I've just been listening to Sir Peter O'Sullivan on BBC radio 4 and so many memories came flooding back.
You may not know this chap but he is still known in horse-racing circles as 'The Voice of Racing'. He celebrated his 97th birthday a few days ago and to listen to him on the radio again was marvellous.
He was born in 1918, in Ireland, and became the BBC's best ever racing commentator. I think the then Queen Mother loved him just as much as she loved having a punt on the races. He was everybody's favourite.
You could hear every word he uttered when calling the race. The noise of the crowds and the excitement of the race never affected his commentary. He also owned some classy horses, one of which was Be Friendly. Attivo was another top class thoroughbred.
Peter O'Sullivan also was the racing correspondent of the Daily Express for many years and tipped many winners for his followers.
I 'knew' him, so to speak, when I worked in the bookie business, from 1956 to around the early 1970s. I first spoke to him when I was working for Albert Cook & Son, turf accountants, at 801 Wandsworth Road, London in the early 1960s. He had an account with us.
One morning I picked up the phone on my desk and this mellifluous voice said to me: "Good morning. Would you please ask Albert (my boss) what is the best price he can offer me on Gay Don in the National." (Gay Don is not the real name of the horse, I cannot remember this far back).
I then asked my boss, saying it was Peter O'Sullivan asking for the price.
The boss scanned the Sporting Life lists to see what the average price was. He said to me that if Peter was interested then he must have some inside info on this horse. The price the boss came up with was 33-1 and said so to Peter O'Sullivan.
"Is that the very BEST price he can offer?" asks Peter.
I relayed this question to the boss. He then said 'Oh well, tell him 40-1 is the absolute tops', which I duly gave to Peter.
I heard quite a hearty chuckle on the end of the phone line then Peter said: "Well, thank Albert for his very generous offer but tell him I shall NOT be wanting to back Gay Don at this price. He died yesterday!" and then he put the phone down.
What a great sense of humour he had, and still has I reckon.
Happy 97th Sir Peter, and when you get to the 100th, which I am sure you will, I will send you a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY message then.
I enjoyed a lot of my time in the bookie world. One met so many notable people, good and not so good. Sir Peter was the best of all. Ronnie and Reggie Kray were way down the list, having met these two notorious guys on more than one occasion, each time in a friendly way I'm glad to say. The racing world is full of larger than life characters.
Here's a link to an example of Sir Peter's professionalism as he commentated on a race in which his own horse, Be Friendly, was running. He gives a clear and unbiased account of the race and is typical of this great man's skill in calling the race.