Obituary: Robert Hudson

Long-serving BBC broadcaster helped bring Test Match Special to the airwaves

Born: 30 January, 1920, in London.

Died: 3 June, 2010, in Hindhead, Surrey, aged 90.

'DON'T miss a ball, we broadcast them all." So boasted the BBC when Test Match Special started in 1957. The popular programme came about after Robert Hudson commentated on a Yorkshire match at Scarborough in 1955. "Fiery" Fred Trueman was on a hat-trick and the tension was high. Hudson was due to hand back to the studio and the excitement of the moment might have been lost – it would certainly have irritated the listeners. After his allotted 30 minutes (no extension would have been permitted), Hudson just squeezed in the hat-trick – by a whisker. The incident prompted Hudson to write to those in authority at the BBC suggesting Test Matches should be given continuous coverage on the Third Programme (as BBC Radio 3 was then known), which only broadcast in the evening. Thus was born an English institution.

Robert Cecil Hudson was born in Golders Green, the son of a London solicitor. After attending Shrewsbury School, he spent seven years in the Royal Artillery, rising to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and saw service in Malaya during the Second World War. After the war, he took a degree at the London School of Economics and, in 1946, was interviewed by the BBC. He joined the corporation as a freelance commentator on cricket and rugby while working in the personnel department of Regent Oil Company.

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In 1954, he joined the BBC full-time and, in a distinguished career, covered test cricket, international rugby, the Boat Race and many state occasions.

He first commentated on a test match for television in 1949 and continued until 1964 with the likes of E W Swanton, Brian Johnston and Peter West. From 1962 to 1968, his chief medium was radio, where he joined a host of TMS regulars such as John Arlott, Johnston, Fred Trueman and Trevor Bailey.

The public listened to the programme avidly and the stories of doctors and vicars in their cars listening to every ball were legion. Hudson and Co also caught the lighter side of TMS and when rain fell all day, the commentators provided the best chat show on the radio. The endless stories of the chocolate cakes that were sent in became part of a summer tradition, and on a visit to Lords, the Queen asked a TMS correspondent if they had any cake left over …

But listeners were certainly assured of an accurate, balanced and authoritative description of the day's play, The love of the game was paramount and that shone through from those earliest days. Hudson and his colleague Alan Gibson were the star commentators of the 1960s: both were academically minded but also well-versed in the game of cricket, and they added a touch of the unusual through their own enthusiasm.

Hudson was a fine example of how a commentary should be delivered: always painting a vivid picture of events on the field and any excitement in the crowd or on the balconies of the players' dressing rooms. He was meticulously prepared and had at his fingertips the various player statistics. He presented it in a relaxed manner without gimmicks or any self-publicity; it was in his nature to be understated and self-effacing.

His sure microphone technique and steadfast integrity led to Hudson being offered senior administrative positions in the BBC. Although he carried on doing commentaries, he became a much-respected head of Outside Broadcasts. One of his first tasks was to merge the department with its hitherto rival, Sports News, and bring in such stalwarts as Peter Baxter as producer of TMS and Christopher Martin-Jenkins as BBC cricket correspondent. Hudson also persuaded Brian Johnston to move to TMS from television in 1970 , as his light-hearted remarks were deemed too frivolous for the more serious-minded television viewer.

Hudson's reputation as a broadcaster ensured he was much in demand at the BBC on state occasions. He covered six royal tours by the Queen, described 21 successive Trooping the Colour ceremonies, 16 Cenotaph Remembrance Day services, four state openings of parliament, the Queen Mother's 80th birthday service, four royal weddings and the funerals of Sir Winston Churchill (with Richard Dimbleby), the Duke of Windsor and Field Marshal Montgomery. Also on radio, he was a presenter on Radio4's Today programme

In retirement, he published Inside Outside Broadcasts in 1993 and lectured on his broadcasting experiences. His wife died of cancer in 1987, and he raised more than 30,000 for the Macmillan Cancer Support Fund.