Wally Butler

Wally Butler, comedy writer and producer

Born: 30 October, 1927

Died: 12 October, 2003, aged 75

WALLY Butler was a Scot who went from producing The One O’Clock Gang at lunchtime on Scottish Television to directing top networked comedy shows on ITV from Manchester. He died in his sleep at his home in Lendalfoot, Ayrshire.

Born in almost the proverbial theatrical hamper, he was the son of Walt Butler, a revue and variety comedian from Birmingham, who travelled from his home in Glasgow to theatres throughout Britain. His mother was Ida Lyndon, a soubrette and dancer, who once played an Indian maiden diving from above a waterfall into a tank below, in a resident circus in Glasgow.

The youngster, travelling with his parents as they joined scores of other performers changing trains at Crewe en route to "another town, another show", became a youthful part of show-business and appeared regularly in sketches with his parents, who also ran theatrical digs at their Byres Road home.

Finding it difficult to make ends meet in theatre, Butler enrolled for a course at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama at Glasgow and left as an accomplished pianist and composer. He was hired for a spell by Andy Stewart as the comedian and singer’s pianist, and then joined a Clark and Murray revue at Aberdeen Tivoli as general handyman and utility artiste. On this occasion, he had to borrow money for his train fare from Glasgow. Clark and Murray paid his "digs", but he had to pay them back out of his wages.

The good times came, though not at first on any sizeable scale, when Scottish Television paid him a modest salary to produce the daily lunchtime show The One O’Clock Gang. This was regular work and, says former scriptwriter Tom Walsh, "Wally gave useful work to many promising Scottish performers". It was a live, five-days-a-week stint and a novelty for early viewers of ITV product in Scotland, as well as a sitting target for nit-picking types quick to condemn home-grown product.

In the mid-1960s, Butler went south to Granada Television in Manchester and achieved a warm rapport with comedians from Tyneside, Yorkshire and Lancashire, resulting in successful shows, like The Comedians. He also directed Coronation Street. His affinity with England and with Northern performers may have stemmed from his father’s links with that airt.

On retirement from television, Butler’s long career in show-business switched to teaching when he took up a post as a senior tutor in drama at the Manchester Polytechnic.

He is survived by his wife Joyce, a former teacher, whom he married 21 years ago following the death of his first wife. He is also survived by a son and daughter, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.