|1 May 2023
|Notable RMAS Alumni
Graeme Murray Walker was born at Hall Green, Birmingham on 10th October 1923. His father had been a despatch rider in the Great War and was a talented motorcycle racer before turning to sporting journalism. Educated at Highgate School, North London, Murray Walker worked for Dunlop while awaiting his call up papers. Selected for a commission, he trained at Sandhurst in the intake which paraded in front of General Eisenhower, shortly before D-Day. Joining the Royal Scots Greys in April 1944, he fought in the attempt to relief Arnhem and in the Rhine crossing before being demobbed as a Captain in 1947.
Entering motorcycle races in the late 1940s, he had some success before deciding to retire, as he put it: “at the peak of my inconsiderable form.” With his father the lead commentator, Walker assisted with the British Grand Prix of 1949 the start of a long association with what was to become Formula One. At first only a weekend commentator, Walker worked in advertising, for many years his primary source of income. As part of the Kit-E-Kat sales team his role was to open and eat a tin of cat food (mostly whale meat in those days) to show how wholesome the food was. During the 1960s he coined the phrase for bird food; ‘Trill makes budgies bounce with health.’ And for Opel Fruits; ‘Made to make your mouth water.’ Indeed, such was his success in advertising that he only became a full-time commentator in 1983.
For the next 17 years, Walker was the excitable voice of Formula One blending an encyclopaedic knowledge of the sport with boundless enthusiasm. His gaffes, known as ‘Murrayballs’ were regularly featured in Private Eye magazine and included “Tambay’s hopes, which were previously nil, are now absolutely zero!” “The status quo could well be as it is before” and “Do my eyes deceive me or is Senna’s Lotus sounding a bit rough?” His partnership with the laid-back former world champion James Hunt was always entertaining as the barefoot Hunt, bottle of wine in hand, would drop into his seat, moments before the start and ask “who’s on pole Murray?” to the chagrin of the meticulously prepared Walker.
In his autobiography ‘Unless I’m very much mistaken’ Walker wrote of his time of his time at Sandhurst: 'I was immensely proud to be associated with and shaped by them and to be trained in such impressive surroundings.' He also goes on to write about his commissioning parade: ‘On to that magnificent parade ground in front of the Old College, then, marched the entire Sandhurst contingent in proud formation, with heads held high, arms swinging and boots resounding to the drum beat and stirring military marches of the band that preceded them. I certainly felt emotional, even 57 years on I can still feel excitement and pride.’
Our Director recalls meeting Walker in the lounge of a cruise liner. On being asked whether he enjoyed his time in the Army Walker’s face lit up: “They were the best three years of my life!” For a man who achieved so much in his 97 years that is high praise indeed. Murray Walker OBE died on 13th March 2021 #famousfriday
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