Saturday, 26 July 2014

RIP Julian Wilson (Belated)

I've only just found out that former BBC horse racing correspondent Julian Wilson passed away on 20th April this year following a 12 year battle with prostate cancer, aged 73.

Growing up in the 1980s with a grandfather who was a keen follower of the sport meant that Wilson was a permanent fixture on my TV screen. I'm actually surprised he was only 73, as he was the type of man who cut a raffish and much older looking figure than he clearly was at the time.

An old Harrovian, he was born Julian David Bonhote Wilson and became hooked on the sport of kings from the age of nine, when an aunt showed him the racing pages and asked him to pick out some winners. A stable of the BBC's coverage for four decades, Wilson with his slicked back hair and clothing which befitted the season - tweeds, pinstripes or morning dress complete with top hat at a slight, jaunty angle - gave proceedings a gentlemanly, old school and intelligent air. Ever the professional, his difficult working relationship with commentator Peter O'Sullevan, who he believed would retire from the BBC on his 65th birthday in 1983 leading to his succession to the top commentating job. But O'Sullevan remained and Wilson, who had turned down an offer from ITV because he felt the job was his, remained in 'second place'. Ultimately, it was Wilson's dissatisfaction with the way the BBC seemed to be dumbing down the sport, alongside his dislike of co-presenter Clare Balding - that saw him retire from the screen in 1997 to concentrate on his freelance journalism work in print.


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