Vale Jock Blair, a tribute by Tom Hegarty

09 June, 2020


Jock had been working at GTY9, starting with sweeping the studio floors, to operating the flies, to setting the lights, to an occasional stint behind the cameras.  He knew just about every aspect of getting a live show to air. He also sold gags to Australia's mega-star Graham Kennedy for five quid (pounds) a pop. Big bucks then for a young man still in his twenties.  

But what Jock really wanted was to be a writer. He'd heard Crawfords were on the lookout for new writers and submitted a couple of spec scripts. Both, after a bit of buffing, made it into production. 

Jock was on his way as a scriptwriter. He went on to write more Homicide scripts including a special double episode co-written with Roger Simpson, 'The Rape of Lennie Walker'.  He wrote Division 4 scripts as well. Things were looking rosy until the networks cancelled all three police shows.

Crawfords had to come up with something new and fast and not featuring police. And they did. The Box took a peek behind the scenes at a fictional TV station. Apparently they took their clothes off a lot. It made Hector and his sister Dorothy nervous. With his experience at a real TV station Jock was ideal to plot it. He was in his element. That made Dorothy even more nervous.

These days a serial like The Box would need a team behind it. Jock's initial staff consisted of himself and a dedicated typist.

The Box went to air and caused a sensation: high ratings and some surprisingly good reviews. Jock was elevated to producer. The Box also brought essential time to develop other shows.

The Sullivans was co-created by Ian Jones and Jock. Again, something new for the company and the country: the story of an Australian family's battle with World War II. It was an immediate hit and remained high in the ratings during its six-year run. Jock stepped up to produce when the original producer, Henry Crawford, left.

Undoubtedly, The Sullivans was the peak of Jock's success at Crawfords. But his career didn't stop there. He went on to further success at the SAFC, with the likes of The Shiralee, Sara Dane, Under Capricorn, Robbery Under Arms, Playing Beattie Bow. His last move was to Queensland and a record-breaking stint at Screen Queensland. He and wife Joy found a comfortable house and settled in Paradise Waters. 

Jock's favourite author was Henry Miller who regularly got himself banned all over the world for such raunchy fare as Tropic of Cancer. Jock thought Miller was probably out-dated by now and that he could write a contemporary novel that would out-Miller Miller. Somehow, in a hectic nonstop schedule, he found time to pen an erotic novel called Butterfly Blue. He displayed it proudly on his desk. You were encouraged to buy a copy. 

While Jock was working away from home, he usually spent Sunday cooking meals that would last him through to the next Sunday. I never tasted one, preferring to eat out with Jock.

However, when illness caused Joy to lose weight, to entice her into eating more, he decided to learn to cook properly and turned himself into a gourmet cook. We used to talk on the phone almost every Sunday morning, about the state of the world, politics, how badly the TV industry was doing without our contributions—he would inevitably sign off with what delicacies they were going to have for lunch and what spectacular meal he was planning for that evening. 

He did it deliberately, knowing I'd be sitting in front of the telly watching the Mighty Hawks with my pie and sauce.

Incidentally, before I forget, Jock did like the occasional drop of red. 

Sundays are going to be dull from now on. I’ll miss you, old mate. But not half as much as Joy, Molly, her husband Shawn, their children Harriet and Christian.

Vale Jock Blair: scriptwriter, producer, author, gourmet cook, gag man.