Tim Gudgin

Announcer known to millions as the sonorous voice behind the football results on Grandstand

Tim Gudgin before his final BBC broadcast, a week before his 82nd birthday in 2011DOMINIC LIPINSKI/PA

Although concerned that some listeners would detect a lilt in his pronunciation when his beloved Crystal Palace won a match, Tim Gudgin reckoned that he slipped up only three times in reading out the classified football results on the BBC’s Grandstand. He avoided the fate of a predecessor in having to announce “Forfar 5, East Fife 4”, yet there was no escaping Hamilton Academical, the team that troubled him the most.

“I always managed to correct myself immediately if I read out the wrong score, but I dreaded pronouncing Hamilton Academical,” he said. The Scottish club made the headlines rather less frequently than Manchester United, or even Crystal Palace, but its result still had to be read out on Saturday afternoons. In the end Gudgin, his silken, treacly voice betraying no sense of alarm, managed to master doing so.

Having joined Grandstand in 1976 to announce the racing and rugby results, he became only the second person — after Len Martin, who had done the job for 37 years — to read out the football scores on the programme, and did so for 16 years. “I don’t bother gargling or warming up my vocal cords,” he said. “Occasionally I’ll put drops up my nose if I’m feeling blocked, but that’s it. In the past we used to get a hard copy of the results to read through before doing it live, but in later years I would sit down and read them cold from the same screen that the viewers were watching.” On one occasion the screen briefly went blank.

Gudgin’s public-school voice — with strict received pronunciation — rose and fell in modulation to denote whether a team had won or lost. He disliked the mesh of accents that infiltrated the BBC in later years.

Colleagues recall him being perturbed on only one occasion — when Mark E Smith, the lead singer of the Fall, who had written the theme music for Final Score on Grandstand, was invited to the studio. Gudgin, a jazz aficionado, did not know who Smith was and became distracted by his behaviour. “He’d had a few drinks so we were all on tenterhooks,” he said. “I think we just about got away with it, but it was a close call.” Smith was given the task of reading out the results, which he more or less managed, but could not resist telling Ray Stubbs, the presenter, that his hairstyle made him look like an escaped convict.

Timothy Andrew Leonard Gudgin was born in 1929 and became a fan of Crystal Palace when he was growing up in Croydon. He went to Whitgift School, but was never very adept at playing football, and admitted that he did not know the rules.

Gudgin served in the Royal Tank Regiment during his National Service, leaving as a captain. While in Germany in 1950 he started to broadcast for the British Forces Network radio.

Two years later Gudgin joined the BBC as a studio manager and newsreader. He read stories on Blue Peter, and presented shows such as Housewives’ Choice and Saturday Night on the Light. He covered tennis, his favourite sport, at Wimbledon alongside his friend Barry Davies. He started reading out sports results only as a stand-in when the established announcer died.

He met his future wife, Jennifer Daly, while she was working as a bilingual secretary at the World Service. They married in 1956 and had six children: Brigitte, who trained in law and lives in Australia; Jo-Anne, a relief teacher who also moved to Australia; Annette and Camilla, who are both carers; Sarah, who trained as a civil engineer and is a housewife, and Mark, who works for the Côte restaurant group. Jennifer died in 2008.

His love of gadgets was not always matched by an ability to use them

The family lived in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, until Gudgin retired from the BBC a week before his 82nd birthday in 2011 to spend more time with his family by the sea at Emsworth, near Chichester. His retirement present was a BBC Sports Personality of the Year trophy. He continued to work part time and unpaid for a local radio station. Away from sport, he played the clarinet, and had a gift for being able to pick up a tune straightaway.

A wilfully eccentric man at times, Gudgin’s enthusiasm for gadgets was not always matched by an ability to use them. When looking round a prospective property for his family, he would operate a video camera — rather secretively — at knee level, filming the premises. “Needless to say, when watched back it gave you no real concept of the house,” his son, Mark, said.

Asked to suggest who should replace him at the BBC, Gudgin proposed Stephen Fry, admiring his diction and pronunciation. According to Gary Lineker, the Match of the Day presenter, Gudgin was “a quintessential part of Saturday afternoons in this country”.

Although unfamiliar with the post-punk oeuvre of Smith, Gudgin certainly recognised Bing Crosby when he turned up at the BBC studios. He and Len Martin spotted a horse called Uncle Bing that was due to run onthat day. When they informed the old crooner he insisted that they put on a £20 each-way bet for him at 10-1. Uncle Bing galloped home.

Tim Gudgin, BBC announcer, was born on November 25, 1929. He died of vascular dementia on November 8, 2017, aged 87


November 18 2017 The Times