We woke up to news this morning that the legendary commentator Murray Walker had passed.
It is a strange feeling when someone passes that you have had in your life for as long as you can remember, but have never actually met. Someone who you imitated as a kid and wanted to meet if you ever had the chance. It is a strange sense of loss coupled with a strange sense of “but I never knew them, why is it affecting me so much?”
Murray Walker was the lead commentator for the BBC broadcast of the F1 from 1976 to 1996 and then hopped over to ITV between 1997 and 2001. He struck up an unlikely workable pairing with former driver James Hunt and they worked together for over 10 years until Hunt tragically passed away just aged 45.
Walker was known best for his “Murrayisms”. Simple gaffes misidentifying drivers, stating simple facts in longer more engaging ways, or to spewing out a long sequence of words that said by any other would simply had lead people to go “Huh?”.
Our favourite “Murrayisms” were ones such as these:
“Unless I am very much mistaken .. and I AM very much mistaken”
“The lead car is absolutely unique, except for the one behind it which is identical.”
“Excuse me while I interrupt myself”
“Only a few more laps to go and then the action will begin. Unless this is the action, which it is!”
“He is exactly 10 seconds ahead, or more approximately, 9.86 seconds.”
When asked in a 2008 interview about his “Murrayisms”, Walker answered in true Walker style: “In my defence…it depends how you define the word ‘mistake’. What people call Murrayisms are malapropisms or getting the words in the wrong order. You’re standing there in front of a TV set and getting live pictures. The words are pouring out of you. You have to say what comes into your head, and sometimes the wrong words come, in the wrong order or I’d make prophecies which immediately turned out to be wrong.”
What a lot of people don’t know about the early days of F1 broadcasting is that the commentators purely relied on what they could see out their window, so when a car was at the back of the track, the commentators would have to make up the commentating as they went. Somehow Walker managed to still keep commentating in line with what was actually going on.
The 97 year old was also the master of the commentator’s curse. Excitedly remarking how well a driver was doing, to have them crash out or retire soon after.
Murray Walker despite his extensive in-depth technical knowledge of Formula 1 managed to keep it accessible to the casual fan, a feat which many have tried and failed at since he retired. Walker addressed this in a 2002 interview in the Gold Coast Bulletin
“My target audience in my mind was not the dedicated, dyed-in-the-wool knowledgeable anorak, who would watch anything and listen to anything on the subject. It was the un-committed, uninvolved and probably not very enthusiastic ordinary folks who were watching at home. I wanted to grip them by the throats and say ‘Hey look this is fantastic! I love it and you ought to love it too. And here’s why!’”
There are plenty of articles out today covering the death of Murray Walker and in his own words, Excuse me while I interrupt myself and raise a glass to the voice that kept me interested in Formula 1 from a young age, a man who explained things in a way a non die-hard card person could understand, the voice of F1 that will live forever on.
RIP Murray Walker – 1923 – 2021