Scots TV executive who produced Coronation Street in the 1980s

Born: August 8, 1933;

Died: January 15, 2018

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JOHN Goldie Temple, who has died aged 84, was a television producer and writer who left Paisley Grammar school at 16 with dreams of bright lights and went on to become a writer on Coronation Street in the 1970s and then its producer in the 1980s. He was responsible for some of the soap’s biggest storylines including the fire at the Rovers Return and the marriage of Alec and Bet.

At first, he took a job in the Paisley Savings Bank - essentially to please his parents - but swiftly realised he had made a terrible mistake and quit to try his luck in showbusiness. By 1970, he was a writer on Coronation Street and later its producer.

He also had a big hit in the 1970s with the sit-com The Cuckoo Waltz, starring Diane Keen and Lewis Collins, a series he produced and co-wrote with his friend Geoffrey Lancashire, writer of The Lovers as well as 200 episodes of the Street. John described Geoff, father of actor Sarah Lancashire, as his television soulmate. The two met when they were working at Granada TV alongside Jack Rosenthal who also remained a life-long friend, and Tony Warren, creator of the Street.

John’s other credits included the comedy sketch show Alfresco, with Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, Ben Elton and Robbie Coltrane, in the early days of their careers, as well as The Glamour Girls, a David Nobbs’ sitcom; Taggart with Mark McManus; Gaelic soap Machair, and Take the High Road, rebranded as High Road under his leadership. Liz Lake, who worked with him on High Road, said he led the show to "new heights of popularity with his inimitable style of old-school brinkmanship, insight, candour, kindness and an admirable mistrust of ‘the powers that be’”.

He had harboured ambitions from an early age, cobbling together scripts in the school holidays and recruiting reluctant friends to perform in concerts in the back garden, charging parents and neighbours to watch. He had loved variety from the age of eight, when he went to his first show, The Girvan Entertainers, with comic Alf Johnson, who fired a fascination for comedy.

After national service in the RAF, he took a job as a salesman with his future father-in-law, at Clyde Confections, where there were “nods and winks” that he was marrying the boss’s daughter. John married Isabel in 1957, the year commercial TV came to Scotland, and while writing sketches and trying to find his way in the entertainment world, he tried his luck as a performer. He played the ukulele banjo, sang, told jokes and tap-danced his way onto the Glasgow Empire stage - later, jokingly, referring to his act as something like “Val Doonican crossed with Ronnie Corbett” - but his career on the stage never took off, and sadly, after a period of severe mental ill health, the banjo stayed in its case and was never played again. He never lost his love of showbusiness, however, and he would go to variety shows and seaside summer shows around the country whenever he had the chance.

His first break in TV came when he talked his way into STV as a continuity writer, juggling this with his role as an artists’ agent and nights out as a Scottish correspondent for The Stage newspaper, alongside his friend, the journalist Gordon Irving. My mother, Isabel, was unofficial PA for the agency, taking calls at home, while looking after the children.

In the late 60s he was working on scripts for Lex MacLean, known as “Sexy Lexy” due to his earthy humour, helping to launch the great music hall comedian onto the small screen in The Lex McLean Show, a comedy sketch series for BBC Scotland, produced by John’s long-time friend Ian Christie.

After moving between Manchester and Scotland a couple of times between jobs at Granada and STV, John went south again in 1970 on the offer of work as a storyline writer for the Street, “on a three-month contract putting it all at risk to see if I could hack it.” During that time he moved in as a lodger with Geoff and Hilda Lancashire and their children, including twins Simon and Sarah. Jack Rosenthal had also stayed with the Lancashires, before he met and married Maureen Lipman, and it was this scenario that led to the creation of The Cuckoo Waltz, a comedy about a young married couple with twins, who take in a lodger - the cuckoo in the nest.

Coronation Street shaped John’s career. He said: “Those years working as a storyliner were the most beneficial period of my entire working life. The discipline of churning out storylines day in day out, 52 weeks of the year is an unbelievable learning curve.”

Reflecting on becoming producer in 1985-‘87 he said: “I’d had years of experience of producing sit-coms by then” and he felt at home on the Street as he knew it inside out. He famously burned down the Rovers Return - “It began with the need to revamp the pub and it became a big story - it got an audience of 24.5million”. Other stories during his time at the helm included the breakdown in the Tilsley marriage and the wedding of Kevin and Sally. He sent Bet Lynch to Torremolinos (because Julie Goodyear needed compassionate leave), and he engineered the marriage of Bet and Alec played by Roy Barraclough.

In another move back to Scotland, when the family lived in the seaside town of Ayr, John was a producer at Radio Clyde in Glasgow, and worked as entertainments manager for hotel magnate Reo Stakis. As children we remember a stream of showbiz people coming to the house, including DJ and game show presenter Steve Jones, who turned up in a floor length afghan coat, and comic Frank Carson who spoke in sharp one-liners and made us cry laughing. John turned down the Bay City Rollers for a booking at a Stakis venue as “they couldn’t play their instruments”. They of course went on to become superstars regardless.

John maintained a life-long love for his favourite team, St Mirren, going to see them at Love Street whenever he was back on home territory and following their fortunes from afar until the end.

He is survived by his four children, David, Linda, John and me, Fiona, as well as 11 grandchildren and three great grandchildren. Isabel died nearly three years ago after 66 years of marriage and he missed her terribly. He said: “Throughout our ups and downs including 13 addresses, Isabel was the one who ensured that things worked out all right.”

John Temple died in Cedar House care home, Leicestershire, with his daughters at his side. He had been frail for some time following strokes, but his mind remained sharp until the end.

FIONA TEMPLE ROCHE