Ian MacNaughton (Pilot) 1974
A Glaswegian who, after demob in 1946 worked at his father’s shop, saw a calling in the arts and applied for RADA and was accepted. He spent the next eleven years acting at the Citizen’s Theatre in Glasgow. Whilst appearing in the BBC drama, Silent Evidence, Ian noticed an advert in The Times newspaper, the BBC were looking for production crew and he applied. He was accepted and, whilst continuing with his acting where he appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour, began working as a director. It wasn’t long before he decided that one job would be enough and he continued directing, working on shows such as Z Cars, Dr Findlay, Redcap and The Avengers.
Ian’s best known for directing and producing the first series of Spike Millgan’s Q. The Monty Python team noticed the work of Ian and sought him out to work on their first series for the BBC. From 1969 – 1974, Ian would produce all but four (produced by John Howard Davies) of the 45 episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. In 1971 he would direct their first feature film, And Now for Something Completely Different.
He successfully directed the Rising Damp Pilot in 1974, he was pivotal in setting the series on course for a commissioned first series, before returning back to the Python’s to record the final fourth series. Interesting to note that Len Lurcuck, who was already working at Yorkshire Television at the time, was also assisting Ian in staging the Pilot episode. Len would go on to produce and direct two episodes (All Our Yesterdays and Things That Go Bump in the Night) of Rising Damp. For Ian, a second series with Spike Milligan would follow, and he would also work with Leonard Rossiter again in the Galton & Simpson film, Le Petomane in 1979.
Ian worked mainly from his home in Munich and, after a car accident on his way home from a production, sadly died as a result of his injuries in December 2022.
1974 -77 – Producer / Director Ronnie Baxter
(Nineteen episodes from 1974 – 1977, except episodes ‘All our Yesterdays’ from Series 1, and ‘Things That Go Bump in the Night’ from Series 2).
Ronnie’s favourite episode: ‘Stage Struck’.
Ronnie was born in Salford in 1931. After serving as a photographer in the RAF, he returned to civvy street with a view to pursuing a career in the media. His first role was with ABC Television, joining them as a cameraman in the 60s. He would broaden his skills by training to be a director, leading him to work on shows such as ‘Candid Camera’, ‘David Nixon’s Comedy Bandbox’.
In 1968 Ronnie would move to the newly formed Thames Television where he begin working on the ‘Carry On’ Christmas Special in 1969, before hitting his stride producing and directing multiple sitcoms including ‘In Loving Memory’ for 37 episodes, ‘Never Mind the Quality Feel the Width’ for 18 episodes, ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ for 14 episodes, moving straight into ‘Rising Damp’ in 1974.
Duncan Wood, who had previously moved to Yorkshire from the BBC, was now the Head of Light Entertainment at Yorkshire and he contacted Ronnie to work on ‘Rising Damp’. Ronnie would go on to produce 19 episodes.
A meticulous producer and director, Ronnie would go on to produce some of TVs most highly rated shows including ‘Oh No, it’s Selwyn Froggitt’, ‘Hallelujah’, and ‘In Loving Memory’, his longest running show with 37 episodes.
Ronnie retired to West Yorkshire in the 90s, setting up his own media company with his partner.
Ronnie contributed this memory to my magazine back in 1995.
One of my own particular memories of Rising Damp was the sheer professionalism of the cast and author. I was privileged to be involved in the majority of these shows and if Leonard and Richard were here today, they would be the ﬁrst to conﬁrm our admiration of Eric Chappell who really made it all possible.
What is not generally known is that Eric (because of the success of these shows and subsequent tight scheduling) had to write under great pressure at times to meet the deadlines – it was literally hand to mouth at one point and yet he still managed somehow to deliver great scripts – We owe him a great deal.
Tribute should also be given to the Head of Light Entertainment at that time – Duncan Wood (ex BBC Prod / Dir of Hancock and Steptoe) it was he who spotted the potential and made the initial at Yorkshire Television which eventually brought us all together.
Last but not least a ﬁnal tribute to people who worked on these shows behind the cameras. They were without doubt a loyal, talented and dedicated team and I thank them all.
For my part it was a privilege to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right people.
1974 -75 – Producer / Director Len Lurcuck
Two episodes, ‘All Our Yesterdays’ in 1974, and ‘Things That Go Bump In The Night’ in 1975.
Len’s favourite episode: ‘Things That Go Bump In The Night’.
Born in London, Len began his television career in the mid 1950s, joining Associated Rediffusion (the ITV franchise holder for London) as a cameraman. With the franchise branching out across the country, Len was given the role of implementing a camera department at the newly created Yorkshire Television in Leeds. He would then move over into the Light Entertainment Department to gain experience in producing and directing shows, creating his path and role in the new company.
Len went onto work on a number of shows ‘Junior Showtime’, ‘Leeds’, ‘The Les Dawson Show’, as well as assisting Ian MacNaughton on the ‘Rising Damp’ pilot in 1974.
Len would go on to produce and direct two episodes of Rising Damp, ‘All our Yesterdays’ in 1974, and ‘Things that go Bump in the Night’ in 1975.
1978 Producer – Vernon Lawrence (Series 4)
Vernon’s favourite episode: ‘Come On In, The Water’s Lovely’.
Vernon Lawrence was born in London in 1940. He was educated at Dulwich College and Kelham College. He gained, but did not pursue, a place at Kings, London, to read Theology.
After such diverse occupations as a novitiate monk in a Church of England Order, and a season as a Butlin‘ s Redcoat, he joined BBC Radio in 1959 as a Studio Manager, working in both the Overseas Department at Bush House and domestic broadcasting based in Broadcasting House. He ﬁnally settled in Light Entertainment Department in Aeolian Hall and amongst the many popular programmes he worked on were ‘Round The Home’ and ‘The Goon Show’.
He was promoted to Radio Producer at the age of 24 in the newly formed Popular Music Department. He first moved to BBC TV in 1965 and from 1968 produced and directed shows for both Comedy and Variety Departments, amongst them ‘Lulu’, ‘Jazz at the Maltings’, ‘Top Of The Pops’ and ‘Beyond A Joke’.
In 1972 he was seconded for a year to Arts Features Department and directed ‘Omnibus’ and ‘Full House’, a live weekly two and a half hour arts programme.
At the invitation of Sir Paul Fox, in 1974 he moved to Yorkshire Television as Executive Producer Light Entertainment. He produced such programmes as ‘Rising Damp’, ‘Only When I laugh’, ‘Song By Song’ and ‘Duty Free’.
He was appointed Controller of Entertainment on 1 January 1985. In this position he has either produced or instigated such successful programmes as ‘Home to Roost’, ‘The New Statesman‘, ‘A Bit of a Do’, ‘Beecham’, ‘The Darling Buds of May’ and ‘A Touch of Frost’.
Vernon left Yorkshire Television in 1993, at the invitation of Marcus Plantin, to join ITV Network Drama and Entertainment.
In 1995, Vernon set up his own company, MAI PRODUCTIONS. As Managing Director, he was responsible for increasing programme output across the Anglia, Meridian and HTV networks. In 1997 he became chairman of the company.
Vernon is now retired from the business.
He has been nominated for BAFTA Awards on two occasions, and has won for his programmes an International Emmy, BANFF Award for Comedy, RTS Awards for Best Drama Series, TRIC Award for best Sit-Com and Press Guild Awards.
Vernon contributed this memory to my magazine back in 1995.
Obviously, I have many fond memories of the last series of Rising Damp. The strength that grew out of Don Warrington, whose role inevitably increased with Richard’s absence. Eric was writing for three lead characters, rather than four, and Don rose to the extra responsibility. Nevertheless, we all missed Richard Beckinsales ebullient personality and his great ability to handle Leonard when he became tetchy.
Leonard was a highly talented actor with a voracious appetite for lines, due to the energy and drive that he gave every scene. Eric will conﬁrm that he wrote many more pages of dialogue for Rising Damp than any of the other sitcoms he wrote over the years.
Leonard and I enjoyed a great relationship and, despite the tension of producing a new episode every week, we never fell out. Sometimes he suffered fools gladly! So much so that, at the end of the series, he presented me with a wine decanter, still much treasured. Leonard and John Barron were great wine buffs and used to advise me on quality wines at realistic prices. British Rail were still selling off their old cellars and a rose was highly prized at two quid a bottle. When Eamon Andrews ﬁnally tracked down Leonard for This Is Your Life, it was with John Barron at a wine-tasting. My wife and I enjoyed a number of dinners, but especially the wine, at Leonard’s house in Fulham.
The memory I will share is of a day at rehearsal during yet another strike by the electricians in the Leeds studios. These were regular events caused by greed, political motivation and weak management on the other side. The studios were dark, yet again, and I was telephoned to be informed that the Managers would light the studio, despite the strike, in order that we could record that particular episode and not waste even more money.
I told the cast in the rehearsal room and, as a courtesy, asked them if they were prepared to work this way, more from a safety point of view than a political stance. The cast were all happy apart from Frances, who insisted on obtaining advice from Equity, as to whether she could work with Management. Leonard, just a little right of Atilla the Hun politically, was furious that Frances took this left wing attitude.
However, although poles apart politically, their enduring respect for each other’s acting talent was patently obvious on screen.
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