The UK Radio Hall of Fame

John Arlott MBE

(born February 1914 - died December 1991)

Even without his greatest claim to fame - as a BBC radio cricket commentator of unparalleled descriptive powers - Leslie Thomas John Arlott would have led a rich life. After working as a clerk in a mental hospital, he joined the Southampton police in 1934, rising to the rank of sergeant, and by the time he left the service in 1945 he was also a published poet with ‘Of Period And Place’ (1944).

He succeeded George Orwell as a BBC Literary Programmes Producer (1945-50), before becoming an instructor at the Corporation’s Staff Training School. He continued to write, publishing ‘Concerning Cricket’ in 1949, and during his lifetime was to be the writer, co-author or editor of some eighty books. He first broadcast on VE Day as a police representative, and began cricket commentary during his time as a producer, covering India’s visit to England in 1946. A trip to South Africa two years later revealed to him the evils of apartheid, and he was subsequently instrumental in bringing the ‘Cape Coloured’ player Basil D’Oliveira to England.

In 1950 he moved into journalism, an aspect of his career which culminated in 1968 when he became cricket correspondent of The Guardian. He also wrote about other passions, notably wine and aquatints. On retiring from the BBC in 1980, he moved to Alderney, and just before his death published his autobiography, ‘Basingstoke Boy’, in which, as in all his writing, he rigorously avoided the first person singular.

John Arlott young BBC posed
John Arlott with mic
John Arlott colour landscape