"We poor buggers would go on every night and get slaughtered and crucified" – ‘Westward Diary’ presenter Kenneth MacLeod talks in 2000

Kenneth Macleod at his home in Surrey on August 15th 2000 when I interviewed him

Kenneth MacLeod at his home in Surrey on August 15th 2000

I used to run a tribute website for Westward Television called “Westward Shrine”. You can see it here via the miracle of the Wayback Machine on http://www.archive.org. Westward Television was the ITV franchise for the Westcountry from 1961 to 1981. I used to love it as a kid, and have always been fascinated in memorabilia about it.

After some correspondence with his daughter via a chance internet search, I was extremely privileged and honoured to be invited by Kenneth MacLeod to go to his home in Surrey on August 15th 2000. I spent a wonderful two hours with Kenneth. He was on a great form and, looking back on it, I was extremely fortunate to be able to record the following transcript where he talks in depth about the old days of Westward Television. Kenneth MacLeod sadly died on January 31st 2003.

The topics we talked about were:

The technical aspects of broadcasting
Associated Rediffusion
Early “Westward Diary” Days
The working atmosphere at Westward
Peter Cadbury and the End of Westward
Likes and dislikes in Television
Miscellaneous Westward Memories
“The North Devon Journal Herald”
The Beatles
Views on regional television as it was in August 2000
“It’ll be alright on the night”
Reflections on Peter Cadbury and TSW
Local views on Westward
More on TSW
More on TSW and yet more waxing lyrically about Westward and Peter Cadbury…
Another “Westward Diary” cock-up…
Reunions of the old Westward staff
…Angela Rippon, Roger Shaw, Judi Spiers, Ian Stirling, Ted Tuckerman…

Here is the transcript:

This transcript incorporates some enhancements made in writing by Kenneth following the interview. Where I have made my own clarifying comments, I have enclosed them in square brackets as follows: [….]

The technical aspects of broadcasting

Q: When you were broadcasting, did you wear an earpiece, so that you could listen to the director’s instructions?

Kenneth: No – but of course we had floor managers. They were first class and could communicate any type of problem with a look and a gesture. In the early days we only had one telecine channel. Longer breakdowns were more frequent. I have filled in for anything up to half an hour. That was when I was with Rediffusion. However, I had lots of props to talk about, for example the piano, books and records. This is not unique. Virtually anyone who has faced a camera has done the same. In the Queen’s Jubilee year we went to Dorset to film the entire programme. We completed a successful day’s shooting but at transmission time the gremlins got to work and nothing went out! Graham Danton, who was holding the fort in the studio at Plymouth, had to cope, which he did beautifully.

Q: So what did you do in the space of a quarter of an hour’s technical breakdown ?

Kenneth: Well, certainly nothing that had a punchline – because you could bet things would be back to normal before you reached it. I once went through my pockets – all eight of them – describing their contents, including a final demand from the Inland Revenue.

Associated Rediffusion

Q: How long were you at Rediffusion?

Kenneth: I think I was there for about four years. I also worked for Granada. I did “My Wildest Dream” and one or two quiz shows with top comics. I did a lot of things.. for example, programmes from the opera. Maria Callas – I’ve interviewed her and presented her. Many people like her. It’s been quite a wide experience, really.

Q: So at Rediffusion you were on early in the morning, is that right?

Kenneth: Originally, I went there and I did a programme which was the first thing ITV wanted to do (in the morning). They said – “Look we are an advertising institution, we are selling things. Let’s grab the housewife.” So we did these early morning programmes which were very good. We had people like Dickie Henderson, who would come in quite regularly. Because people like him were not terribly well known in those early days. They were only too happy to come in and grab perhaps a £12 fee – How does that sound today? – for doing a mornings work! They would pick up the £12 and be happy to get it. People like Fanny Craddock and all these people – the usual kind.

Q: So who was working at Rediffusion with you at the same time as you?

Kenneth: When I.T.V was formed it created hundreds of jobs. Many were completely new to the industry – we had Directors and technicians who weeks before had been selling soap and all kinds of things. One was a former wing commander in the RAF. However, at it’s core was a very seasoned and experienced nucleus, principally from the BBC.
Our head of presentation was Leslie Mitchell, a household name in those days from his television, radio and newsreel work. I first met Clive (Gunnell) there. The multi-talented Clive was in artistic mode there, working on the sets.

Q: So when did Rediffusion start and end?

Kenneth: It was September 1955 when it went on air until the early sixties. I was with them for over five years. And when I first went down to Westward, I was called as a result of a referral by Alan Gibson, a man who used to present the “Diary”. In the very beginning “Westward Diary” was only on three days a week. It wasn’t once nightly – no.

Early “Westward Diary” days

Q: What days was the “Diary” on then?

Kenneth: Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We had three visiting presenters who used to alternate. Barry Westwood, Reg Bosanquet (the newscaster with ITN in London) and yours truly. These were the original people who used to do it. (Later on when I left for a while, John Pett came presented “Westward Diary” instead of me for a while.)

Q: So you did what – Fridays?

Kenneth: No, I did the three days. We did a week each.

Q: Were they testing you out a bit?

Kenneth: No,no,no. It was just a question of availability. I was working for Rediffusion. I had programmes to do in London. Reg Bosanquet – also – he couldn’t surrender his old activity time to be in Plymouth. So it was really that.

Q: So how long did that last – that alternating presentation of the Diary?

Kenneth: I would think about a year or two. It was no more than that. And then it began to settle down. And then I was asked to do “Diary” on a regular basis in about ’62 or ’63. I can’t be precise.

Q: I understand that you did not present “Westward Diary” continuously…

Kenneth: That’s right, there was a short break during the Westward years when John Pett did the programme. During the TSW years I went off because they wanted me to do other things. Which I did. But I was working continuously until ’92 when I actually left.

Q: Which is when TSW went?

Kenneth: Yes, when that finished. When I went, they went!

Q: That’s a long old stint, isn’t it? Thirty years…

Kenneth: Well, it is really in television, it’s a long one, but a thoroughly enjoyable one and I had no complaints. I very much enjoyed being in the West Country. It was a real treat for me.

Q: So you moved down there in ’63 did you?

Kenneth: About ’63. I didn’t move down immediately. I used to commute for quite a while. In fact we didn’t used to have the motorway then, so we were talking about a five and a half-hour journey. I used to take that long because I am not a fast driver. There’s always the odd clown who says “I can do it in five” but I didn’t do that kind of thing. For a year, I commuted by rail as I had freelance commitments on Tuesday and Thursday at the London studios, until Rediffusion broke up. Then I didn’t have any commitments in London.

Q: That was about ’64 was it?

Kenneth: Something like that – the early sixties.

Q: I am fascinated by these breakdowns of half an hour…

Kenneth: It was quite common place. Most people had to be able to do it.

Q: It’s all different today, isn’t it?

Kenneth: Today they’ve probably got ten or fifteen telecine channels. All they’ve got to do is just put another thing on and they’re in business right away. The equipment when we started was good.

Kenneth: You’ve got to remember that we started off in black and white. And then we sold all that equipment to the Africans for a handsome sum which they never paid, I’m told.

Q: I can remember when autocue came in because before that you could see the newsreaders looking down to read their script.

Kenneth: Yes, that’s right.

The working atmosphere at Westward

Q: What was the working atmosphere like at Westward?

Kenneth: Excellent. It was very strong,. It was very good. I am not saying that we lived in each others’ pockets. I had a very good friendship with people like Clive Gunnell, with whom I also worked at Rediffusion. Clive did the props at Rediffusion. Clive is a man of many talents. He’s a sculptor – a very good one. He’s done every kind of thing imaginable including building the roof of the Royal Festival Hall!

Q: He was a sort of John Noakes of his time wasn’t he?

Kenneth: Better! Unique.

Q: I always remember “Walking Westward” as one of the best programmes produced by Westward Television.

Kenneth: It’s a good programme isn’t it? First class. Stands up well. Then, of course, Clive went to work for Harlech and walked along the Severn.

Q: There have been a huge amount of technical changes since those days. At the viewing end, apart from anything else.

Kenneth: That’s right. I haven’t got digital television. I am thinking about it but we are very non-tech here. We don’t have satellite. We just have the terrestrial channels which we’ll stick with for a while I think.

Likes and dislikes in television

Q: What sort of TV programmes do you like?

Kenneth: I still love the “Dad’s Army”! My cousin, Marion MacLeod, is married to the air raid warden in it, Bill Pertwee. Bill lives in Surrey, just down the road. That’s an hilarious programme, I still get a great deal out of that. I like a lot of the stuff on there at the moment. I listen to the radio a lot.

Q: On Satellite there’s a channel called Discovery which you might like.

Kenneth: Well, yes, I do like it, because a lot of those (programmes) are repeated on BBC2 and on Channel 4, I think. They are first class. They’re usually repeated I think on Saturday night. They are very very good.

Kenneth: Judith was an air hostess originally and then she went down to the West Country when they took on another arm, Air Westward. Judith went down to help set it all up, prepare all the training manuals and everything. She did a very good job.

Peter Cadbury and the end of Westward

Q: I’ve read somewhere that one of the reasons the ITA became a bit displeased with Westward, towards the very end, was something to do with Air Westward.

Kenneth: Yes, they didn’t like that at that time …. today the IBA have absolutely no teeth at all… but the old style ITA were supremely powerful. I mean, if you upset Lady Plowden or something like that – she was the chairman – you were out. And, of course, dear old PC (Peter Cadbury) was very flamboyant – a good governor. One can’t complain. He was very good in many ways but he could take on things which, in retrospect, perhaps he shouldn’t have done.

Q: It seems that he must have been good to work for…

Kenneth: He was good to work for particularly when he wasn’t there all the time. He used to throw a great party and was the belle of the ball and everything and that was fine.

Q: There was talk about tensions between the ITA and Westward, at the end of the station’s days

Kenneth: Yes, I believe so. I was not privy to what happened in the boardroom and I’d rather not speculate. It is common knowledge that the ITA didn’t approve of conflict of interest, or rather what they saw as a conflict. They made it known that chairmen of regional companies who lived in the region would score Brownie points in franchise applications. Peter Cadbury achieved much with Westward and under any other system, he would have been rewarded with a bigger franchise.

Miscellaneous Westward memories

Kenneth: Do you remember Sheila Kennedy?

Q: No I don’t.

Kenneth: She lives in Surrey. Near Guildford, I think. She was a very handsome girl.

Q: She was a continuity announcer. Did she actually operate the puppetry beneath Gus Honeybun?

Kenneth: She did do that for a while. We also had a series of PAs who used to come in to do that.

Q: There was a fellow who used to draw a lot of paintings and drawings that tended to be the board at the beginning and end of the break during films etc. That fellow must have been around for a long time. I wonder if you can remember his name.

Kenneth: Yes, John Mills I think. Not the actor obviously. But he was John Mills. I am pretty certain of that. He used to come down and do that.

Q: What was your daily timetable when you did Westward Diary?

Kenneth: My involvement started with rehearsals – a hangover from the three day a week times of “Westward Diary”. There were many times when I would get off the train from London and go straight to rehearsals. The deputy editor would provide the links and running order, and off we’d go.

Kenneth: I used to write a guide…nothing more than that, because I was very free with things. It was the only way I could write. I always say that if you try to memorise something there’s a chance you’ll forget it. If you’ve never memorised, it you can’t forget it. So – it sounds daft – but what I mean is….you extemporise and improvise.

Q: So, you’d have just a few notes?

Kenneth: (Yes) I’d have a few notes and work, rather like a jazz musician works with chords… he knows he’s got four bars there and eight bars there…in a similar way you could do that, as you can with an interview. You know you’ve got your intro, and you’ve probably got your ending. Then you sketch out the parts you are going to do. Then you’ve got the meat of the programme. But I wouldn’t say that we were terribly scholastic in our approach to it. It was very free. It was a good atmosphere.

Q: It sounds like real fun.

“The North Devon Journal Herald”

Kenneth: It was good fun. Such nice people and of course, you know, you mustn’t ever forget – I certainly don’t and I don’t think they’ve ever had the credit…the “North Devon Journal Herald”. Now, they produced for Westward some of the greatest people I’ve ever met in television. I’ve worked for the BBC and I’ve worked for a lot of companies. They were wonderful. People like Terry Fleet, bless his heart. He was an editor of the “Diary” for many years. Great guy. Came from North Devon. We had Gerry Ewens, who was a brilliant film camerman. And so many… Don Arnold who did the sport. Also Peter Howarth.

Q: David Vine?

Kenneth: David Vine of course. They were all Jim Butcher’s boys. Have you heard the name Jim Butcher?

Q: No.

Kenneth: Jim Butcher was a man who used to look after the young bloods when they came on the paper [ie the North Devon Journal Herald]. I think they were called “Butcher’s Boys”. But they were very good. They loved the region. They immediately understood what the business was all about. They were great at getting the right stories.

Q: It’s funny that it didn’t happen with any of the other local papers such as the Western Morning News.

Kenneth: No. It was mostly the North Devon Herald in the beginning.

Q: So, while you were at Westward, were you working elsewhere?

Kenneth: Only in the early days. After about – I would think – 66 doing it obviously five days a week and other programmes, I used to do “Landmark” as well as one or two other quizzes and things. We had a points of view programme. I can’t remember what it was called now, but I did quite a number of other programmes as well. I just didn’t have time. Being where you are you can’t just go up to London and I wasn’t all that bothered quite honestly. I was happy working and living in a place where I liked to be, doing a job I liked to be doing. And you can’t beat that you know!

Q: Did you do much for charity?

Kenneth: Yes, a lot. We all did, including the inevitable fetes. It was good to get an opportunity to go round and see the area because I wouldn’t have seen it because I was studio-based. But I was off nearly every night of the week somewhere, and most weekends. I used to go to Barnstaple quite a lot, going into the chambers and ancient council there and a parade through the streets – I was guest of honour there, it was rather nice really.

Q: What do think Westward did particularly well?

Kenneth: I think they took account of what was happening around them and did something about it. Westward was unique. It looked different and was different. TSW looked like every other regional programme!

The Beatles

Kenneth: You’ve got to remember we had the Beatles there in the sixties. I met them, I think Stuart Hutchison interviewed them, because again I was studio based, so if it was out of the studio I never did anything like that.

Q: So this was out of the studio was it?

Kenneth: Well, they went into the cinema next door which was then called the ABC. A lovely exiled Scot called Tom Purney used to look after us all like angels. He was a wonderful man, he would always come in and have a large scotch ready for you. Yes, we met the Beatles. We had some very good people over there and also a lot of people with more direct links with the West Country. People like Danny La Rue, who was an evacuee at Newton Abbot during the war. They came back and performed, they were seen on a national level but had something to do with the region.

Views on regional television as it was in August 2000

Kenneth: We have Granada now in the ascendancy and the prospect is that in eighteen months’ time, they’ll be but one station. I think it’s going to affect the regional set-up…I think a lot of that will go because, make no mistake, our presence, and commercial television’s presence in the regions, made the BBC keep their regional stations. They wouldn’t have been there if we hadn’t been there. That’s why they kept their stations. They would have liked to have closed it all and gone on years ago. So this is the awful danger. And I think it’s a great shame. They should have kept the regions. We’ve got a nice MP (he’s a Tory I’m afraid, not a Liberal, but he’s nice), Peter Ainsworth, he’s the shadow culture man. He’s very good , he puts in his work. And I had a great argument with him because he said “Oh we want the one integrated system, we don’t want all these little bits”. And I had a go at him because I think it’s quite wrong.

Q: One good thing with Granada is that they keep the identities of the regions – Yorkshire – London Weekend etc. They don’t do away with the names like Carlton.

Kenneth: Yes, I fear for Regional Television’s future…

Q: They’ve never really been a proper producing company…

Kenneth: No, they are a commissioning company.

Q:You mentioned some of the off-screen staff. Were there any others which stick out in your mind?

Kenneth: Ron Goodwin, I believe, scored some of the start-up music in mornings. Ron was used over the years in various ways. He conducted a six-piece orchestra in the studio. There were so many people…I couldn’t name them all. People like Peter Maunder, a terrific floor manager, wonderful at setting the atmosphere of a programme. Cameramen like Gerry Ewans, David Howarth and Robbie, who was worth a book in himself. Directors John Bartlett, Rollo Gamble. Guy Baskin was our art director. (He went to Australia and did very well there as a producer in Brisbane). Shirley and the girls who staffed the switchboard. A television programme like a game of Cricket or Rugby is very much a team effort – the Westward Team was premier league stuff.

Q: A basic question. This might be a change today for a lot of places. To get into the building did you have to go through security or anything like that or did you just walk in?

Kenneth: We didn’t have strong security in the early days. We had very aware people handy. We had some wonderful girls on the switchboard. You know, they went far beyond the call of duty. They used to look after us all. And you know they would keep an eye open for anything. We lost a lot of things. I remember once that we had a piece of equipment which was in those days quite valuable. We didn’t have room to put it inside, so we left it in a lock-up outside. It really was as long as this room [about twelve feet long]. I can’t remember what it was. Anyway, somebody nicked it. So the security couldn’t have been all that good. A lot of material went.

Q: The actual building itself, what was that like? Were there a lot of corridors or what?

Kenneth: There were a lot of corridors, which you have to have, because basically all you need is a large hanging space which could have served equally well as an abattoir or a studio. Well, we poor buggers would go on every night and get slaughtered and crucified. So, that was the place. We had two studios. We had a fairly largish one for the area where we could do perhaps…nothing too ambitious…we could certainly put on a song and dance show. And then we had our tiny studio which “Westward Diary”, being the daily programme, more often than not, was in. Because the major studio would be used by “Treasure Hunt” and “Cider’s Bar” and all these kind of things.

Q: “Treasure Hunt” – was that done every week or did they do five in a day like they do nowadays?

Kenneth: They did two in a day with a different audience. Kenneth Horne started it off, you know. Kenneth was the original presenter – a wonderful man. Do you know his work from radio? I still listen to it now…you know his timing was brilliant. It stills stands up very well today.

Q: Then Keith Fordyce did it…

Kenneth: Yes then Keith. Poor old Ken died unfortunately. I think he went to something like the Bafta awards at the Dorchester and virtually keeled over and died.

Q: So “Treasure Hunt” must have been very long running then?

Kenneth: …a long running programme.

Q: Did it have seasons or did it go all the year through?

Kenneth: Yes, it wasn’t a 52 week of the year operation. We did about 16 at a time.

Q: It was good for seeing people from around the region.

Kenneth: It was very good in that respect, yes. “Landmark” was quite a good programme.

Q: What was “Landmark”?

Kenneth:”Landmark” was where you’d identify part of the region and they would have to guess where it was. A very simple idea really. But it worked well.

Q: We used to like “Picture Puzzle” on “Westward Diary”….

Kenneth: It was extremely popular…

Q: We were always fascinated to work out where it was…

Kenneth: How could you help but be fascinated? I am. Whenever I am here, if it’s somewhere in Surrey or anywhere I’ve been, I am naturally fascinated. We went the other day…we belong to a thing called the Bourne Society…they do trips to old pubs…that pleases me…And we went there and we saw Charles Darwin’s house which is just down the road. So we went off there and saw that. It’s wonderful. Now that to me is the kind of thing – if you have glimpses of these places it would be fascinating. I think so.

Q: We used to like Stuart Hutchison…

Kenneth: Oh Stuart – great! His pieces at closedown were brilliant. He can go on and he can be so amusing. And he’s a brilliant actor you know, as indeed was Ian Stirling. He is a first class actor. He and Stuart appeared together in The Dresser. They were both absolutely brilliant, very very good.

Q: Where did they come from, all these actors? London? Or the West Country?

Kenneth: Stuart comes from Chesterfield. I met him first when we were doing the programme from Exeter Showground…it was that time of the year…and I think we were all a bit merry because we’d been in the Farmer’s Tent from about 8 o clock that morning!

“It’ll be alright on the night”

Q: Were there any big cock-ups?

Kenneth: Well,I think it’s a big cock-up even if you have a 30 second break. It shouldn’t happen. But it’s like everything else in life, if you’re a pro, you keep things up your sleeve…you don’t work completely in the dark. You’ve got to think: “This isn’t going to go right all the time – somethings going to go wrong”.

Q: Were there any particular sort of funny things likely to get on “It’ll be alright on the night” these days?

Kenneth: Hundreds. I remember we had a group of hand bell ringers – all in their seventies and eighties. They were ringing their bells doing quite a simple tune. They were called “The Altogethers”. And I introduced it – I made a slip of the tongue and said “Here are the girls in the altogether”! The women laughed and upset their cueing for the bells! So the whole was a complete and utter [shambles]! You can imagine if you get one note they don’t know where they are…it all completely dissolved! I wish I had that on film. But of course, we used to keep our “Diary” tapes for about three weeks only – when we were recording – for legal reasons – legal tape, just in case. And then they would be wiped over and used again. It’s a great shame really, but tapes were expensive.

Q: Of course in the early days there was no videotape?

Kenneth: No I can’t remember when it came in – it was very expensive. But that was one moment – the hand bell ringers.

Q: How did the end of Westward come about?

Kenneth: In the last year of Westward few of us thought we would keep the franchise. The board was fractured in two. In the last year we did this film which was a major television film, two hours in length with quite a big budget with John Thaw as Drake. I remember that we were showing that around Christmas 1982 (?), and then Ronnie Perry rang me up and said “We’ve lost the franchise” just as this very good film was going out.

Reflections on Peter Cadbury and TSW

Q: Sad wasn’t it. TSW…was that different?

Kenneth: Big difference. Different people. PC (Peter Cadbury) was very much part of the old school – the Grade family – the buccaneers really, they could be quite dangerous people…but in a way they let you get on with it and they let you breathe. We had Kevin Goldstein-Jackson at TSW, who was a remarkable bloke in a way, but I don’t think he really understood television. In the end it got him down so much that he had to get out of it. The opening programme was disastrous.

Q: What was bad about it?

Kenneth: Well, it was just a mess. There was so much in it and nothing was going on. It was badly directed, it was badly… It was over-ambitious. We had neither the resources or the ability to do it.

Q: It was quite a long programme then?

Kenneth: Oh, it went on for two and a half hours. It was such a bore.

Q: Good Lord. I think when Westcountry started they just had a quick five minute teaser….

Kenneth: That’s what you want. Something short and sweet. Show them your worth and your programmes.

Local views on Westward

Q: I think there was a quote from a viewer of Westward saying “We don’t want all this local stuff, give us the Avengers and the Racing”.

Kenneth: You’ll always get that kind of thing. Today the people who want local interest things are getting fewer by the day.

Q: What sort of audience did you used to get for Westward Diary?

Kenneth: We did well. We always held up well, and often beat the BBC. We did very well. Don’t ask me to quote figures…but we were around the middle…above middle for diddle…which was good for that kind of programme.

Q: I think there was enormous loyalty to Westward…

Kenneth: We did enjoy that and I think we were very lucky in serving the region that we had, because it’s a very mixed region as you know. Often people in Bude have nothing whatsoever in common with people in Torquay or Kingsbridge. They could come from Mars or another planet really. We had a very, very strong allegiance from Cornwall. They were very good. I believe we had more letters from Cornwall than any other county.

Q: People still say “I saw it on Westward last night” even though they were actually watching Westcountry television.

Kenneth: I’m glad. It’s amazing isn’t it?

More on TSW

Q: TSW didn’t have the same identity.

Kenneth: No..I don’t think so. TSW had the same look as most of the other regions.

Q: The Westward branding was very strong.

Kenneth: Absolutely! Brilliant!

Q: But TSW just had the flying bra…

Kenneth: Yes, that was awful wasn’t it. Those palm trees with those cups.

Q: So you worked on TSW right to the end then?…

Kenneth: I did the last programme actually. We did the last thing and handed over to Westcountry.

More on TSW and yet more waxing lyrically about Westward and Peter Cadbury…

Q: It sounds as though TSW never really got going…

Kenneth: It didn’t really. I never knew what I was doing. I had one or two things I didn’t quite like which I was given to do. Perhaps I should have put my foot down a bit and said “I don’t want to do this”. But this is one of the things about living in an area like the Westcountry, you become, to a great extent, dependent on where you are. You think twice about..you know..it’s the cowards way out…but I did a lot of things which I wished I hadn’t done. You can’t bring back those early Westward days. I don’t care what you say…there were moments…and I think they were golden moments really…and they will never come back again and they never could. Certainly TSW wouldn’t understand the philosophy behind producing them anyway.

Q: Westward had a wonderful swashbuckling attitude. My father remembers the Westward galleon coming around the coast to advertise the start of the station.

Kenneth: They were very imaginative. This was largely down to Peter, you know. He would say “Yes lets buy it…lets go for it…lets do it”. Others wouldn’t know what you were talking about.

Another “Westward Diary” cock-up…

Kenneth: One little diversion here, talking about the hand bell ringers. We once had a guy doing “How to make your own boat” on “Westward Diary” which ran as a teaser going right through about six months. All this was faithfully crafted. It would probably come on once a week or once a fortnight. Then came the big launch day, it was put out to the water and what happens? It sinks! (laughs) It goes under! After six months of patient work!

Q: Was that live?!

Kenneth: Yes! Down at Saltash somewhere!

Q: Are there one or two news stories from the “Westward Diary” days which stick in your memory?

Kenneth: Well, Aberfan obviously. I mean that sticks out more than anything, even though it was out of the area. We felt an affinity. In fact we had quite a large Welsh following. I remember going to a Welsh Rugby Club. They said “Hello Boyo” to me. They knew me because they watched us in Wales. I think this was more before the change in the transmitter in about ’88 or something. But they used to get very clear pictures.

Q: So you covered Aberfan quite a lot…

Kenneth: Yes…the whole nation was shocked and saddened.

Reunions of the old Westward staff

Q: Do you have reunions very often?

Kenneth: Every two years. If I’d been fitter perhaps I would have gone back to some of them. There is a big one next year which PC is going to. I’ll have to see how I am.

Q: Right…is there anything I might have missed?

…Angela Rippon, Roger Shaw, Judi Spiers, Ian Stirling, Ted Tuckerman…

Kenneth: We haven’t mentioned Angela Rippon…

Kenneth: Ah yes, Angela…she worked at that time for the BBC and also worked for the either the “Independent” or the “Western Morning News” – or both – she worked for the BBC first and then came from the BBC to us. BBC Plymouth was a great station, I think that one of the things that helped Westward was their good standard. I knew Hugh Scully well and was sorry when he left for better things, but glad for him, of course.

Q: He’s done very well for himself.

Kenneth: He’s got a castle now.

Q: Who else do you remember?

Kenneth: Roger Shaw, who was an absolute rock anchor man completely and utterly reliable…Judy Spiers is a lovely girl. I have known her since she was about 14 – she is a great pro who would lighten up any network. Ian Stirling is such a good actor, rather wasted. And I remember Ted Tuckerman with his Tight lines of course.

…Kenneth then continued his reminiscences in the dining room outside the range of the tape recorder. Here’s a clip I recorded on the day of Kenneth:

6 thoughts on “"We poor buggers would go on every night and get slaughtered and crucified" – ‘Westward Diary’ presenter Kenneth MacLeod talks in 2000

  1. Very interesting – Thank You.

    Did he remember, I wonder – Christmas 1977, & the friendly ‘Gangster’s Mob Raid’ Westward presenters staged on BBC South West – who repelled the ‘visitors’ with polystyrene ‘Spotlight’ logos (shown in ‘Westward Diary’ as a short silent feature, accompnied by music) – no-record of this would appear to be held at SWFTA in Plymouth.

  2. Thanks so much for posting this on the web, It was such an interesting read.
    As one of “Butcher’s Boys” who came to Westward Television after working as a journalist in North Devon I found the article absolutely fascinating. During my long career as a journalist I worked for several TV stations but there never was and never will be a place quite like Westward TV. It really was a unique place to work and it was such a tragedy that it lost its franchise.

  3. Would like to contact Ron Perry please in Perth WA. if someone could pass my email on to him. Mention Country Casuals Tavistock.

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