My Big Break: Roy Templeton, head of communications, BBC Scotland

ROY Templeton is BBC Scotland’s head of communications. A former print journalist who joined his local paper, the Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald, straight from school, he has also worked as a reporter for the Lennox Herald and the Greenock Evening Telegraph, and as a sports sub-editor with the Daily Record and Daily Mail.

When did working in the media first start becoming an ambition?

For some reason, I really enjoyed reading Nigel Dempster’s Daily Mail diary as a youth. It appealed to my slightly contrary teenage mood and an English teacher at my school, Garnock Academy, encouraged me to think about journalism as a career.

I had also watched my elder brother spend far too much time with his nose in economic and geography books as a student and I thought there must be easier ways to secure a job.

The fact that another teacher lived next door to the then Ardrossan & Salcoats Herald editor, Archie Wallace, sealed my fate.

One Friday in late June I ended my fifth year at school and, the following Monday, I started work as a trainee reporter.

What was your first ‘media job’?

I spent four years in Ardrossan, much of the time calling in on a variety of ‘sources’, such as local ministers, councillors, football managers and firemen (we were encouraged in those days to get out the office and talk to people which may seem a bit alien now) and whose news and views filled up the columns of the paper.

A highlight included the all-too-regular local paper pic of reporter-in-action which featured me conducting an in-depth interview with a wayward swan. I’ve still got the photo, if not the same length of hair. I later graduated to being the judge at the clootie dumpling contest – again complete with Ready-Steady-Cook tasting pic.

Describe, briefly, how your career unfolded between your first media job and where you are now.

My wife frequently indicates that I haven’t a clue where I am on a daily basis, but from Ardrossan, I moved to the award-winning Lennox Herald, working alongside a talented newsroom that included frequent allmediascotland contributor Bill Heaney, the ‘shy, retiring’ Martin Hannan and the guys who did the real work: Archie Fleming, Hazel Chalmers and Ken McMaster.

During a 12-month spell there, I fluked the Weekly Journalist of the Year award, along with Martin, for a series of articles on Trident’s arrival on the Clyde, although I now suspect it was more an award for endurance (ie working with Martin, who remains a friend) than journalistic prowess.

I then opted out of full-time journalism and studied Politics as a mature student at Aberdeen University – one of the few times I’ve been mature and proud of it.

While there, I managed to fund trips to watch one of the best football teams Scotland has ever seen – Aberdeen under Fergie – by doing shifts on the Daily Record racing desk, including a memorable night in Gothenburg.

When faced with the prospect of what you can do with a Politics degree if you’re not interested in being a politician – ie not very much – I then came back into journalism, working mainly on Industry and Politics for the Greenock Evening Telegraph in an era when Greenock had both industry and lively politics.

Before joining the BBC Scotland press office, I also worked for five years as a casual sports sub on the Mail. Lord Rothermere’s generosity funded a new conservatory, which seemed a entirely appropriate use of Daily Mail cash.

In 1998, I joined the BBC and have been head of communications for the last seven years.

Any particular big breaks along the way?

Most of the ‘breaks’ I received along the way were courtesy of Kenny Macintyre tackles on a football field – often when playing in the same side. Kenny was a legend and one of the highlights of my career was managing to shut him up for at least two minutes to ask Margaret Thatcher a question during a media scrum when she paid a visit to Scotland.

He also passed on a knack of trying to keep your killer question right to the end. I tried it out on the then up-and-coming Tony Blair, when I asked the future Prime Minister how he responded to criticism about him being a sound bite politician with a winning smile. He duly smiled before giving the obligatory sound bite.

Who would you like to thank more than most?

I count myself very lucky to have worked under Alan Thomson, now a journalist with At the Races, but who was my first chief reporter in Ardrossan and whose ability to nose out a news line was second to none.

In particular, he managed to get people to tell him things that they’d really rather not tell.

My first day was spent ‘shadowing’ Tommo as he went to speak to a young mum who had a lucky escape from a house fire. Twenty minutes spent getting her tale were followed by the next two hours in either Ladbrokes or the pub before returning to the office armed with a few other page leads from the regulars at the bar and a little profit from the punting.

As I’m still employed at the BBC, I’d fail the ‘crawling test’ if I didn’t mention my current bosses, Mairead Ferguson and Ken MacQuarrie, who both share the blame for employing me as they were on my interview panel along with the late Ken Cargill.

One of them later confided that one of the reasons they’d employed me was because I’d failed to change my somewhat broad Ayrshire accent, although it seems more likely they were covering their tracks and simply hadn’t understood a word I’d said.

A former London-based BBC head of press – Dundonian, Donald Steel – also deserves thanks for persuading me to head to London for nine months as the BBC’s chief press officer. That spell at the heart of the BBC was not only hugely interesting but also allowed me to tell Sir David Attenborough that he didn’t know the difference between a parrot and a parakeet.

What do you know now that you wished you had known when you started?

Frankie Dettori’s seven winners on the same day day at Ascot, preferably before the start of the first race.