Early Radio Sports Commentary

An early hero of Dick Booth’s brilliant new history of broadcast commentary Talking of Sport is Seymour Joly de Lotbiniere. “Lobby” took over as Head of Outside Broadcasts at the BBC in 1935, and was determined to cover more sports. He was especially keen on live commentary with all its spontaneity and excitement.

Some sports were trickier than others. Here’s Aidan Crawley in 1936, commentating on a schools racquets match:

A man is just going to serve. That was a fault. Well served… it’s very difficult to describe it’s so fast. Well hit, sir, well hit. …terrific pace they’re playing. It’s Winchester three Rugby ten. Lord Abbeydale has just served.

This is a game that requires great hand and eye ability, so inheritance is a factor, so there are a lot of public school participants. A certain amount of mothers and sisters are here. I wish more people could see this game. I’m sorry… it’s a very exciting game. Well hit sir. I’m trying to hear the score, you’ll hear it in a moment.

And then there’s this, a 1924 rugby union match from Australia:

He’s going… he’s going.. He’s almost there. He’s going to score.. God! He’s down… The poor chap, he’s wounded. Good God! He’s dead.

Voice in the background: Don’t be a fool man. He’s only winded.


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