Brian Gaze's blog

Weatherman - John Kettley

Book review

'Weatherman' is John Kettley's autobiography. During the 1980s and 1990s John Kettley became a household name as one of the BBC's highest profile weather forecasters. In 'Weatherman' he discusses his career as a broadcast meteorologist, and doesn't shirk away from the controversy in the late 1990s when he was allegedly accused of feeding junior presenters with false information, and two well known BBC weather presenters accused boss Bill Giles of bullying. In October 2000 John left the Met Office and his subsequent career as a freelancer is covered.

          Weatherman John Kettley

The book isn't just about John's career as a weather forecaster. Severe weather events he has experienced in the UK, such as the incredible winter of 1962-63 and the Great Storm of 1987 are included. Climate change is also addressed. What does John think? Read 'Weatherman' and find out for yourself! However, like the rest of the book, his views are articulated in a clear and understandable way which makes it very readable.

John Kettley also discusses his life outside of weather and his hobbies, which include football, cricket and horse racing. One of the more unusual but memorable episodes occurred in 1988 when the novelty pop song 'John Kettley is a Weatherman by a Tribe of Toffs' became a hit single. As John's media profile rose so did the number of opportunities open to him. His encounters with some of the most famous names from sport, politics and television are featured. 

Much of the book is focused on severe weather events which have occurred during John's lifetime. In particular a whole chapter is dedicated to the severe winter of 1962-63, which as he points out, is now thought to be a 1 in 1000 year event. In more recent times the Great Storm of October 1987 which flattened large parts of southern England is also covered in-depth, and he gives his views on the forecasts at the time, which led to a lot of criticism in the media. In January 2001 John and British Weather Services (who he was now working with) put out an exclusive press release which led to the Mirror newspaper running a headline "White Hell - Next weekend to the coldest for 19 years". At the time the radio and TV forecasts were making no mention of severe cold. In the end the cold didn't reach much of England and Wales, but Scotland was affected with heavy snowfalls causing disruption. The episode attracted a lot of media attention at the time, and reading John's recollections of this event is interesting. 

It's clear from the book that John is a keen sportsman. His lifelong support of Burnley Football Club is recalled and his knowledge of their history is impressive to say the least! As well as being a devoted football fan, it's clear that cricket has also played an important part in his life. During the 1990s John was a regular member of the Lord's Taverners which is one of the UK's leading youth sports and disability charities. 

In summary, 'Weatherman' is well researched and written. The book flows and is easy to read, and should appeal to a wider audience than just hardcore weather enthusiasts. I read the book from cover to cover as it is essentially a chronological account, but because many of the events covered are discrete, it would be just as easy to dip in chapter by chapter. The book is also well illustrated, with photos from John's career interspersed with ones from severe weather events, in particular, I had not previously seen the ones from the winter 1962-63. 'Weatherman' is a great read and may well prove to be unique as it's difficult to imagine a flood of other meteorologists publishing their autobiographies in the near future!
Issued 07/11/2009 © Brian Gaze


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