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Happy 90th birthday Murray Walker! The legendary commentator reflects on career
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Posted By: James Allen  |  10 Oct 2013   |  9:55 am GMT  |  53 comments

Murray Walker, a commentator who at times was even more popular than his sport, celebrates his 90th birthday today. To mark the occasion, James Allen headed down to see his former ITV F1 colleague to share some memories and discuss what made him the special broadcaster that he was.

“I don’t feel 90,” Walker told the October edition of the JA on F1 podcast. “I think if you’ve got a passion in life, and for me it’s motorsport, it something to keep you going. I feel fine and I’m looking forward to a lot more years of motorsport.”

Check out this TV interview I did with him on BBC Sport Website.Murray Walker at 90

Part of the magic of Walker’s appeal lies in his voice, which goes up and down with the sound of a Formula 1 engine. “My voice is my father’s voice,” he said. “You have the voice that you are born with and develop into and my father had a voice just like mine.

“My voice wouldn’t have been any good for snooker – I’ve got a harsh aggressive voice. When I get excited and I talk about motor racing, it gets a lot faster and a lot more aggressive. Formula 1 is a fast moving sport and I’ve got a fast moving aggressive voice, which suits the sport. I’ve had people talk to me in normal conversation and say you don’t always sounds like you sound in the commentary and that’s because I get so excited and it changes.”

You can hear more Murray Walker in full voice in the October edition of the JA on F1 podcast. It also features interviews with Caterham owner Tony Fernandes, four-time world champion Alain Prost and FIA presidential candidate David Ward.


No player? Download the podcast directly.

Another element is his passion for motor racing, which is reflected in the voice. He’s as passionate as he was when he sat on his father Graham’s motorbike all those years ago.

“My father was professional racing motorcyclist and who won the TT on the Isle of Man, he won all the continental grands prix in those days and he would have been world champion in 1928 if they had a world championship the same as they do now,” he said. “I was born into the sport. I think you either like what your father does or loath what your father does.

“I adored my father, he was a wonderful man and I wanted to be like him. When I came out of the army, I started racing bikes and I was alright, I was good club standard but I was never going to be able to make good living as my father did.

“I was in the advertising business and starting to do well in that and chose to go that way. I often wondered what my life would have been like. If my father had been a plumber, I’d probably be mending pipes somewhere.”

Walker has always had a determination to succeed in whatever he turns his hand to, whether it be advertising or commentary. “I have never been one of those people who sets targets like I’ve got be a millionaire by the time I’m 21 or visit every country in the world by the time I’m 32 – that sort of thing,” he said. “I have tried my best to take advantage of any opportunities that came to me. I suppose I have been pretty realistic about what I can do and what I can’t do.”

Walker adds that his love of people and ability to get on with everyone helped him enormously in his career. “I like people,” he said. “I treat people as human beings. You may be the head of a corporation or a truckie who is responsible for getting the cars to the races.

“They’re very different jobs, with different levels of income, but there is no reason why if you’re a truckie you shouldn’t be as nice as a top man in business. I like to treat people as I find them and I hope they treat me as they find me. You get a lot more out of life if you enjoy being with people.”

When asked for any drivers which he had a soft-spot for during his career, Walker selected three. “Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss and Nigel Mansell. I have a very close friendship with Nigel. He’s not the easiest bloke in the world to get on with but Nigel and I always got on very well. I always admired him for stoutheartedness.

“Fangio was a humble man from Argentina. I had the privilege of interviewing him on three separate occasions. And then there’s Stirling Moss, one of greatest all time. He never won the world championship but he finished second five times. To me it’s a criticism of the championship, not of Stirling, that he never won it.”

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1

Better late than never.

Go, go, go Murray. Hope to see you on the screen a lot more during the coming Silverstone GP.

2

Wao!

This [s what can be refereed to as the glory of God.

This is integrity, a man worth emulating.

I just feel like staying put on this site

3

It looks to me, that yes, I can just see him here from the commentary position, yes that chrisralph actually has managed to take pole position on your website James, for wishing me a happy 90th birthday. It’s wonderful that this F1 fan who has been listening to and watching my broadcasts for so many decades has been able to snatch this vital trophy ahead of the millions of wellwishers around the world… And I’m sure that many of his fellow Aussies will be cheering for him at this astounding achievement…

Congratulations Murray old sock, you remain the voice of this great sport, happy birthday!

4

Sorry folks – for me I just don’t get the M Walker thing… He regularly didn’t see the real action in races, mis-called incidents, had little technical understanding of the cars and failed completely to be impartial.

How he ever held down the job he had with the BBC for so long is a complete mystery to me – normally they employ knowledgable individuals who were champions in their own discipline.

[mod]

5

In the same way that some motorsport enthusiasts put Jim Clark at the same level with Sterling Moss who never won one title. It seems to be that points scoring and pure knowledge aren’t only criteria which would win public hearts. He was driving me nuts on some occasion but I still miss his voice today when watching F1.

6

Everyone stop typing the six upside down!

You don’t look a day over 60 Murray.

7

And here’s the young Jacques Villeneuve. Well…. Not so young anymore, but still Jacques Villeneuve! 🙂

8

Walkerisms:

“We’re watching Ralf Schumacher… son, of course of double world champion Michael Schumacher

“…and HERE COMES DAMON HILL IN THE WILLIAMS!!!!…..this car is absolutely unique!….except for the one behind it….which is exactly the same…”

Murray: “First man out is Marques in the Arrows. Of course he’s going out early to generate some media interest”

Martin: “I’m sure he would generate some interest if he went out in the Arrows because Marques drives for Minardi”

Australia 2000:

Murray on M Schumacher’s fight for championship glory with Ferrari: “…and it’s something he’s been trying to achieve since he left Benetton in 1958!”

Interview with Mansell after the Austrian GP 1987:

Murray : “How did you get that nasty bumb on your head Nigel?” [Nigel leans forward to show the camera as Murray pokes it with his finger !]

Nigel: “OUCH!!”

From the Spanish GP 1995:

“and Eddie Jordan is in fifth place”… (actually Eddie Irvine)

Italy 1994:

“…the enthusiastic enthusiasts… ”

Belgium 1996:

“…and now, just in case there is any CONFUSION this is the race order on lap 19: David Coulthard leads and has yet to stop; Hakkinen leads and has yet to stop…”

Belgium 1996:

“And now the boot is on the other Schumacher”

Monaco 1990:

“And Senna wins the 1999 Monaco Grand Prix”

Belgium 1995:

“And Hill congratulates Schumacher. They’re not bosom buddies, but they’re not far off!” (Hill was actually critising Schumacher for heavy-handed driving tactics.).

Monaco 1981:

“You might not think that’s cricket, and it’s not, it’s motor racing”

Britain 2000:

Jim R.: “It’s over to the big Easter Bunny of Formula 1, Murray Walker.”

Murray: “I don’t know about the big Easter Bunny, Jim. I used to go to the Bunny Club in Park Lane quite a lot, but my wife’s watching the programme so enough of that!”

Spain 2000:

“So while we wait for them to come on to the podium, and I’ll interrupt myself when they do…”

Europe 2000:

Murray: “It would be wonderful for David Coulthard, for McLaren and for Britain if he could get Pole Position, because he has yet to get one this year, and I have seldom been anything like as much impressed as I was by his dignity and fortitude in the face of enormous adversity at the British Grand Prix meeting two weeks ago.”

Monaco 2000:

“And in front of David Coulthard, the scarlet McLaren of four-times Monaco Grand Prix winner, Michael Schumacher.”

Hungary 2000:

“Two lights on, three lights on, four lights on, five laps on…”

Belgium 2000:

“Yes! Jean Alesi has just gone round in 2 minutes and 2 seconds, so that’s three seconds faster in the Prost than Alesi in the McLaren.”

USA 2000:

“Two World Championship leaders on the front row. Mika Hakkinen, 80 points. Alongside him, Michael Schumacher, 78 points. Mika Hakkinen on the second row of the grid…”

Japan 2000:

Jim Rosenthal: “We’re a bit worried about these earthquakes. Did the earth move for you over there?”

Murray: “Not only the earth Jim, but the commentary box as well! It was the most incredible experience.”

Malaysia 2000:

Murray: “Wake up on the left, there! This is a terrific race going on.”

(A McLaren mechanic is lying down on the garage floor)

Germany 2000: “Well, where’s Mr. Half-wit now…”(A half-wit walks across track to protest about his dismissal from his job in a Mercedes factory somewhere. Chaos ensues and Barrichello and Ferrari are eternally grateful.

Belgium 1995: An after-race interview with Damon Hill

Murray: “I have to tell you after the race when you were talking to Michael [Schumacher] I said that it proves that you are good friends with him, was it not that sort of conversation?”

Hill: ” Well not suprisingly Murray, you were wrong!”

Germany 1988:

“Senna 1st, Prost 2nd and Berger 3rd that makes up the top four!”

Monaco 1992:

“We’re now on the 73rd lap and the next one will be the 74th.”

Imola 1994:

“And this is the scene from Ayrton Senna’s mirror… sorry, from his camera!”

Belgium 1997:

“It’s the second Bennetton victory of the year. It’s the second McLaren victory of the year.”

Austria 1998:

“If it’s a two lap strategy”

Germany 1999:

“… he’s on 4 grooved front tyres”

Qualifying, Hungary 1999:

“The McLaren looking as steady as a rock”. … and just as he says this: the McLaren slides and recovers round a bend.

9

Amazing how someone can be simultaneously so rubbish at a job and yet somehow so perfect for it.

“And Jenson Button in the top 10 is in… 11th position.”

10

A-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA !!!

Perfect! So true.

I love the way you worded this.

I know there was not a harsh thought

in one’s heart as you typed.

Here in North America, Murray’s style

would be referred to as: “home-spun”.

Remember the ads him and Damon used to

do for Pizza Hut? I kidded on my pals

when there in ’97. Every time I saw a

PH, I pointed it out and said: “let’s

eat there!”. Finally, one pal told me

he was sick of eating at: “every bloody

PH”. Thought he knew the ads (we did

not get them in Canada). Had to explain

that I was joking about maybe meeting

Murray. 🙂

11

….and look at that!!!!

Happy birthday murray

12

Happy Birthday Murray! I wouldn’t say I’ve met you but I did say hello to you once and, though you were in a hurry to get to a book signing, you were gracious enough to say hello back. I’ve met other “stars” who were far more offhand. As said before you are a proper gentleman.

13

One of my all time heroes. Best Murray moment for me: Silverstone on a summers day, watching Schumacher blasting around in the Ferrari with Murray in my headphones 🙂 unforgettable… Happy Birthday x

14

Murray is more than a legend, one of the great drivers once said that Murray’s voice is like an engine, there is always that adrenalin, energy, excitement and he just looks younger and younger every year. Many blessings Murray.

15

Glad he’s looking so healthy. Happy birthday Murray!

16

.. and its 85 candles, 86 candles, 87 candles, 88 candles, 89 candles, 90 candles: and its Go Go Go!

17

A disgrace that Murray is not in the House of Lords and a GCMG!

The cultured tones of Raymond Baxter ended the gentleman racer era and Murray brought such excitement to, well everything he commentated upon.

He epitomises the truly great racer era that we in our 60s(plus) now remember as the great days of F1 when drivers could bang wheels and make the car ten feet wide, and Murray made it a hundred times more exciting. He could work up a feverish crescendo as two raindrops meandered their way down the commentary box window at a rainy Suzuka.

Strange to find myself these days often reading the musings of your old number cruncher, pencil sharpener, tea boy and shoe cleaner Mike Doodson.

It just is not the same, the danger has gone and with it much of the tension that had us on the edge of our seats, as Murray raised our blood pressure to bursting! (the doctor says I must avoid salt now!)

True we have James sometimes but only on the radio or occasionally for FP1 and usually interrupted umpteen times for football or some other insignificant pastime.

We miss you every race Murray so take care of those hips and enjoy your well earned break, when are you coming back?

18

Happy Birthday Murray. You and James what a pair

19

The highlight of my motor racing year was Murray’s under-the-radar appearance at the Silverstone Classic this year, when he first announced he was fit again. The crowd hung on his every word as he spoke on the PA; the National Anthem couldn’t have been more revered.

Happy Birthday and thanks for so much shared pleasure. Enjoy the adulation, it’s deserved.

20

Happy birthday Murray Walker, best F1 commentator ever!

Go! Go!! Go!!! 🙂

21

Very nice interview. Just to point out that a higher quality version of this is also available on BBC iplayer:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03dyfdv/Murray_Walker_90th_Birthday_Special/

22

A very happy 90th birthday Murray, it was an absolute pleasure watching f1 in the 1980s onwards listening to your FANTASTIC commentry, thank you so much.

23
Huw Burford-Taylor

Legend. Many happy returns, and hopefully many more to come.

24

Spin Spin Spin – Round Round Round

Happy Birthday Murray

After listening to Murray’s commentary for years, I still get a kick out of some of his most famous quotes.

“…and HERE COMES DAMON HILL IN THE WILLIAMS!!!!…..this car is absolutely unique!….except for the one behind it….which is exactly the same…”

cheers

25

Happy birthday Murray Walker-we both share the same b/day& I grew up on listening to F1 with him in commentary. I still miss the voice. Hope you celebrate 20 more !

26

Happy Birthday Murray Walker and many happy returns!

27

Happy Birthday Murray.

I remember growing up to your voice every other Sunday. Keep on going Murray your a LEGEND!

My favourite piece of commentary is from the 96 Australian Grand Prix ” and the young ulsterman Eddie Irvine – has along with the two time world champion Michael Schumacher, Both have joined Ferrari to get them to the top where the deserve to be…..ITS ITS IRVINE HE,S SLOWING – THATS IT HES OUT! AND NOT ONLY IS HE OUT HES ON FIRE!”

Absolute quality.

Incidently James why are YOU not teamed up with Mr Brundle at SKY I cant stand Crofty anymore hes become a bit tedious now. Anybody else agree??

29

Skys entire commentary is only a little better than Jonathan Legards.

They’ve got the encyclopaedia of motorsport, Karun Chandhok and chosen to stick him behind the lame replay screen, instead of fulltime behind the mic.

30

Very happy where I am thanks

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