This was the first ITV station after the Big Four to start transmission. STV's Opening night was 31st August 1957, "one of the most glittering show business gatherings ever assembled in Scotland," said Gordon Irving. The switch on at 6.12pm was by the Secretary of State for Scotland in front of STV staff, "trim in smart blazers with Scottish Television emblems on their pockets." One sad note, a 29 year old theatre electrician George Doughty at the Theatre Royal studio, collapsed and died 40 minutes before the station went on air.
Among the audience for the star studded opening show at 6.30, were 'rival' tv bosses Lew Grade, Val Parnell, and Sidney Bernstein while from the ITA were Sir Kenneth Clark and Sir Robert Fraser, and from ITN Chris Chattaway. Others included Dr Tom Honeyman, Jack and Mrs Radcliffe, Miss Greta Lauder, Freddie Carpenter, Peter Donald and Stewart Cruikshank. The on screen audience was estimated at around two and a half million viewers, though Nielsen's more accurate measurement gave 150,000 homes watching.
Unlike the other founding ITV companies, it's good to report that STV is alive and well, and maintains a certain proud independence from the rest of the network.
The weekly news magazine was titled Here and Now and actor Esmond Knight was one of its comperes. "The programme is largely made up of film and studio interviews provocative enough to be regularly followed up in the national press," Don Cumming wrote in 1960. One MP claimed, "Here and Now is viewed by all my political, trade union and local government contacts."
STV's first talent spotting programme was Fanfare, I think jazz singer Fiona Duncan was the winner. A second talent series had the imitative title Stars In Your Eyes, the winner being opera singer Joan Summers. She was given her own STV programme on May 4th 1960.
Jig Time was a popular local show. In 1958 this was transmitted on Friday nights "genially compered" by kilted David Kinnaird. Critic H Bronson wrote: "the best thing is its essential matey-ness. If it can preserve this friendly spirit, it would
be worthy of seeing on other regional networks. Eight pretty girls known as the Scottish Television Dancers trip out reels and figure dances in lively fashion, bringing welcome movement to the small screen. The Reivers choose offbeat ballads
and prove an interesting foursome while Betty Robson is a young singer in the best Scottish tradition."
One guest on Friday January 23rd 1959 for a Robbie Burns special was the baritone John Heddle Nash. Also appearing: Betty Robson, Clydebank Lyric Choir, Geraldo, and reader Harold Wightman, with Davie Kinnaird as host. Directed by James Sutherland.
The series had a short break in the summer of 1959, but returned on September 18th 1959, transmitted from the Scottish Industries Exhibiton at Kelvin Hall, with David Kinnaird, The Reivers, Jimmy Blair's Band and The Andrew Macpherson Chorale.
Wrote critic Gordon Irving "Jig Time must take credit for helping to inspire the new trend in entertainment." Indeed Imitation being.... etc etc, the BBC's White Heather Club which got shown all over the nation, was started as a result of the success of Jig Time. The BBC disputed STV's innovative claim saying their show was the original. Perhaps life is too short to penetrate now to the depths of this dispute, but according to the BBC Publicity Officer for Scotland the facts were: White Heather Club first appeared as part of A New Year Party (December 31st 1957). Note however it was not a show in its own right as yet. Jig Time was first shown on STV on February 18th 1958. So now you know!
Christmas Eve 1958 saw a live telecast from Dunfermline Abbey. A report noted "the camera angles did credit to all, and there was a grand sense of movement. It was a programme worthy of the network."
The final show of 1958 "A Guid New Year from Glasgow" was produced by Rai Purdy. Directed by James Sutherland, Liam Hood and Geoff Rimmer,
it featured Jack Radcliffe, Larry Marshall, Jimmy Nairn (of the 'One O'Clock Gang') with Jimmy Blair and His Band.
And the last show of 1959 was an hour long Jig Time special, again directed by James Sutherland.
A serious series on Tuesdays at 10.30pm starting on July 7th 1959 took cameras to various Scottish centres of business. The first programme dealt with steel, later programmes covered shipbuilding, coal, whiskey, farming, and textiles/chemicals.
Programmes were devised by John Wilson, and directed by Liam Hood.
Locally produced programmes often did well in local TAM ratings. Scotsport at times even reached No.1 whilst John Grierson's This Wonderful World was known to have attained eighth spot.
STV is one of the few survivors of the ITV network. Indeed they do now have a certain independence from the current over centrallised ITV (perhaps they should be named I-ITV !) which is ironic as there's no doubt that originally STV could have thought a lot bigger, and with their resources ought certainly to have produced a much greater contribution to the network.
Complaints about its lack of ambition were frequently voiced. For example the Scottish branch of actors' union Equity held a meeting, chaired by Duncan Macrae, adopted a resolution to "request the ITA to direct its Scottish Committee to initiate discussions with representative Scottish organisations on programme balance, existing and future ITA services, with a view to ensuring the proper proportion of Scottish material employing Scottish professional performers."
Typical of the company was their first STV Television Theatre, on January 30th 1959 at 9pm. The Open by Alex Peterson was in fact a presentation by the Perth Repertory Theatre.
STV's second original play was a hospital drama, The Keys of Paradise on 11th March 1960 (over two years after the station had been on air!) by Ronald Mavor, directed by James Sutherland, produced by Gerry le Grove. The played starred Richard Matthews, others in the cast included John Grieve, Martin Heller, Elaine Wells, Helena Gloag and Walter Carr.
To my review of STV's 1968 children's serial Flight of the Heron .
The Epilogue- In January 1960, Scottish Television announced a training course for Scottish clergymen, to make them "into better television personalities." It was a four week course, two two hour periods per week to study camera and microphone techniques, the projection of personality, with talks and demonstrations by actors and writers. The course ended with two short talks by course members, from their own material, then "ministers will be invited to make suggestions and criticisms... about their own performances"
was STV's Lunchtime show, originally the title had been mooted as The Goofy Gang.
On Monday February 16th 1959 it "celebrated" its 365th edition! Mainstay of the show was compere Larry Marshall (real name Harry Tomasso) who said, "the Gang has not once indulged in any unsavoury jokes;" nowadays of course that would be a matter for ridicule, so all credit to Marshall.
The Gang also included Sheila Matthews and Brian Douglas who provided the songs. Producer Rai Purdy described the show as "an informal get together between half a dozen folk who are out to entertain you in a relaxed sort of way."
Clearly things had improved since that first show on 2nd September 1957, which one critic (Gordon Irving) slated thus,
"This lunch time half hour proved deficient in slick comedy material, and will require much greater polish if it is to hold its viewing public. Larry Marshall, as comedian, has too spivish an approach, and needs to be more sympathetic... the programme is safer in its song department, put over quite attractively by singers Brian Douglas and Sheila Matthews. The Tommy Maxwell Four give musical backing. A spot for audience interviews has possibilities, but the interviewees should be more carefully selected. One member of the audience frankly admitted to being idle!... This lunchtime spot has so many rough edges that.. immediate attention is required. Robin Gardiner and Gordon Fleming are responsible for the script, such as it is. Bill Skinner directed."
January 11th 1960 saw the start of the feature Yours for a Song, which reached its final in May, in which contestants submitted a piano copy with words and music of an original song. The winner received a gramophone record of the song, a first class return fare to London, a week at a London hotel, with £20 for incidental expenses, plus a letter of introduction to two music publishers.
Other features at this period included Leave It To Larry!- every Tuesday Larry Marshall arranged for concert parties to entertain hospital patients. Then every other Thursday old time variety artists strutted their acts. Programme 3 on Feb 18th 1960 included Cissie Glen, Tommy Dale and Bert Bendon. Programme 4 on March 3rd 1960 featured Bessie Hogarth, Alf Fleming (aged 80+), violinist Hamilton Scott, and Dave Willis.
Another of the numerous guests on the show was Carmita aka Ivi Rodan (Fri Jan 30th 1959).
This 1962 photo depicts the Gang of that era. Front left: Dorothy Paul, the singer, Larry Marshall centre, and right front Moira Briody, Irish singer. Rear left is Jimmy Nairn, an old friend of the show and the straight man, with rear right Charlie Sim singer and comedian. The Tommy Maxwell Quartet (led by drummer TM) continued to provide the music. At this time STV claimed it had clocked up "more performances on British television" than any other programme, though that's open to question.