Monday 26 August 2019

Obituary: Ian McCaskill

Much-loved face of weather brightened up lives of millions of viewers for more than two decades

JOY: McCaskill loved his job
JOY: McCaskill loved his job

Ian McCaskill, who has died aged 78, was Britain's most instantly recognisable television weatherman.

His Scots accent, thick glasses, hyperactive arm-waving and idiosyncratic, stammering delivery endeared him to millions of viewers.

Bouncing on to the television screen with a cheery "Hello!", he seemed to start every sentence in the middle and greeted every rain cloud and thunderstorm with the excitement of a small child on Christmas morning.

He became the most imitated weather forecaster with his very own Spitting Image puppet, and was a target for dozens of impersonators, most famously Rory Bremner, who focused on McCaskill's madcap, cheeky-chappy quality.

Bremner's portrayal of McCaskill as a foul-mouthed film gangster led to a string of complaints to the Broadcasting Standards Council, which ruled that many viewers would have been taken "unpleasantly by surprise".

McCaskill was more forgiving, observing that Bremner was "far better at me than me".

McCaskill's owlish, anxious-to-please manner and odd dress sense endeared him to millions of viewers - women in particular, who bombarded him with gifts of socks, gloves and ties: "I watch totally captivated," read one lavender-scented fan letter.

He received numerous propositions, to which he usually replied with the words "my wife doesn't mind but the kids do".

In 1994 he beat ITV's weather girls to land the title of Britain's sexiest weather presenter. He was born John Robertson McCaskill in Glasgow on July 23, 1938.

After Queen's Park School, he studied science at Glasgow University before his National Service took him to the RAF.

"They were looking for Met Officers the week I arrived and my fate was sealed," he recalled. "If they had been looking for chefs I might be Gordon Ramsay by now."

McCaskill took to the complex tasks of meteorology quite easily and made long range forecasts for aircraft.

He left the RAF in 1961 to join the Met Office and was posted to Prestwick Airport, Malta and the Manchester Weather Centre.

In 1978 he transferred to the London Weather Centre and immediately became part of the BBC weather team.

He took a break from the BBC between 1983 and 1985 when he worked as a weatherman for Central Television.

McCaskill's most embarrassing faux pas was when he wrongly promised snow at Christmas 1986, disappointing the nation's children. In 1985 his cheerful forecasts about the soggy summer won him the London Dungeon Pillory award. However, his jokey interjections were not always appreciated by viewers. "The sun is shining uselessly over the North Sea," he announced, only to get an angry letter from an oil rig worker: "No it isn't. Why shouldn't WE get some sunshine?"

He also had to remember to wave his arm in the direction of the Shetlands: "They are very articulate and write to complain if I don't."

Compelled to retire by Civil Service rules in 1998, McCaskill used his new freedom to exploit his celebrity, appearing on a BT commercial and in panto.

Ian McCaskill's first wife, Lesley, died of cancer in 1992. In 1999, he married Pat Cromack, a widow and old family friend. She survives him with two daughters by his first marriage, as well as two stepsons.

© Telegraph

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