GERRY Lord, one of the long serving and widely respected “backroom boys” of Independent Television, has died following complications arising from a heart attack. He was 77.
After National Service in the Royal Air Force as an Airfield Fireman he ventured into insurance in Manchester with the Road Transport and General Insurance Company.
In 1958, and in the earliest days of ITV, 500 men applied to ABC TV at the Capitol Cinema Studios Didsbury for employment as technical operators. He and three others became camera operators.
Over the next 11 years, operated cameras on the whole gamut of ABC TV productions from Armchair Theatre plays to live Oh Boy pop shows and Opportunity Knocks.
He was a cameraman on Underground the notorious live drama during which the actor Gareth Jones had a fatal heart attack. Director Ted Kotcheff re-worked the script with the cast whilst PA Verity Lambert took over directing the production.
In Studio 1 at Didsbury, Mr Lord worked on Big Night Out with Mike and Bernie Winters, Doddy’s Music Box and the regional Comedy Bandbox/Saturday Bandbox strand, in which both Les Dawson and Jimmy Tarbuck made their first TV appearances. It was also the venue for Les Dawson’s triumph on Opportunity Knocks, on May 20, 1967.
He worked on the forerunner of all TV celebrity chef programmes with Philip Harben and on many other magazine programmes.
The list of drama and light entertainment producers and directors he worked with in those very early days is a veritable who’s who of ITV glitterati.
For a man who rubbed shoulders with all the greats on a daily basis, he maintained his characteristic humility throughout his long career.
In 1959 Armchair Theatre moved south to London although programmes continued to be made occasionally in the Capitol Studios.
In 1968 ABC wound down operations in the North and shifted to London. Mr Lord transferred to Yorkshire TV who had won the local franchise operating from new studios in Leeds.
As the highly regarded leader of Crew A and for a time head of a camera department of 28 cameramen and one woman, he spent the next 21 years working on every genre of TV Programme imaginable. These were the golden years of regional ITV in the North with an output unmatched anywhere.
He and his crew lived on a diet of great sitcoms from Rising Damp to The New Statesman and Only When I Laugh. Single plays and drama series by first rank playwrights such as Stan Barstow, Harold Pinter, David Mercer, Alan Aykbourn, Jack Rosenthal and Alan Plater,.
There were quiz shows like Countdown and Winner Takes All. Light Entertainment such as the The George Martin Show and the soap then known as Emmerdale Farm as well as a whole range of science, news, sports and magazine programmes.
He was first choice as a cameraman for many of the leading drama and light entertainment directors of the time. Directors sought him out because he had a gift for turning a workmanlike shot into a memorable image that embellished whatever initial idea a director presented.
His easy manner and ready wit lightened the most fraught moments and helped many a beleaguered director realise that it was all going to turn out fine.
To those fortunate enough to be chosen to work on his crew, Mr Lord was mentor and role model. He had a way of gently but firmly putting everything into perspective. A way of turning a wry phrase to clarify what was happening and what needed to happen to get the best visuals out of any studio or location scenario.
In his time as a senior cameraman at YTV, he honed his crew into a skilled and tight knit unit. He achieved this with understanding and empathy for the stresses and strains placed upon his young team. They in return responded with their loyalty and admiration for their senior cameraman.
As well as being a highly-skilled technician, he was a natural story teller.
He was always at the centre any convivial group offering an hilarious stream of anecdotes from his amazingly prolific career.
For more than 30 years Gerry Lord occupied the best seat in the house as the whole regional ITV parade swanned by and finally took down its tents and left town just as he stood down.
He retired from Yorkshire Television in 1989 and was a freelance cameraman for a number of years, notably for the King’s Singers at Harewood House.
He was a passionate amateur mechanical engineer and spent many hours in the construction of model aircraft and railways with his precision metal lathe.
His first stroke after he retired took away some of the gifted raconteur but he slowly fought his way back with his partner Christine’s support until he was firing on nearly all cylinders.
Though latter years were increasingly marred by infirmity Gerry and Christine organised regular reunions of ex-YTV technicians and they were always jolly affairs lightened by shared reminiscence and banter.
He is survived by his partner of 44 years, Christine Foley, his first wife Dian and their sons Stuart and Andrew.