The Vital Spark

The Vital Spark is a BBC Scotland television series set in the western isles of Scotland in the 1930s, based on the Para Handy books by Neil Munro. It starred Roddy McMillan as Peter "Para Handy" MacFarlane, captain of the puffer Vital Spark.

The series followed the Vital Spark's adventures around the coastal waters of west Scotland and the various schemes that Para Handy would get himself and his crew involved in.

The comedy was first broadcast in August 1965 as an episode of the BBC’s Comedy Playhouse series. Following this two series, of six and seven episodes respectively, were commissioned by BBC Scotland and transmitted in early 1966, and autumn 1967. Both series were made in black-and-white. Of these only "A Drop O’ The Real Stuff" survives.[1] In March 1973 an hour-long TV Special was made, in colour, featuring the same cast. After the success of this, a further six episodes (essentially remakes of previous scripts but in a more contemporary setting) were commissioned, broadcast in autumn 1974. Four of the seven colour episodes survive complete.[2]



Series 1Edit

Episode Title Original airdate
1"Pilot"12 August 1965 (1965-08-12)
2"A Drop O’ The Real Stuff"28 January 1966 (1966-01-28)
3"Salvage"4 February 1966 (1966-02-04)
4"The Quarrel"11 February 1966 (1966-02-11)
5"The Bad Luck Cargo"18 February 1966 (1966-02-18)
6"The Acts"25 February 1966 (1966-02-25)
7"A Good Man Gone"4 March 1966 (1966-03-04)

Series 2Edit

Episode Title Original airdate
8"The Duel"16 August 1967 (1967-08-16)
9"The Warning"23 August 1967 (1967-08-23)
10"Macphail’s Week"30 August 1967 (1967-08-30)
11"The Heroes"6 September 1967 (1967-09-06)
12"The Answer’s A Lemon"13 September 1967 (1967-09-13)
13"Say It With Flair"20 September 1967 (1967-09-20)
14"The Big Bang"27 September 1967 (1967-09-27)

Series 3Edit

Episode Title Original airdate
15"The Vital Spark: Special - The Marriage aka The Wedding"5 March 1973 (1973-03-05)
16"The Duel"19 September 1974 (1974-09-19)
17"The Quarrel"26 September 1974 (1974-09-26)
18"A Drop O’ The Real Stuff"3 October 1974 (1974-10-03)
19"Bad Luck Cargo"10 October 1974 (1974-10-10)
20"Macphail's Week"17 October 1974 (1974-10-17)
21"A Good Man Gone"24 October 1974 (1974-10-24)


  1. ^ "Missing or incomplete episodes for programme The Vital Spark". Lost Shows. Kalidescope. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  2. ^ "Missing or incomplete episodes for programme The Vital Spark". Lost Episodes. Kaleidoscope. Retrieved 17 December 2015.

Genome, Radio Times listings.

External linksEdit