them in a kilt at a wedding, and you’re like hang on, and they’re like, ‘Yeah, I’m Scottish’.”
Did Baynton always have a really good Scottish accent in his back pocket that he’d always wanted to use on the show, asked Bryon? “No, and I still don’t” he laughed, while Jim Howick remembered that he’d used one to great effect in the first series of BBC children’s educational comedy sketch show Horrible Histories in the role of Scottish figure John Knox.
After being pushed to air the Scottish accent one more time on the podcast, Baynton and Howick each gave it a go to… mixed results but Baynton ended the chat with a blanket sorry for having attempted it, saying, “I apologise to the nation of Scotland, you are beautiful.”
All is forgiven, certainly. (But what perhaps should have been apologised for on the podcast is the pair having confused 16th century Scottish Reformation figure John Knox with 19th century figure Robert Knox – the anatomist who received grave-robbed corpses from infamous grave robbers Burke and Hare.) That’s a mistake a man of Scotland like Thomas would never live down.
Ghosts series one to five is available to stream now on BBC iPlayer in the UK.