“I first met Arthur in 1977 when I was on attachment to BBC Glasgow to direct a series called ‘The Energy File’ with Raymond Baxter and Michael Buerk. Arthur was the producer drafted in from the oil capital of Britain, Aberdeen. He and I got on very well, we shared a sense of humour and a lack of admiration for the series producer we were working for. It was Arthur who weaned me back onto whisky – as a young man I’d had an unfortunate encounter with Uiscea Beatha – one New Year’s Eve in Kidderminster. The host was a Scot. I had arrived late – ‘you’ll be having a dram’ note the absence of the word ‘wee’ – I demolished the best part of a bottle of Johnnie Walker RED Label. ‘God, you weren’t drinking that toxic shite’ said Arthur. ‘What you need is a wee dram of the finest – The Glenlivet.’ One sip and I was cured… I have been a whisky drinker ever since.
I returned to Brum, left the BBC for a short time motivated by a lack of admiration for the Executive Producer running the department. In 1982 I got a job as producer/director Pebble Mill at One. There was a new Assistant Editor. Arthur and I were re-united!
In 1984 Arthur was approaching retirement and came up with the idea that PM@1 should do a series on Singapore – where he’d served his National Service. I got the plum job as director and off we set, for five weeks, based in Raffles Hotel – with Nicky Barfoot, Dick Bentley, Don Cooper, Norman McLeod, Ian Dewar, Nigel Evans, Andy Frizzell and Bill Youell and an effing sack truck carting a monitor (flat screen hadn’t been invented) an oscilloscope, an Ampex VPR20, and a load of car batteries… This was at the time that Sony had just launched the BetaCam. Crews from around the world congregated on Singapore for the annual Dragon Boat Race. They all came equipped with their shiny new Onesies. i.e.Betacams. We dragged our sack truck through the sand… got it a bit wet and the VPR20 crashed.
Throughout all the challenges in the humid Far East, Arthur remained calm, supportive and was full of his memories of life in Singapore as a squaddie. We were there with another great, late, Scotsman Donny McLeod and a wee laddie called Paul Coia. Oh yes, and there was a contribution from Essex boy Peter Seabrook, who refused to eat anything ‘foreign’ and lived on Dunkin’ Donuts…
We returned to the UK with a great deal of satisfaction, having produced a wealth of material for the 84/85 season of PM@1. Arthur retired later that summer. His retirement party was a wonderfully moving occasion which I remember most for the way he delivered his farewell speech – leaning nonchalantly against a pillar in the boardroom on the 5th floor of ‘t Mill, telling it like it was, or had been, without a wee dram of bitterness or regret. A lovely man, and although we lost contact, I shall miss him, yet treasure the memories.
Sadly, Arthur’s happy and positive retirement was overshadowed by the untimely death of Donny in September at the very young age of 52.
I was shocked to learn this week of Arthur’s death on Radio 4’s PM programme. It not just announced the loss to the world of journalism by one of Scotland’s finest but also told a story which, in all the time I knew him, Arthur never mentioned… dear reader you can find out more here:
The Ancient Civil Parish of Stowe,
The following messages were posted on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:
Johannah Dyer: ‘Is that Ellie Lacey (Baldwin) on the left? And Fran in the window at the back?’
Ellie Lacey: ‘Well spotted Joh! Yes, that’s me back in the very early eighties and Fran too. Arthur was a lovely and very dear man, popular with everyone – especially the girls! I was so sad to hear of his death but happy to know he had such a long life. RIP Arthur.’