Oh! What a Night it was… 

1 March 2021 tbs.pm/72466

Director of Programmes



Scotlights issue 3 cover

From Scotlights, the house magazine of Scottish Television, issue 3 for Autumn 1962

Look back in wonder… that’s how I feel about the job we tackled on August 31 to celebrate our fifth birthday. And when I think of the enormity of the task we set ourselves and of the dozens of different things that could have gone wrong, but didn’t, then I breathe a deep sigh of relief and thanks.

The success of the “telethon” cannot really be put against any individual in the company or any one decision by either myself or any of the production staff ; this was the ultimate in combined effort. We proved we are a team, a close-knit unit capable of working at fever pitch—and it certainly was that — and that is something which gives me a great deal of pleasure.

It was, needless to say, the biggest effort we had ever made. The trepidation among many of us in the production department was countered by a gnawing desire to show that we could do it. That we did is due largely to the co-operation we received from every member of staff who was even remotely concerned with “the night” — and that leaves precious few out of it.

We have reason to be proud of ourselves, let there be no misunderstanding about that. No other independent station in Europe, let alone Britain had ever attempted a telethon. And here we were, committed to entertaining Channel Ten viewers for five hours, all on our lonesome. Yet, at the time, no one paused to consider the implications of choking the network pipeline for a whole evening and relying on our own resources.

I have said that everyone, in every grade, deserves a special word of thanks, as well as a sincere compliment on the efforts made that night. But I am sure no one will object if I single out just a few for particular mention.

The engineering staff, to start with, did a tremendous job in re-wiring the building so that all sources were fed into the Control Room of Studio ‘A’ which served double-duty — as a control room for the studio and as a temporary master control. You can imagine the pressure there was in that room!


Studio A

It was our birthday… but for all of us it meant hard work; the usual hustle and bustle in the studios. The boom swings on to the Merrynotes, as they entertain while waiting for the “Personality of the Year” result being announced.


A man being made up

Five years later… Stanley Baxter, one of the artistes on our opening night on August 31, 1957, gets a touch of make-up from Catherine Boyd before facing the cameras.

Liam Hood, who, with fellow-producer David Johnstone, had worked long days and nights arranging the programmes for the big night, then found himself with an even more complicated task — controlling the various sources so that the right one came in at the right time.

And here is where the directors can take a bow. Usually time-conscious, under normal circumstances, of course, they had to be even more than usually aware of that large second hand on the clock. This time, scheduled promotion could not be cut or dropped for an overrun. Even the linkage — and what a tremendous job Bill Tennent and his fellow-announcers did here — was timed to the second.

It goes without saying that the racks engineers, the cameramen, the lighting and sound engineers, all played an important part. But I’d like to give another small mention to some of the staff we sometimes take a little for granted — the stage-hands.

With every studio in practically continuous use, they did not have a great deal of time to strike and re-set between programmes. That they did it at all is worthy of comment; that they did it so well is surely something at which we should wonder.

Make-up… wardrobe… autocue… design… props — let’s not forget them either. Too often are they the unsung heroes of production.

But there’s something else I must say — and this time my thanks are not going to the staff, but to the artistes who came along to become an integral part of the operations.

To all of them, for their co-operation in trying conditions, I give sincere thanks. I must confess that my heart leapt with every other in the building and at home when our old friend W. D. Cocker dried up at the start of his poem. On reflection, though, I’m almost glad he did, so charming was his apology to Bill Tennent. I certainly felt endeared to the grand old man after it… and I’m sure he also endeared himself to our viewers as well.


David Johnstone and Bill Tennent

Producer David Johnstone is one of the first to congratulate Bill Tennent on winning the “STV Personality of the Year” award.


Two men

Veteran actor Finlay Currie who presented the award, takes time out with respected Scots poet W. D. Cocker, who endeared himself to millions with his charming apology after his momentary “dry-up” on transmission.

This night meant a great deal to me. That it was done at all is something that will always remain in my memory. That it was so successfully achieved is a measure of the station and ability of the people involved—an achievement of which you and Scottish Television can be justly proud.


Four man with cigars in hand

A quick check on the programme, with “Highland Air” director Ian Dalgleish, talking over – in English! – the running order with Fergie MacDonald, compere John Bannerman and Alasdair Gillies.


A twist on the birthday party

– or cha-cha-cha and all that jazz!


You Say

1 response to this article

Alan Keeling 1 March 2021 at 8:41 pm

As a boy and later a teenager, my parents and I would drive up to see relatives who lived at Paisley. So I saw a fair amount of STV’s programme output and was delightfully impressed by shows such as The One O Clock Gang, Cartoon Cavalcade, Francie & Josie, etc, etc.

Your comment

Enter it below

A member of the Transdiffusion Broadcasting System
Liverpool, Wednesday 22 May 2024