Ian was born John Robertson McCaskill in Glasgow. His national service took him into the RAF and in 1959, he joined the Meteorological Corps. He left in 1961 to join the Met Office and later postings included Prestwick Airport, Malta and the Manchester Weather Centre. Ian transferred to the London Weather Centre in 1978 and was part of the BBC TV team (2nd October 1978 – 4th July 1979 and 23rd September 1983 – 14th June 1998). He also presented forecasts on BBC Radio (1991 – 1998).
His energetic manner on-screen led to many impersonations and he even had his own Spitting Image puppet. A little known fact is that Ian always presented his forecasts shoeless as the static electricity in his body caused the microphone to crackle! On a break from the BBC team, he worked at Birmingham Airport and appeared on Central TV. Ian later made occasional appearances on BBC TV’s Breakfast Time (1985 – 1986) and Breakfast News (1992), and was the BBC One Christmas Day BBC weather presenter three times (1978, 1983 and 1987). In 1987, his colleague Michael Fish was ridiculed for saying a hurricane was not going to happen, just a few hours before it did. Later – much later: 18 years in fact – Ian confessed to being the guilty party who had given Fish the forecast that day.
Hours after the worst of the Great Storm had passed, Ian was interviewed live by Michael Buerk on the One o’clock News (BBC One). There’s a general perception that Michael Fish took all the flak in the immediate aftermath of the storm (and for many years thereafter). Some of the early exchanges in this interview show that Ian took one or two blows from the hacks too:
Michael Buerk: Your weather forecast at midnight last night talks about a rather windy, showery airflow. Blustering bursts of showery rain. No kidding! I mean if you can’t forecast the worst storms for several centuries – three hours before they happen – what are you doing?
Ian McCaskill: Well we did forecast it. Rather more than three hours before it happened. Unfortunately, that was around midnight. A bit late to tell people. We told everybody we could think of.
Michael Buerk: Well I was talking to the ambulance centre this morning and they didn’t get any warning at all.
Ian McCaskill: We didn’t tell the ambulance people. They didn’t ask us to.
Ian provided cover for the regular weather presenter on GMTV during August 1999 and in the same year he appeared in a BBC Two series called The Essential Guide to Weather. On his retirement in 1998, he commented that he was thoroughly relieved to have done with his work pattern as the routine of the shifts were from 9pm to 9am or 5am to 3pm: “I’d paid my debt to society. The conditions of service for weather forecasters at the BBC are universally crap.” He pointed out that as a Met Office employee he was paid civil service rates and not those of a TV personality.
In 2002, he joined ITV’s Celebrity Fit Club. Though his slight tubbiness – at 5ft 9in, he weighed more than 15 stone – had been part of his television persona, he managed to lose two stone to raise money for charity, later proclaiming that he no longer felt 64 but about 30. In 2006, together with BBC TV’s Look North weatherman Paul Hudson, he wrote a book, Frozen in Time, about Britain’s harshest winters. He was a Fellow of the Meteorological Society and lived with dementia for the last five years of his life.
Video Clips on the Internet
Here we present a selection of video clips featuring Ian 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.
Ian McCaskill interviewed by Michael Buerk in the aftermath of the Great Storm in 1987.
A behind-the-scenes report on Ian McCaskill, featured on Breakfast Time.
PICTURED: Ian McCaskill. SUPPLIED BY: Paul R. Jackson. COPYRIGHT: BBC.