James Buchan

From Scotland On Air
Jump to: navigation, search
James Buchan OBE
Born (1916-09-19)19 September 1916
Died 4 June 2001(2001-06-04) (aged 84)
Southend General Hospital, Southend
Nationality Scottish
Spouse(s) Nan

James Buchan OBE (19 September 1916–4 June 2001) was Scotland's first television producer at the BBC and Grampian Television's first production controller.

Early life

Born in Aberdeen, Buchan was a Second World War Desert Rat. When he was severely injured, he was one of the first people in the world to have penicillin tested on him. Lying a certain goner in the field hospital, his mates told him he looked like death. "Death" became his regimental nickname.

BBC career

Buchan succeeded George Runcie as News Observer in the BBC's Glasgow newsroom in around 1947/48.

He became the first member of BBC Scotland's television staff when he went to London for training before the opening of the Kirk o' Shotts transmitter was even built.

He was part of the production team which produced the first broadcasts from the BBC's dedicated Scottish outside broadcast unit on 12 August 1952.

In September 1953 he succeeded Aubrey Singer as Outside Broadcast Producer, Television, Scotland.[1]

His pictures from a rundown Glasgow slum prompted questions in the Commons over whether the British public should see the poverty, deprivation and dereliction of that time.

On another daring, but more light-hearted experiment, he lowered waterproofed cameras into Loch Ness, in the firm belief that Nessie would appear — on his cue.[2]

Grampian Television

He was appointed Programme Controller of Grampian Television at a time when the station was about to go broke just a year after going on air. In 1962 it had suffered losses of £46,000 and had a bank overdraft of £100,000. Buchan's decision to 'go for broke' on unashamedly Scottish programming of a distinct couthy, north-east flavour paid off. Programmes such as A' the Airts, Ingle Neuk and Bothy Nichts. In the next six months Grampian had 50 of its local programmes in the Top Ten — a record that has never been beaten by a regional television company. He used local, untried presenters and entertainers, making household names of people like Jimmy Spankie, Douglas Kynoch, June Imray, Lesley Blair, Calum Kennedy and Bill McCue.

Other activities

Buchan was made OBE in 1974 for his services to broadcasting.

He was also an author, his book about the Dundee-born missionary, Mary Slessor, was a huge, demanding task in which he revelled.


He was married to his wife Nan. They had one son, Alan, and daughters Alison and Joanna. Joanna Buchan, who became a BBC journalist and broadcaster, died of cancer in 2007 at the age of 50.


James Buchan died on 4 June 2001 at Southend General Hospital, aged 84.


  1. 'BBC Scottish changes', Courier, 26 September 1953, 4.
  2. 'Obituary: James Buchan', Scotsman, 15 June 2001.