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Fish, Michael (1944-)

Weather Forecaster

Main image of Fish, Michael (1944-)

Born in Eastbourne, East Sussex, on 27 April 1944, Michael Fish decided to become a weather forecaster in early childhood. He duly joined the Met Office straight from school at the age of 18, remaining there until his retirement in 2004, by which time he had become the longest-serving television weather forecaster in Britain and possibly the world.

In 1971 he was, in his own words, 'volunteered' to forecast the weather for BBC Radio. He made enough of an impression to graduate to television in 1974, at a time when presentation technology consisted of sticking magnetised weather symbols onto blank maps. Despite the infinitely greater sophistication of today's animated graphics, Fish has waxed nostalgic about his early days, pointing out that although the symbols occasionally fell off on air, this was a much easier problem to deal with than the computer glitches that occasionally bedevilled later forecasts.

Thanks both to longevity and to his willingness to appear on a wide range of additional programmes from factual (Tomorrow's World, The Sky at Night) to light entertainment (The Basil Brush Show, Comic Relief), he was already arguably the best known British television weather forecaster when a comment made on the evening of 15 October 1987 made him notorious: "Earlier on today apparently a lady rang the BBC and said she heard that there was a hurricane on the way. Well, don't worry if you're watching: there isn't." A few hours later, Britain was battered by its worst hurricane for nearly three centuries, and Fish's comment ended up being repeated so many times that he later joked that he'd be a millionaire if he was entitled to royalties.

Though he pointed out that his remarks were taken out of their original context (not only was he referring specifically to the Caribbean, the same broadcast went on to predict that Britain would be hit by severe gales), his experience is a salutary lesson in how a single sound-bite can end up defining an entire career in the eyes of the general public.

But it certainly didn't hurt his profile, and the subsequent decade saw him receive a number of awards, including an MBE for services to weather forecasting, an honorary Doctor of Science degree from London's City University, the Freedom of the City of London - along with awards for both the Best and Worst-Dressed Man on Television, a reminder that Fish was often as famous for his exotic pullovers as for his weather forecasts.

Michael Brooke

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Thumbnail image of Weather Forecast (1934)Weather Forecast (1934)

Documentary about the science and technology of weather forecasting

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