Colleagues: Keith Medley
Keith Medley was a freelance cameraman working for Movietonews and based in New Brighton. He had taken over from Jimmy Humphries in 1961. His first assignment was issued on 2nd November when he filmed the return of Stanley Matthews to Stoke F.C., the club he started with at the beginning of his long career.
Keith was born in South Africa in 1915 and was brought to England when he was five years old.
He studied photography in Liverpool and then went to London where he worked for a studio. During the Second World War, he was in the Royal Air Force where he worked at a photographer. There he met another photographer, Bob Bird.
After the War, they went into business, a photographic business. At New Brighton, they set up a kiosk, the Walkie Photos’ booth, on the front where holidaymakers, who had had their picture taken by either Medley or Bird, could collect their prints. They ran a thriving photographic business and the name of Medley and Bird became well-known in the north-west.
In 1960, the firm ceased trading, but each of the partners went on to work as photographers. It is not known when Keith took up a movie camera, but, by the time he started working for Movietonews, he was already an accomplished cameraman.
So often when a photographer becomes a cine-cameraman they have a tendency to move the camera when it is not necessary, apparently forgetting that people and animals are moving within the scene they are recording.
Keith Medley did not have this fault.
I was his Assignments Manager from his first assignment until November 1964. Keith provided, on average, a story each month and he would do so for fourteen years. He is accredited with 144 stories, but he also worked with the London crews at Aintree on The Grand National as well as other joint efforts.
He had a wry sense of humour which is illustrated, I think, in my article concerning his coverage of the Dial-a-Drink Pub, The Flag Inn, in Bolton which he shot in November 1963 for the Movietone story, “Dial your drink”. This is one of my articles under the heading of Cameramen’s Tales. Click here to read the article.
A number of the stories he covered were suggested by him. He would telephone me with his latest offering. I would canvass the production staff and then tell him if his story was wanted or not.
Keith worked on a number of “hardy annuals”. He shot a football story twice a year, usually the first match of the season in the north-west, filming at Old Trafford or Goodison Park or Aintree. Later in the season he would probably film a cup match involving one of the teams in his area.
Almost every year he covered the Grasmere Sports. Grasmere is in the lake district, and, at that time, was in the county of Westmoreland. The Sports had been taking place every August since 1852, apart from during the two World Wars.
Grasmere Sports is one of the most popular traditional events in the Lake District and included fell running, Cumberland Wrestling and hound trials. To the innocent bystander, the hound trials are something of a mystery. Upwards of twenty hounds, looking remarkably like those used in foxhunting, are released in the main arena. Without a human to guide them, they take off up into the hills as if they were chasing a fox. After about twenty minutes, they come back down again one by one. It seems that the first back home is declared the winner. Keith Medley captured the spirit of these events.
Movietone had always closely followed the adventures of Sir Malcolm and Donald Campbell. Sir Malcolm, at one time, had been a Movietone commentator and later Managing Director. In late 1966, Donald Campbell stared his trials with Bluebird K7 on Lake Coniston.
Movietonews covered most of these trials using crew based in London. Keith Medley was added to the crew to film Bluebird as it passed half way along the kilometre course.
On January 4th, 1967. Campbell was to make his first attempt at the record. Keith Medley was in position. He filmed Bluebird passing from right to left on the first run which took place around 8.45 in the morning. Campbell have achieved 297 mph, decided to turn round immediately for the required second run.
The location of Keith Medley and his camera was where Bluebird would be moving at its maximum speed. Keith covered the approach and the fateful crash. Keith was not the only cameraman in that position and I was later to be able to see the contrasting coverage undertaken by B.B.C and ITN from that point. Some were better than others, but none were better that that of Keith Medley.
Bluebird took off from the water like a flying boat and immediately somersaulted before crashing into the lake. Keith’s coverage was good because his camerawork gave the impression that the event did not take him by surprise. Some other coverage I saw indicated that the cameraman, temporarily, lost Bluebird and had to find it again before it hit the water.
All sorts of explanations were put forward to explain the crash, but I always believed that Bluebird became aerodynamic and “took off” because the speed was too much for the design of the craft. It was said to be travelling at 320mph at the time of the crash.
Keith Medley gained an amount of fame for his work. This was well deserved.
From time to time, Keith would work away from his base, even further away than Coniston. He had assignment in Llandudno, Dublin and Glasgow.
His last assignment for Movietonews was in January 1974 when he covered a go-kart championship in Morecambe.
I know nothing of his adventures after then, but I do know that he helped with the production of an amateur film concerning Donald Campbell and Bluebird K7. He wrote and spoke the commentary for the film.
Had he wanted to become a staff cameraman with Movietone, he would have been welcomed with open arms, but, I think, he was too fond of his home town to make a permanent move to London.
Keith Medley died in 2004 at the age of eighty-nine.
© Terence Gallacher and terencegallacher.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and terencegallacher.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
For more articles in the Colleagues series click here.