About William Nicholson Simpson
William Nicholson Simpson (11 September 1931 – 21 December 1986) was a Scottish film and television actor, most famous for his portrayal of the title role in the long-running BBC TV series, Dr. Finlay's Casebook.
Bill Simpson was born in Dunure, Ayrshire. He began his career as an announcer for BBC Scotland. Although his name was missing from the film credits, his only appearance in a movie was playing a groom in the 1959 re-make of John Buchan's story The 39 Steps, which starred Kenneth More as Richard Hannay. He devoted the rest of his career to television, radio and stage.
In 1962, the BBC filmed an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel The Master of Ballantrae, and Simpson played the part of Hastie in six 30 minute episodes. Later that year, he took the role of Mr. Ogilvie in "Appearance in Court", an episode of the popular BBC police drama, Z Cars.
Dr. Finlay's Casebook
On 16 August 1962, the BBC began broadcasting its long-running Scottish medical drama, Dr. Finlay's Casebook, with an episode called "It's All in the Mind". Simpson played the title role, Dr. Alan Finlay, and was well supported by Andrew Cruickshank as Dr. Cameron, his older partner at the Arden House surgery in Tannochbrae, and Barbara Mullen as their housekeeper, Janet. Made at Callander in Stirling, Scotland, the show ran for eight seasons, the final episode, "The Burgess Ticket", being shown on 3 January 1971. Simpson also starred in 104 audio episodes of the A. J. Cronin story, made by BBC Radio 4, from 1970 to 1975.
After Dr. Finlay finished its television run, Simpson continued to work for the British Broadcasting Corporation, and in 1973 took a role as MacNair in the Scottish independence drama series Scotch on the Rocks, which was broadcast over five 40 minute programmes.
In 1975, he appeared in one instalment of the TV series Quiller, again for the BBC. He played Sir Andrew Kilbrane, alongside Michael Jayston as Quiller, in an episode called "Target North" which involved the death of a government minister. He also took the part of Rob Dow in the BBC Play of the Month for 2 November 1975, an adaptation of J. M. Barrie's play "The Little Minister", and co-starring Helen Mirren and Ian Ogilvy.
He had a feature part in "Happy New Year, Some Say", a 1976 episode of the North East England drama, When the Boat Comes In, playing Sandy Lewis.
Simpson then made a complete series of The Mackinnons, taking the starring role of Donald, head of the Mackinnon family, who live in the Western Islands of Scotland, and feel threatened by the influx of new people with new lifestyles into their community. "Whose Side Are You On?" was the first instalment of 13, though only one series was ever made.
In 1977–78, Simpson appeared on stage at the Bradford Alhambra Theatre in the pantomime Cinderella, alongside Charlie Drake and Dora Bryan. And in 1978, Simpson played Professor Edmund Bartlett in "The Imprudent Professor", an episode of Return of the Saint, which starred Ian Ogilvy as Simon Templar in a re-make of the original 1960s TV series written by Leslie Charteris.
He next travelled to France and West Germany to shoot the 1979 television mini-series Die Abenteuer des David Balfour (otherwise known as Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped), a co-production between HTV in England, Technisonor of France and Tele-München of Germany. Simpson played James of the Glens.
In 1980, he was one of the stars who took part in the ITV variety show performed in front of Princess Margaret, Night of One Hundred Stars, hosted by Terry Wogan. Later that year, he appeared as Dr. Hugh McFarlane in the Yorkshire Television series The Good Companions, a "very unusual musical comedy drama" based on the novel by J. B. Priestley, adapted by Alan Plater.
Given his history of heart problems, it is perhaps unsurprising that Simpson's career became less busy around this time. He contributed less to drama on television, and more to factual subjects, introducing the TV coverage of the British Open Golf Championship at Royal Troon in 1982, with Peter Alliss, and presenting "Leadership Matters", a middle management corporate video on behalf of The Industrial Society in 1984.
His final contributions to the performance side of television were 1983's Tyne Tees Television production, Andy Robson: Lost and Found, as Dr. George McKenzie; then in 1984 the Scottish Television docu-drama Scotland's Story: Mary and an End to the French Connection, playing John Knox; and one more, made in 1986, which he would never live to watch.
On 21 December 1986, at the age of 55, Bill Simpson died from a bronchopneumonia in Mauchline, East Ayrshire. His role as a driver's boss in the TV drama, Shoot for the Sun, was not shown on television until 16 March 1987.
On 24 July 1965, Simpson married the actress Mary Miller in Callander, near Menteith, Scotland, and they bought a house there, called Tamavoid. They divorced just four years later, having had no children. In the year leading up to his second marriage, to Tracy Reed on 17 April 1974, she gave birth to their first daughter, Kelly. They went on to have a second girl called Katy, born in 1975. Reed's real name was Clare Pelissier.
The 39 Steps (1959) (uncredited)