Graham and Mary Watts directed and produced the very popular Farmhouse Kitchen series on Yorkshire Television from 1971 to 1989. Mary edited several cookbooks using the recipes collected for that series including The Complete Farmhouse Kitchen Cook Book. On February 24, 2013, they held an all-day party at their home in Askrigg, Wensleydale, to celebrate Graham’s 90th birthday. I later interviewed them about their life together: –
Mary was thoroughly frustrated. “It took me six hours to get travel insurance,” she commented. And all because her husband, Graham, had just had his 90th birthday. As if that stopped them from wanting to fly to far-away places or to go sailing on the high seas this summer.
They sailed around the world – just the two of them – in a 36ft steel boat when Graham was 73-years-old. The two years spent meticulously researching that journey helped him come to terms with retiring when he was 70-years-old. By then he and Mary had lived and worked together for nearly 35 years.
The Complete Farmhouse Kitchen Cook Book, that Mary edited from recipes sent in for the cookery series they created for Yorkshire ITV in the 1970s is still getting five star reviews on Amazon. Mary, who originally trained as a typist, began her career in commercial television in Australia.
After moving to England she worked her way up from being production assistant and secretary to the Religious Advisory Committee at Yorkshire TV to being a researcher and then the producer of the cookery programme of which Graham was the director. “It was our programme really from start to finish,” Mary said. It became very popular because it showed people how to make good, decent nutritious food economically.
They started that programme about the time that they got married and bought Gaudy House near Hawes in Wensleydale. “It was without electricity, without telephone and without TV unless we ran a cable from the battery in the car,” Mary remembered. They sold Gaudy House in 1999 and moved a few miles across the dale to a house in Askrigg.
Back in 1983 they had gone freelance and set up their own production company. This proved to be so profitable that they could work in the winter and spend their summers sailing. That lasted until Graham retired but he commented recently about his directing work: “I would love to have a go again now.”
Graham’s career began inauspiciously as he left school with no qualifications. He did, however, have a great interest in radio and his father got him to apply for a job at the BBC in late 1940. After a short while with the BBC he joined the radar section of the Army’s Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. At the end of the war he worked with the Forces Broadcasting first in Germany and then in Sri Lanka. He rejoined the BBC in 1947.
When ITV started he joined Rediffusion TV, the first commercial television company in Britain and by the time he was 30 he was a programme director. He thoroughly enjoyed producing and directing a wide range of programmes, including outside broadcasting, of major events, coverage of Budgets and planned the entire ITV set-up for Winston Churchill’s funeral. He regularly worked 12-hour days seven days a week. “I don’t think I have ever worked so hard,” he said about his early years in commercial TV – and added: “We enjoyed it all”.
If his directing years are behind him his sailing days certainly aren’t. They now have a 38ft boat and he explained: “We can manage that between the two of us. If we are making longish trips involving overnight we like to have a third person with us.”
So, after they have visited friends and relations in Australia and New Zealand, they will be, with the help of friends, sailing to Norway, Denmark and Sweden where Bill, his son, makes films and has a family.
Graham died at the Friarage Hospital, Northallerton, on Friday June 12 – he will be greatly missed.