John Finch: 1925-2022

WGGB Treasurer Gail Renard pays tribute to John Finch, a stalwart of British television and a longstanding member of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain
John Finch

John Finch was born in Liverpool during the Depression. He was brought up in Yorkshire after his father disappeared and his mother returned to live with her father, a retired miner.

Finch wanted to be a writer but first took posts as varied as a trainee librarian at a miners’ welfare library, then secretary to the sculptor Jacob Epstein in London. Finch wrote for various magazines, including the Illustrated and Picture Post, and occasionally contributed to the BBC.

Finch returned North in the early 1950s and joined a heavy engineering company in Rochdale as marketing manager. He kept writing and his first play, Dark Pastures (the first in television to have an industrial setting) was transmitted in 1958 as part of the ITV Television Playhouse.

Finch became one of the first writers to join the new series Coronation Street in 1960. It changed everything. As he later wrote, “From being broke, we suddenly had money. With the first script fee, which was £100, we bought a washing machine for £99 and blew the £1 on a bottle of wine.”

John Whiston, executive producer and Head of ITV in the North, writes: “John Finch wrote Episode 24 of Coronation Street. We are now on Episode 10,568. John worked alongside Tony Warren, finding voices for all those early characters like Elsie Tanner and Ena Sharples, as well of course as Stan and Hilda Ogden. Even more incredibly, when he started writing Corrie, John couldn’t afford a television to watch the show go out.”

John Finch wrote on the series for eight years, enriching the show with his dramatic, comedic but always earthy writing and in no small measure helped cement the show as Britain’s favourite programme. Granada was fortunate to have found someone with as unique and authentic a voice, something they capitalised on by getting him to write other iconic and important series for the company such as Family At War.

Finch also went on to create and write the series Sam, based on the mining village where he grew up. Thirty-nine hour-long episodes were made. He also wrote and/or created countless other series, including: The Spoils Of WarFlesh and Blood (starring Thora Hird, Bill Fraser and Nigel Stock) and Capstick’s Law.

In 1975, Finch was given the Best Series Award at the WGGB Awards. He received the Broadcasting Press Guild Critics Award for Sam in the same year.

Finch wrote a novel, Cuddon Return, and in 2002 he completed his first play for the theatre, Joe, described as a play for two actors and a load of junk. His autobiography will be published in July by Kaleidoscope.

John Finch and his unique voice will be missed by everyone who enjoyed his writing. The WGGB sends sincere condolences to his family.