Scottish TV director and producer known for his work on soap operas

Born: July 25, 1940;

Died: December 26, 2018

HALDANE Duncan, who has died aged 78, was one of the most prolific television directors and producers working for Scottish Television during the 1980s and 90s. He was one of the few television directors to have directed every major soap opera in the UK: Emmerdale, Coronation Street, Crossroads, The Bill, EastEnders, Hollyoaks, Brookside and Take the High Road

Born Charles George Haldane Duncan in Edinburgh in 1940, his father died when he was nine years old to be brought up alone by his now single mother. Becoming fatherless at a young age he was able to attend George Heriot's school in Edinburgh as a Foundationer which meant his mother did not have to pay the usual fees. At Heriot's he made close friendships many of which lasted until the end of his life.

He spent his early years in insurance but an interest in theatre led him in 1964 to study stage management at the Glasgow College of Dramatic Art (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland). This subsequently led to work at the Edinburgh Traverse theatre under artistic director Jim Haynes and then the Lyceum where he worked under director Tom Fleming and with the then young actor Brian Cox.

In the late 1960s he joined the BBC in London where he worked on Top of the Pops and the Dusty Springfield show, working with the likes of Mel Torme, Woody Allen and Tom Jones. After attending a director's training course at the BBC he moved back to Scotland where he subsequently joined Scottish Television.

At the time STV was known as the station with the licence to print money and this meant that the station broadcast a wide range of programming. Duncan produced and directed a diverse range or programmes including Glenn Michael's Cavalcade, Scotsport, the Corries and other Folk, Reporting Scotland, a live concert by the rock band Gillan, a religious documentary filmed over several weeks in Greece a, a number of studio operas and a documentary about the travelling community in Scotland. This does not include the numerous political and news programmes he worked on with the then young political editor and aspiring MP, Gordon Brown.

However, it is drama that he was ultimately drawn to. His time at Scottish Television saw him produce and direct several early series of Taggart and the popular television adaptation of the Steamie. He continued to work on children's drama including Waiting for Elvis, a drama about Elvis Presley's only visit to the UK, written by Alex Norton.

Duncan was renowned for giving many young actors their first start in television including David Tennant, Peter Mullan, Alan Cumming and a young Alan Rickman who he cast as Bonnie Prince Charlie in a schools drama in the late 1970s. He also produced and directed a number of Hogmanay shows where he was keen to move away from the traditional ceilidh type format by introducing a dramatic narrative. This included the 1990 Hogmanay show which centred around an elderly woman alone at home where her neighbours brought the new year celebrations to her. The concept was based on thoughts of his own mother who often spent new year alone after he had moved out.

After leaving STV in the early 1990s, Duncan spent the next 15 years as a freelance director. After several stints working on The Bill he went on to direct all of the main soaps in the UK. He spent some time working in Germany on the German version of The Bill, die Wache. It was a challenging experience as a non-German speaker directing actors and working from scripts in German.

In the final years of his career, his work was mainly on Emmerdale where, as always, his reputation as a director who could turn around episodes quickly ensured a steady stream of work.

Speaking about Duncan, Taggart star Alex Norton said he was sad to hear that his old friend and collaborator had died.

"I worked with Hal many times over the years," he said, "starting by duetting with Allan Tall in My Painting Box - Hal's directorial debut when he was a floor manager at BBC Scotland back in the sixties. He raised my profile considerably when he cast me as the butcher in Knife Edge, one of the original Taggart episodes, and kick-started my writing career when he commissioned my first TV play, Waiting for Elvis (we won a gold medal at the New York Film and Television Awards). Hal played a big part in my life and I'll miss him terribly."

Haldane Duncan is survived by his wife, two children and five grandchildren.