Murray Walker RIP

Not sure where to put this one but the BBC are reporting the demise of Murray Walker. For those of you like me who grew up with an interest in motor sport in the 70's, 80's and 90's, the enthusiasm in his voice added to the excitement of the race, and even if he gaffed on occassions the sport of men in cars going round in circles just seemed so much better with his commentary.

Nice military past as well, Royal Scots Greys and Tank Regiment.

If F1 doesn't do something to commemorate his before the next race, I will be very dissapointed and rather annoyed...

Former F1 commentator Walker dies at 97
 
Very sad. He was the voice of Formula One for me growing up

BBC Are reporting a Clive James observation about him “In his quieter moments he sounds like his trousers are on fire”. Sounds about right

RIP.
 
The last of the great commentators; those that first brought their sports to TV and we always associated with their sport.

His father was a pre-war TT winner and one of the first radio commentators on bike racing.
 
It’s what I remembered most about F1 was his voice, probably haven’t watched it since he retired as I don’t recall a race he wasn’t commentating on.

RIP
 
Merry Talker. A gentleman and a scholar, rest in peace sir.
 

stuskimac

Clanker
Ex tankie, Capt. Royal Scots Greys WW2, commanded a Sherman tank at the Battle of the Reichswald Feb 1945. A good man.
murray387.jpg
 
Capt Walker re-united with his father towards the end of the war. I met him about 20 years ago at Goodwood, a real gent.
Murray-Walker-in-the-Second-World-War-527495.jpg
 
Capt Walker re-united with his father towards the end of the war. I met him about 20 years ago at Goodwood, a real gent.
View attachment 557145
What was his father doing in WW2? He was a WW1 Sapper dispatch bike rider. Wiki refers to him recruiting bike riders in WW2 but doesn’t give any details.

I too met Murray at Goodwood, probably 96. He was sitting on the front wheel of a 50s BRM chatting to anyone who engaged him. On the other front wheel was Derrick Bell doing the same. Goodwood was awesome in the early days!
 
What was his father doing in WW2? He was a WW1 Sapper dispatch bike rider. Wiki refers to him recruiting bike riders in WW2 but doesn’t give any details.

I too met Murray at Goodwood, probably 96. He was sitting on the front wheel of a 50s BRM chatting to anyone who engaged him. On the other front wheel was Derrick Bell doing the same. Goodwood was awesome in the early days!
Indeed it was. I met Walker and Sheene, probably 2000(?), the selfie mob didn't exist then and they were able to enjoy chatting to like-minded people.
I'm not sure what Walker Snr was doing there, he does explain in his book "Unless I am very much mistaken", although he skims over the war era.

His CO once asked him what his first name was, the assumption being that Murray Walker was a double-barreled surname.
 

ColdWarWorrier

Old-Salt
I was fortunate enough to meet Murray Walker on a couple of occasions. One such, in Budapest for the Hungarian Grand Prix (1995), having a quiet beer with Murray and a few Benetton mechanics in our hotel, a fan asked Murray for an autograph saying what a great fan of his he was.

Murray graciously signed various bits of paper but said: “You shouldn’t be a fan of me, these guys (pointing at the mechanics) are the real stars of F1.”

I spent the whole weekend with the team (courtesy of an ex-RCT mate who was one of Benetton’s truckies). When not in the commentary box Murray spent most of his time walking up and down the pit lane, in and out of garages talking to team members. He knew everybody by name, from team bosses to mechanics and support and catering staff and had time for everyone just as they had time for him.

He was so knowledgeable because he spent so much time reasearching his subject. Without exception he was liked and respected by people up and down the pit lane. A true gentleman who will be sadly missed. I’ve never known anyone so universally liked in their field.

I’m absolutely sure that F1 will acknowledge his passing at the first race of the season with many tributes. For once I’m glad I pay the extra for the Sky F1 channel, looking forward to many Murray programmes and tributes ahead.

RIP, Sir, it was an honour to have met you.
 

ColdWarWorrier

Old-Salt
What was his father doing in WW2? He was a WW1 Sapper dispatch bike rider. Wiki refers to him recruiting bike riders in WW2 but doesn’t give any details.

In WW2, Walker Senior was a War Correspondent. Meeting young Captain Murray was pure coincidence. Neither knew the other was there until a few moments before that picture was taken.
 
RIP Murray. Brings back memories of the last great era in Grand Prix, Senna vs Prost.

Me and my old man met him at the Autosport show about 30 years back. Unfortunately a brief clip of us chatting was used on the original Top Gear, and my old man later got a bollocking from Mum as he'd supposedly quit smoking but there he was puffing on an Embassy...
 

QRK2

LE
Indeed it was. I met Walker and Sheene, probably 2000(?), the selfie mob didn't exist then and they were able to enjoy chatting to like-minded people.
I'm not sure what Walker Snr was doing there, he does explain in his book "Unless I am very much mistaken", although he skims over the war era.

His CO once asked him what his first name was, the assumption being that Murray Walker was a double-barreled surname.

His first name apparently was Graeme.
 
Bill Mclaren
Peter Aliss
David Coleman
Ritchie Benaud

and now Murray Walker.

The voices of my youth who bought passion and knowlege to the sports I loved to watch.

Thank you gentlemen, thank you.
 
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Helm

MIA
Moderator
Book Reviewer
Only met him very briefly once at the Auto Sport show at the NEC, my main memory is he had huge hands.
 
Murray Walker also was a succesful adman, working for Masius, who later became the M in DMBB. Proving fake news has a long history, there was an urban myth that he came up with the slogan "A Mars a day helps you work rest and play". Not true, though he did come up with "Opal Fruits: made to make your mouth water".

One of my favourite Murray memories is him interviewing a post-braining on the head Nigel Mansell and managing to prod him exactly on the bruise

 
Here is the DT Obit in today.
In April 1944 as a second lieutenant, Walker joined the Royal Scots Greys, saw action commanding a tank at Arnhem, and in February 1945 crossed the Rhine into Germany. After the war he was promoted to technical adjutant with the BAOR Royal Armoured Corps training section at Belsen (by then shorn of its death camp) in the rank of captain, and demobbed in 1947.

Murray Walker, much-loved idiosyncratic voice of Formula 1 – obituary​

He became known for his foot-in-mouth 'Murrayisms' and his catchphrase 'Unless I’m very much mistaken' – which he often was

ByTelegraph Obituaries14 March 2021 • 10:50am

Murray Walker, who has died aged 97, was for more than half a century the high-octane voice of British motor sport and a consummate exponent of – and, indeed, with a strong claim to have invented – the “pants-on-fire” school of broadcast commentary.
At full throttle at the television microphone for a Formula 1 grand prix, Walker would typically let rip with what he called his “crash, bang, wallop” approach, developed during years of commentating on low-budget motocross and rallycross competitions.
“I reacted excitedly and enthusiastically to their drama, speed and aggression,” he remembered, “and when I moved full time to the more sophisticated tarmac racing I took my whoops, expletives, shouts of amazement and malapropisms with me.”
Like that of Dan Maskell to tennis and John Arlott to cricket, Walker’s name became synonymous with motor racing and might have been ordained for the job of Britain’s national commentator on the sport. If he made the trade of motormouth look easy, it was a tribute to his professionalism, passion and skill, because, as one broadcasting executive pointed out, motor-racing is the hardest spectacle to describe because so little of what is happening is actually in view at any given moment.
But Walker quickly learned to handle the technical complexities of television coverage and became a consummate master of the sport’s drama, history and politics, derived from the close study of his huge collection of motorsport magazines dating back to before the war, drivers’ biographies and shelves of videos recording great racetrack moments. He cheerfully confessed to never having read a non-motorsport book or listened to a symphony. “He’s obsessed,” confirmed his wife. “If it hasn’t got an engine he’s not interested.” Even his lawnmower bore a Ferrari sticker.

He became famous for his 'Murrayisms' CREDIT: Clive Mason/ALLSPORT
As accident-prone as some of his heroes, he frequently bestowed what became known as the Murray Walker Kiss of Death when, having noted how well a driver was doing on his way to the chequered flag, the competitor would then retire or crash out of the race. “I don’t make mistakes,” Walker insisted, “I make prophecies which immediately turn out to be wrong.” These gave rise to Walker’s catchphrase: “Unless I’m very much mistaken” which in turn led more than once to the correction: “I am very much mistaken.”
Then there were the famous foot-in-mouth “Murrayisms”. “The car in front is absolutely unique,” he cried during one televised rallycross event, “except for the one behind it, which is identical!” Newspapers compiled golden treasuries of his gaffes, and Private Eye ranked him a close second behind David Coleman in its Colemanballs feature. “And now excuse me while I interrupt myself,” was one example, followed by “Tambay’s hopes, which were previously nil, are now absolutely zero.”

“Do my eyes deceive me or is Senna’s Lotus sounding a bit rough?” Walker bawled into his microphone at one grand prix. On another occasion he reflected simply that “the status quo could well be as it was before”. But more characteristic was the demented: “Mansell is slowing it down, definitely taking it easy. Oh no he isn’t! It’s a lap record!”
Walker made his name in the 1950s commentating on motorcycle races, particularly the annual Isle of Man TT, and the BBC regarded him as a potential all-rounder, something of a new Richard Dimbleby. They tried him out on non-sporting outside broadcasts, such as the military tattoo at White City, as well as a genteel rowing regatta on the Serpentine. But in 1957 Walker found his true metier when he began covering the noisy spectacle of motorcycle scrambling, or motocross, “which not only increased my broadcasting tempo but got me heavily involved in television for the first time”.
For 10 years from the late 1950s his main work was for ITV, covering these rugged events in a style updated from that of his father, who had commentated on motorcycle racing for radio on the prewar BBC. Walker was an assiduous student of form, mixing with riders and officials in the paddock before the off, then taking up his position with the microphone, often in a windswept commentary box open to the elements.
Often, as in the winter of 1962, motorcycle scrambling was about the only sport not to be cancelled on account of the weather. As one mud-spattered rider slewed into view clinging to the handlebars of his bucking machine at great speed, his airborne bottom finally crashing down between saddle and rear mudguard with a sickening crunch, Walker cried: “My God, he’s trapped his knackers!” Fortunately for Walker, what actually came out of his mouth — “he’s trapped his knickers!” — reflected a momentary tweak to the synapses that, however inaccurate and inelegant, did save his job.

When motocross was succeeded by rallycross (with souped-up saloon cars instead of bikes), Formula Ford and Formula 3, Walker was again the man at the television microphone. In 1978 the BBC decided to televise the whole Formula 1 season, a controversial move in the light of highly-visible tobacco sponsorship on the cars. Walker took over Formula 1 commentary from the experienced but comparatively sedate Raymond Baxter.
At first this involved Walker watching the race on a Eurovision feed at Television Centre before dubbing commentary on to an edited half-hour of highlights called Grand Prix. But it proved such an instant success that it led to Walker’s 24-year career of travelling the world, covering Formula 1 live at 39 circuits in 20 countries, all on top of a demanding “day” job as an advertising executive.
During the 1980s he was paired in the commentary box with the laconic former World Drivers’ Champion, James Hunt, an arrangement which Walker found increasingly frustrating; he did not admire Hunt’s laid-back approach, dishevelled T-shirted appearance and what he considered his dissolute lifestyle.

Walker also lamented the decline of the Grandstand programme during the 1990s as the BBC ceded coverage of a string of sporting events to ITV and the satellite channels. But in 1997, after ITV paid a stupendous £60 million for the Formula 1 broadcast rights, Walker signed with the opposition and became the commercial channel’s main motor sport commentator.
Graeme Murray Walker was born on October 10 1923 at Hall Green, Birmingham. His father, Graham Walker, a works rider for the Norton motorcycle company, had been an Army despatch rider in the Great War, was obsessed with motor cycles, and raced them successfully in Britain and in Europe, often watched by his admiring son.
In 1935, after a long, distinguished career on the track, Graham Walker began to draw on his gifts as a writer and journalist. As editor of the failing magazine Motor Cycling he reversed its fortunes and made it a match for its rival Motor Cycle. He also became a knowledgeable radio commentator on the BBC, covering the Isle of Man TT, the Ulster Grand Prix and other important events in the motorcycling calendar.
When the family moved to Enfield, north London, Murray attended Highgate School, where he became a prefect, captain of shooting, a crack shot and, to his own surprise, excelled at Divinity.
In 1941 while waiting to join an Army tank regiment, he won a scholarship to join the Dunlop rubber company at its headquarters at Fort Dunlop in Birmingham, and learned the business from the inside while living in digs. Eventually he joined the 58th Training Regiment of the Royal Armoured Corps as a trooper and was later commissioned as an officer cadet and trained with 115 Troop RAC at Sandhurst.
In April 1944 as a second lieutenant, Walker joined the Royal Scots Greys, saw action commanding a tank at Arnhem, and in February 1945 crossed the Rhine into Germany. After the war he was promoted to technical adjutant with the BAOR Royal Armoured Corps training section at Belsen (by then shorn of its death camp) in the rank of captain, and demobbed in 1947.
Returning to Dunlop, Walker worked as assistant to the company’s tyre advertising manager, CL Smith, but after a transfer to the company’s London headquarters he became bored and had little to do. He moved to promoting Dunlopillo products, supervising publicity for their installation in the rebuilt Houses of Parliament and the 1951 Festival of Britain.
Meanwhile in his free time, and encouraged by Geoff Duke, who rode for the famous Norton marque, Walker had become a competent trials rider on his own 500T Norton, winning a gold medal in the 1949 International Six Days trial at Llandrindod Wells. But having won a 250cc heat at Brands Hatch later the same year, he decided to retire “at the peak of my inconsiderable form” and thereafter confined his motor cycling to weekend commutes between Birmingham and Enfield on his Triumph Tiger 100.

His break into motor racing commentary came via the public address system of the Midland Automobile Club, at a combined car and bike meeting at the Shelsey Walsh hill climb in Worcestershire. A BBC producer heard it and a week later Walker was invited to cover part of a meeting at Goodwood on the radio. This led to an invitation to cover the second position, Stowe Corner, at Silverstone for the 1949 British Grand Prix. His father remained the lead commentator, thus forming the BBC’s only long-term father-and-son commentary team.
Walker’s broadcasting was confined to weekends, while he spent his weekdays earning a steady living. Having left Dunlop for the Aspro firm at Slough, Walker honed his skills as a copywriter extolling the virtues of headache pills, eventually diversifying into Aspro’s subsidiary companies and promoting such 1950s brands as Lifeguard disinfectant and DIP starch.
Then an executive at McCann Erickson, the world’s largest advertising agency, who had heard Walker’s motor racing commentaries, offered him a job with the company’s automotive account and doubled his salary to £2,000 pa. Two years later, in 1959, he joined the London advertising agency Masius and Fergusson and stayed with them for the rest of his career.
During the early 1960s his main accounts were Vauxhall cars, the Mars confectionery firm and Petfoods, whose products Walker was obliged to endorse to shopkeepers by solemnly opening a tin of Kit-E-Kat and consuming the contents (in those days mostly whalemeat) to demonstrate their wholesome nature.
Walker presided over many successful advertising campaigns in the 1960s, helping to coin slogans for bird food (“Trill makes budgies bounce with health”), Opal Fruits (“Made to make your mouth water”) and a new kind of bubbly perry made from fermented pear juice and aimed at young women (“I’d love a Babycham!”). But he was irritated that the rubric “A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play” had been mistakenly ascribed to him. He retired from the agency in 1983 to be a full-time freelance commentator, finally retiring in 2000.

He was appointed OBE in 1996.
Some 70 years of exposure to loud engines and age-related hearing problems left Walker with impaired hearing in both ears. In 2006 he became chief ambassador for a high street chain that fitted his hearing aids.
With Mike Hailwood he co-authored The Art of Motor-Cycle Racing (1963). His autobiography, Unless I’m Very Much Mistaken, appeared in 2002.
Murray Walker married, in 1960, Elizabeth Allen, who survives him.
Murray Walker, born October 10 1923, died March 13 2021
 

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