Bert was employed by the Met Office from 1947 until 1990. He was a BBC Radio/TV weatherman from 1963 until December 1973. Bert recalled his broadcasting career in a 1994 BBC Weather Centre press release: “After two auditions and some off-screen practice under the tutelage of Jack Armstrong, I first appeared over Easter 1963 after the late-evening film Cleopatra, at 11.30pm, as it was felt it would be an easier introduction. I remember one farming forecast on a Sunday where the BBC vet had been demonstrating easy lambing techniques and I followed with ‘from soapflakes to snowflakes’ which caused announcer Valerie Singleton to laugh out loud on air.
“By 1963 we were using grey and black maps covered with thick perspex on which we drew the isobars and fronts in black marking ink – very sticky, oily, dirty stuff indeed. By 1966 the charts were getting larger and we added a British Isles chart with international weather symbols – dots for rain, triangles for showers and numbers for the temperatures. About this time I was contacted by a firm in Sheffield who had developed a rubber material impregnated with iron fillings which were magnetic when used on a steel surface. These were so heavy they were put on wheels and soon the Atlantic chart was some eight feet by 12 feet – I needed ‘Bert’s blocks’ to stand on them to reach the Arctic regions! Now there were two British Isles maps for tonight and tomorrow whilst the summary chart was reduced in size to twelve inches by nine inches and placed on a music stand.
“In autumn 1967, BBC One went into colour and there were three broadcasts each day – lunchtime, early evening and closedown. The maps were in blue and green with rain dots a muddy brown, sunshine yellow and thunderstorm symbol bright red. One day Morecambe and Wise wandered into the small presentation studio and Eric Morecambe asked what the thunderstorm symbol was. Since we were expecting thunderstorms to move north from France that evening I allowed him to place the symbol over Brighton. We all went to supper and about 8pm he dashed into the studio and whipped off the thunderstorm symbol saying ‘I didn’t realise he was that good.’ Apparently he had received a phone call from Brighton just as a thunderstorm occurred!
“All through the 60s there was pressure from the BBC to reduce the duration of the weather forecasts, especially following the early evening news and fell to 60 seconds and then for a brief period to 30 seconds for the whole of the UK. Worse was to come when a costing exercise said that the costs of running studio Presentation A were £350,000pa. They took out costs for Points of View and Film 1970 and claimed the rest was taken up by the weather. For one week the weatherman went off air and only read a brief forecast over a summary chart. The viewers responded violently and once they realised the costs for the weather were not as high we returned the following Monday.
“My shortest forecast was in late-August 1968 when England beat Australia in the final test at The Oval. As the evening news was due there was only one wicket to fall and Paul Fox (controller, BBC One), rang to ask me if I could await the result. The final wicket fell and I appeared to say ‘A lovely day tomorrow for all of us, especially now we’ve won’ – about 10 seconds in all! The longest broadcast was on Sunday 31st August 1969 when Richard Baker had problems with the news videos and seeing me standing in front of my chart, cut over to me fifteen minutes early. I was able to give details of the summer just gone, details for the Channel Islands, Shetlands Islands, Isle of Wight and the Isle of Man as viewers always complained they were being ignored and the long range forecast for September. Keith Best was recording the broadcast at the Weather Centre but unfortunately the tape ran out so it was never kept for posterity.”
Bert became a household name and appeared in various programmes including an appearance as King Lear in a Saturday night satirical programme, giving the weather speech standing on a blasted heath. After he met Eric Thompson, who voiced The Magic Roundabout, Thompson began to close the programme with Florence urging Dougal and Zebedee to hurry up because Bert Foord was waiting to give the weather forecast! He also got soaked to the skin on The Two Ronnies whilst forecasting rain. Perhaps it was somewhat predictable that the Met Office refused requests to appear with other presenters such as Michael Aspel, Richard Baker and Frank Bough like the TV Toppers, as they thought it would trivialise the weather forecasts.
He appeared as the BBC One Christmas Day weatherman three times (1968, 1971 and 1973 – no info is available from 1963 – 1966). He contributed to BBC TV’s Apollo space programmes and appeared as a castaway on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs (May 1973). Broadcaster Terry Wogan later ran a ‘Bring Back Bert Foord’ campaign on his morning BBC Radio 2 breakfast show as he thought the weather had deteriorated since Bert’s departure years earlier.
Bert was promoted and returned to the Met Office in 1974. From 1975 until 1976, he served in the Maldives and from 1979 until 1984, at RAF Gutersloh, Germany. His final post (1984 – 1990) was as principal forecaster at RAF Strike Command HQ near his Buckinghamshire home. He joined past colleagues on Nationwide to celebrate the 25th anniversary of BBC TV Weather in January 1979, in which Bob Wellings interviewed past and present weather forecasters. He attended a get-together for BBC TV Weather’s 40th anniversary in January 1994. In retirement, he played golf each week with fellow ex-TV weathermen George Cowling and Jack Scott. He died aged 70 from cancer at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.
Video Clips on the Internet
Here we present a selection of video clips featuring Bert which we found on social media sites or have made available from our own archive. The clips are presented here for additional reference. Inclusion of a video does not constitute an endorsement of the hosting site/channel/user. If you find any broken links below or are aware of an additional clip(s) which you believe may be a useful addition to this profile, please get in touch with us via our Contact page.
Bert Foord presenting a BBC One weather forecast in December 1968.
PICTURED: Bert Foord. SUPPLIED BY: Paul R. Jackson. COPYRIGHT: BBC.