‘Make no mistake about it, Murray knew his stuff’

Legendary motor sport commentator and journalist Murray Walker died on Saturday, aged 97. Nigel Baudains recalls his visit to the island

I WILL never forget the time I called Murray Walker at home when he was in bed with flu.

While the year escapes me, I was working on a story about one of Andy Priaulx’s racing achievements and was looking for some expert comment.

A UK journalist who had a lot of experience working with newspapers in the south of England was employed by The Guernsey Press at the time.

‘I can give you Murray Walker’s phone number,’ he said.

Apologies now Data Protection Authority, but this preceded your time.

The minute I heard Murray’s voice – the food of so many impersonators – it was clear that the poor man was not well.

‘I’m in bed with flu,’ he told me. He even apologised for the fact. I was quite embarrassed about it. Then, bless him, and to use Murray speak, the green lights came on and it was go, go, go, go!

Murray Walker in Smith Street alongside Graham Brown's Austin Chalfont. (29332906)

‘What would you like to know?’ he said.

I rattled off a few questions to which he gave me the answers and he was clearly very knowledgeable about Andy Priaulx.

I apologised for bothering him, wished him a speedy recovery, and within a few minutes his words had been added to my copy.

In 2002 I covered the story when he came to Guernsey and did a signing session for his autobiography, Unless I’m Very Much Mistaken. There were a large number of Murray fans on the starting grid for books by the time the doors opened at the Press Shop in Smith Street.

He had signed 26,000 copies of his book on a promotional tour prior to coming to Guernsey. The island turned out to be the most lucrative stop so far with nearly 500 sales in the 90 minute session.

Murray was delighted.

‘I didn’t know so many people lived on Guernsey,’ he told me. ‘It’s just incredible.’

His main passion in motor sport was motorcycling and particularly the Isle of Man TT. One of his earliest memories was watching his father, Graham, racing there, and he provided radio commentary for some 200 TTs. He did his first British Grand Prix in 1949.

Murray Walker’s commentaries did for motor racing what Harry Carpenter and Peter O’Sullevan’s did for boxing and horse racing respectively. The latter, incidentally, was also 97 when he died in 2015.

In 1996 Murray Walker was made an OBE for his services to broadcasting and motor racing.

His passing at the age of 97 brings down the chequered flag on the life of an iconic sports broadcaster.

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