11th October 2017 Fraser Bedwell

Still Game star James Martin – best known for playing Eric in the much-loved BBC comedy – joined musicians and residents for a sing-song at the Erskine Glasgow Nursing Home today (Wednesday).

The event, featuring musicians provided by Music in Hospitals & Care Scotland, was to help publicise the forthcoming launch of the Unforgotten Forces programme of support for older veterans and their families in Scotland, which has come about after a consortium led by Poppyscotland was awarded £4 million from the Aged Veterans Fund.

For millions of Scots, James is best known as one of the calamitous Clansman cohorts of Jack and Victor in the hilarious sitcom. But what many people don’t know is that in 1949, at the age of 17, James joined the Royal Navy. He served for seven years and recalls that period of his life with absolute pride: “I had a wonderful time in the Royal Navy and I can honestly say it was the best thing I ever did… I loved the camaraderie and, having left school at 14, it was wonderful to get an education.

“So, for me, more than 60 years on, it’s great to see that there is proper and lasting help in place for our older veterans. The funding that has led to the formation of Unforgotten Forces will prove vital as we do the utmost to look after those who served our country with such pride, bravery and distinction.”

James added: “My two brothers and Father were Merchant Seamen, but it was the Navy for me – even though my Father never forgave me! I joined up in 1949 and spent 2½ years in the Mediterranean based in Malta. We toured every holiday resort in the area. I served on the biggest and fastest Royal Navy battleship, HMS Vanguard. It didn’t come into service until after the Second World War and so it never fired a shot in anger.”

And James’s advice for any youngsters considering a career in the Armed Forces is clear: “Go for it. Any young man and woman joining the services will get a proper education.”

Sixty-five years on from those treasured years and with an impressive acting career still very much in full flow, James admits he will be forever known for one thing: “I’ve appeared in more than 70 plays and 100 television shows. I’ve performed Shakespeare on the stage and I’ve been both a murderer and a victim in Taggart. However, I realise my claim to fame is wetting myself in Still Game.”

Mark Bibbey, Chief Executive at Poppyscotland, said: “The Unforgotten Forces collaboration of 15 leading organisations will deliver a range of new services and enhancements in areas including advice, access to healthcare, social isolation, respite, along with creative activities and events for those in care settings. The consortium’s £4 million award will ensure we can undertake this ambitious programme of work.”

For further information on the Unforgotten Forces programme please click here.