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James McLevy

Radio Victorian Detective starring Brian Cox and David Ashton


James McLevy was an Irishman who moved to Edinburgh, Scotland where he worked as a builder's labourer and then became a policeman in 1830. In 1833 he became a detective, rising to the rank of Police Detective Inspector in the Parish of Leith, Edinburgh. This real life policeman handled over 2200 cases during his 30 year career and it was said that he always secured a conviction.

James McLevy was born in Ballymacnab in County Armagh, Ireland. His father was a farmer. He was notorious for not liking the English.


The audio books of McLevy are now available to purchase - More Information.


Buy The Books Of McLevy.


Nickname Of James McLevy


The nickname of James McLevy were The Edinburgh Detective. Other nicknames given to McLevy by Jean Brash was The Thief Taker and Jamie McLevy.

In retirement during the 1860s he wrote his memoirs about criminals and the underclasses of Scotland's capital city. These case notes were then called Curiosities of Crime in Edinburgh, The Sliding Scale of Life and The Disclosures of a Detective. They are now published in the books McLevy: The Edinburgh Detective and McLevy Returns: Further Disclosures of the Edinburgh Detective. These can be purchased at discounted prices and with free delivery available at Amazon. They feature tales called The Blood-Stained Moleskin, The Ingenuity of Thieves and The Conjurer and his account of how he captured the Edinburgh body snatchers, Burke and Hare.

The books were very popular in Victorian times and are thought to have inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to write the Sherlock Holmes stories years later. A connection between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and James McLevy is that McLevy sought forensic advice from members of the medical faculty at Edinburgh University, where Conan Doyle later studied.



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The Drummer Boy


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It is packed with trivia about the Napoleonic War, His Majesty's Theatre in Aberdeen, the history of Tidworth Military Hospital and about modern day nursing and emergency first aid as well as the battlefield medical care during the Battle of Waterloo.


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Radio 4 McLevy


Over a Century later BBC Radio Four produced the first McLevy 45 minute radio programme play based on the books of the Victorian detective. It was broadcast on July 1999. It was so successful a further 12 episodes (three series) were broadcast each year until 2003. The series is occasionally repeated on BBC Radio 7. A new series aired from 3 April 2006 until 24 April 2006.



Each episode was written by actor, writer and broadcaster David Ashton who produced the programmes and acted as McLevy's superior, Lieutenant Roach. McLevy was played by Brian Cox, whilst Detective Constable Mulholland was played by Michael Perceval- Maxwell. David Ashton has written the book Fall from Grace An Inspector McLevy Mystery and also Shadow of the Serpent An Inspector McLevy Mystery.




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Jean Brash - Siobhan Redmond


Each episode also featured a character called Jean Brash who was a prostitute who then ran her own brothel, The Happy Land. This was burnt down in one episode (The Burning Question) and Jean Brash opened another brothel called The Just Land. She was played by Siobhan Redmond. Jean Brass and Inspector James McLevy had a love hate relationship and she always managed to just stay on the right side of the law. She never called her business a brothel - it was always a body hoose (house) and rather than call herself a madam she called herself a body house keeper. Her rival madam is a French lady called The Countess (played by Maureen Beattie).

Each episode was directed by Patrick Rayner.

Much of the humour comes from the sayings of farm owner Aunt Jessie of Constable Mulholland.

McLevy Episode Guide


Pilot Episode

Series One

For Unto Us
The Trophy Club
The Second Shadow
The Burning Question

Series Two

A Good Walk Spoilt
Wild Justice
The Wild Spark
Stab In The Back

Series Three

Behind The Curtain
A Voice From The Grave
The Dark Shadow
Servant Of The Crown

Series Four

A Piece Of Cake
The Sea Change
Sins Of The Fathers
The Devil's Disguise


Series Five

To Keep Him Honest
Picture of Innocence
The Chosen One
The Reckoning


Series Six

A Bolt From The Blue
End of the Line
Jack O' Diamonds
Queen of Spades



Series Seven

The Firebrand
Dead Reckoning
Prince of Darkness
A Distant Death



Series Eight

The Blue Gown
Flesh and Blood
Fine Deception
The Last Illusion



Series Nine

A Different Path
The Cat's Claw
A Sore Convulsion
The Cross-Roads
A Secret Life



Series Ten

A Price To Pay
The Seventh Veil
The Night Walker
The Devil Makes A Move



Series Eleven

Meet James Mclevy which was on Saturday Drama and was a one hour special based on the first episode.
A Matter of Balance
A Man of Honour
He Who Waits
The Last Goodbye


McLevy Talking Books CDs

The McLevy plays are now available on talking book and CD, though they are often repeated on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 7 - More Information.


McLevy Christmas Special

A McLevy Christmas special for Radio 4 was written by David Ashton for 2006. It was broadcast on Christmas Day at 3:10pm.

The Christmas McLevy special saw the dour detective gladden that he has a crime to solve on Christmas Day. It seems that a supernatural thief is haunting Leith as the citizens make merry. The Inspector is only too glad to hunt the ghostly thief down because he is no natural Yuletide reveller. Can McLevy capture the ghost thief, get a decent cup of coffee and still have still to find a decent coffee pot? Like Scrooge McLevy enters into the Christmas spirit and spends Xmas Day with a baby, Jean Brash, a goose, and a sing song at the body hoose. Now who stole Inspector Roach's bird that should have been enjoyed in the presence of Mulholland without McLevy?


McLevy Cast List

McLevy - Brian Cox
Jean Brash - Siobhan Redmond
Mulholland - Michael Perceval-Maxwell
Roach - David Ashton
Hannah - Colette O'Neil
Marcus Crowe - Matthew Pidgeon
Donald McIver - Andrew Neil
Margaret Beaton - Helen McAlpine
Percy Bierce - Stuart McQuarrie
Simone - Tracy Wiles
Finlay Hodge - Robert McIntosh
Lafferty - Mark Bonnar
Daniel - Dominic Di Rollo
Child - Anna McPhail

Producer - Patrick Rayner


A pilot television episode for a McLevy TV series has been written by David Ashton and was commissioned by Scottish Television.


Purchase the first McLevy book.


Catchphrases Of James McLevy

When arresting a villain James McLevy would say his catchphrase "I am James McLevy Inspector of Police."


The James McLevy Trophy

Detective Superintendent John McGowan introduced a James McLevy Trophy to Lothian and Borders Police in the 1990s. The James McLevy Trophy awards the police detective in recognition for outstanding achievement in crime detection in Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland.


More crime trivia questions.


Dr Johnson's Dictionary of Crime

Another historical detective play written by David Ashton was Dr Johnson's Dictionary of Crime which was broadcast as the Saturday Afternoon play on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday 19 April 2008. Dr Johnson's Dictionary of Crime started at the letter A and saw Doctor Johnson and his friend James Boswell solve the crime of a man who shot another at point blank range during a duel and was sentenced to hang. Dr Johnson was played by the actor Timothy West, James Boswell (Bosey) by Stuart McQuarrie, Silas Pike by Ron Cook, Lady Crewe by Teresa Galagher, Hester Thrale by Joanna David, Lord Spencer by David Shaw-Parker, Caroline Spencer by Abigail Hollick, Captain John Porteous by Oliver Milburn, Tobias Boothroyd by Harry Myers, Caroline Spencer by Abigail Hollick and Serena Boothroyd. The Producer and Director of Dr Johnson's Dictionary of Crime was Marilyn Imrie.


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