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Brian Johnston

Brian Johnston

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Brian Alexander Johnston CBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

, MC
Military Cross
The Military Cross is the third-level military decoration awarded to officers and other ranks of the British Armed Forces; and formerly also to officers of other Commonwealth countries....

 (24 June 1912 – 5 January 1994; often known as Johnners) was a cricket
Cricket
Cricket is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of 11 players on an oval-shaped field, at the centre of which is a rectangular 22-yard long pitch. One team bats, trying to score as many runs as possible while the other team bowls and fields, trying to dismiss the batsmen and thus limit the...

 commentator and presenter for the BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 from 1946 until his death.

Early life and education


Born at the Old Rectory, Little Berkhamsted
Little Berkhamsted
Little Berkhamsted is a Hertfordshire village and civil parish located 5 miles south-west of the town of Hertford.The village is in a hilly location, some 120 metres above sea level. It has a row of weather-boarded cottages opposite St Andrews Church. The Conservative Cabinet Minister Reginald...

, Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England. The county town is Hertford.The county is one of the Home Counties and lies inland, bordered by Greater London , Buckinghamshire , Bedfordshire , Cambridgeshire and...

, the youngest of four children, he was educated at Eton
Eton College
Eton College, often referred to simply as Eton, is a British independent school for boys aged 13 to 18. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as "The King's College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor"....

 and New College, Oxford
New College, Oxford
New College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.- Overview :The College's official name, College of St Mary, is the same as that of the older Oriel College; hence, it has been referred to as the "New College of St Mary", and is now almost always...

. On 27 August 1922, his father, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Evelyn Johnston, drowned at Bude
Bude
Bude is a small seaside resort town in North Cornwall, England, at the mouth of the River Neet . It lies just south of Flexbury, north of Widemouth Bay and west of Stratton and is located along the A3073 road off the A39. Bude is twinned with Ergué-Gabéric in Brittany, France...

, Cornwall
Cornwall
Cornwall is a unitary authority and ceremonial county of England, within the United Kingdom. It is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar. Cornwall has a population of , and covers an area of...

 at the age of 44.

His paternal grandfather was governor of the Bank of England
Bank of England
The Bank of England is the central bank of the United Kingdom and the model on which most modern central banks have been based. Established in 1694, it is the second oldest central bank in the world...

 between 1908 and 1913. The World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 airborne division commander Frederick 'Boy' Browning
Frederick Browning
Lieutenant-General Sir Frederick Arthur Montague Browning GCVO, KBE, CB, DSO was a British Army officer who has been called the "father of the British airborne forces". He is best known as the commander of the I Airborne Corps and deputy commander of First Allied Airborne Army during Operation...

 was his first cousin.

Johnston obtained a third-class degree in History
History
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

 in 1934 and he then joined the family's coffee
Coffee
Coffee is a brewed beverage with a dark,init brooo acidic flavor prepared from the roasted seeds of the coffee plant, colloquially called coffee beans. The beans are found in coffee cherries, which grow on trees cultivated in over 70 countries, primarily in equatorial Latin America, Southeast Asia,...

 business, where he worked until the outbreak of the war. In 1936 he was posted to Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

 but admitted years later that he had little liking for the work, it didn't interest him and said that he wanted to be an actor originally.

When war was declared in September 1939 Johnston joined the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards, where he served as a Technical Adjutant. In the winter of 1944 and early spring of 1945 Johnston and his armoured division were in the thick of the allied advance, crossing the Rhine and fighting their way up to Bremen and Hamburg. he was later awarded the Military Cross
Military Cross
The Military Cross is the third-level military decoration awarded to officers and other ranks of the British Armed Forces; and formerly also to officers of other Commonwealth countries....

 in 1945. He took part in the Normandy
Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

 invasion after D-Day
D-Day
D-Day is a term often used in military parlance to denote the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. "D-Day" often represents a variable, designating the day upon which some significant event will occur or has occurred; see Military designation of days and hours for similar...

, with the Guards Armoured Division.

Later life


Brian Johnston joined the BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 in January 1946 and began his cricket commentating career at Lord's for BBC Television in June 1946 at the England v India Test match.

On 22 April 1948 Johnston married Pauline Tozer, formerly of Sheffield
Sheffield
Sheffield is a city and metropolitan borough of South Yorkshire, England. Its name derives from the River Sheaf, which runs through the city. Historically a part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, and with some of its southern suburbs annexed from Derbyshire, the city has grown from its largely...

. They had five children. The last of his children to be born, a daughter, Joanna, has Down's Syndrome
Down syndrome
Down syndrome, or Down's syndrome, trisomy 21, is a chromosomal condition caused by the presence of all or part of an extra 21st chromosome. It is named after John Langdon Down, the British physician who described the syndrome in 1866. The condition was clinically described earlier in the 19th...

. In these early years, Johnston was an occasional presenter of other BBC shows, including Come Dancing
Come Dancing
Come Dancing was a BBC TV ballroom dancing competition show that ran on and off from 1949 to 1998, becoming one of television's longest-running shows....

and All Your Own
All Your Own
All Your Own was a BBC children's television program that aired on BBC from 1952 to 1961. The show provided the first television appearances for Jimmy Page, John Williams and the King Brothers.-Production:...

. Between 1948 and 1952 Johnston presented a live broadcast segment Let's Go Somewhere as part of the Saturday night radio series In Town Tonight
In Town Tonight
In Town Tonight was a BBC radio programme broadcast on Saturday evening from 1933 to 1960 . It was an early example of the chat show, originally presented by Eric Maschwitz.Its theme music was the Knightsbridge March by Eric Coates...

. As part of these he stayed alone in the Chamber of Horrors, rode a circus horse, lay under a passing train, was hauled out of the sea by a helicopter and was attacked by a police dog.

He became a regular member of the TV commentary team and, in addition, became BBC cricket correspondent in 1963. From 1965 onwards Johnston split his commentary duties between television (three Tests) and radio (two Tests) each summer. In 1970 Johnston was dropped from the TV commentary team but continued to appear as a member of the team for the radio broadcasts, Test Match Special
Test Match Special
Test Match Special is a British radio programme covering professional cricket, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 , Five Live Sports Extra and the internet to the United Kingdom and the rest of the world...

(TMS). He retired from the BBC in 1972 on his sixtieth birthday, and became a freelance commentator. It was in that capacity that he continued to appear on TMS for the next twenty-two years.

From 1972 to May 1987, Johnston presented Down Your Way
Down Your Way
Down Your Way was a BBC radio series which ran from 29 December 1946 to 1992, originally on the Home Service, later on BBC Radio Four, usually being broadcast on Sunday afternoons. It visited towns around the United Kingdom, spoke to residents and played their choice of music...

on BBC Radio Four, in which he visited a different city, town or village, interviewing local figures (not necessarily celebrities) and playing a piece of music selected by them at the end of each 'voxpop' interview.

Johnston was responsible for a number of the TMS traditions, including the creation, often using the so-called Oxford "-er", of the nickname
Nickname
A nickname is "a usually familiar or humorous but sometimes pointed or cruel name given to a person or place, as a supposedly appropriate replacement for or addition to the proper name.", or a name similar in origin and pronunciation from the original name....

s of fellow commentators (for example, Jonathan Agnew
Jonathan Agnew
Jonathan Philip Agnew is an English cricket broadcaster and former professional cricketer. He was born in Macclesfield, Cheshire and educated at Uppingham School. He is nicknamed "Aggers", and, less commonly, "Spiro"....

 is still known as "Aggers", Henry Blofeld
Henry Blofeld
Henry Calthorpe Blofeld is a sports journalist. He is best known as a cricket commentator for Test Match Special on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra.Blofeld had an exceptional career as a schoolboy cricketer, cut short by injury...

 as "Blowers" and the late, lamented Bill Frindall
Bill Frindall
William Howard Frindall, MBE was an English cricket scorer and statistician. He was familiar to cricket followers from his appearances on the BBC Radio 4 programme Test Match Special, nicknamed the Bearded Wonder by Brian Johnston for his ability to research the most obscure cricketing facts in...

 as "the Bearded Wonder" ("Bearders"). He once complained on air that he had missed his cake at tea during one match - the TMS team are still sent cakes by listeners.

Incidents and gaffes


In one famous incident during a Test
Test cricket
Test cricket is the longest form of the sport of cricket. Test matches are played between national representative teams with "Test status", as determined by the International Cricket Council , with four innings played between two teams of 11 players over a period of up to a maximum five days...

 match at the Oval
The Oval
The Kia Oval, still commonly referred to by its original name of The Oval, is an international cricket ground in Kennington, in the London Borough of Lambeth. In the past it was also sometimes called the Kennington Oval...

, Jonathan Agnew suggested that Ian Botham
Ian Botham
Sir Ian Terence Botham OBE is a former England Test cricketer and Test team captain, and current cricket commentator. He was a genuine all-rounder with 14 centuries and 383 wickets in Test cricket, and remains well-known by his nickname "Beefy"...

 was out hit wicket because he had failed to "get his leg over" (a British slang term meaning to have sex). Johnston carried on commentating (and giggling) for 30 seconds before dissolving into helpless laughter. Among his other gaffes was: when Neil Harvey
Neil Harvey
Robert Neil Harvey MBE is a former Australian cricketer who represented the Australian cricket team between 1948 and 1963, playing in 79 Test matches. He was the vice-captain of the team from 1957 until his retirement...

 was representing Australia
Australian cricket team
The Australian cricket team is the national cricket team of Australia. It is the joint oldest team in Test cricket, having played in the first Test match in 1877...

 at the Headingley
Headingley Stadium
Headingley Stadium is a sporting complex in the Leeds suburb of Headingley in West Yorkshire, England. It is the home of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, rugby league team Leeds Rhinos and rugby union team Leeds Carnegie ....

 Test in 1961.

The oft cited quote:

occurred when Michael Holding
Michael Holding
Michael Anthony Holding is a former West Indian cricketer. One of the fastest bowlers ever to play Test cricket, he was nicknamed 'Whispering Death' by umpires due to his quiet approach to the bowling crease...

 of the West Indies
West Indian cricket team
The West Indian cricket team, also known colloquially as the West Indies or the Windies, is a multi-national cricket team representing a sporting confederation of 15 mainly English-speaking Caribbean countries, British dependencies and non-British dependencies.From the mid 1970s to the early 1990s,...

 was bowling to Peter Willey
Peter Willey
Peter Willey is a former English cricketer, who played as a right-handed batsman and right-arm offbreak bowler. In and out of the England team, he interrupted his international career for three years by taking part in the first of the England players' South African rebel tours in 1982...

 of England
English cricket team
The England and Wales cricket team is a cricket team which represents England and Wales. Until 1992 it also represented Scotland. Since 1 January 1997 it has been governed by the England and Wales Cricket Board , having been previously governed by Marylebone Cricket Club from 1903 until the end...

 in a Test match
Test cricket
Test cricket is the longest form of the sport of cricket. Test matches are played between national representative teams with "Test status", as determined by the International Cricket Council , with four innings played between two teams of 11 players over a period of up to a maximum five days...

 at The Oval
The Oval
The Kia Oval, still commonly referred to by its original name of The Oval, is an international cricket ground in Kennington, in the London Borough of Lambeth. In the past it was also sometimes called the Kennington Oval...

 in 1976. Johnston claimed not to have noticed saying anything odd during the match, and that he was only alerted to his gaffe by a letter from "a lady" named "Miss Mainpiece". According to Christopher Martin-Jenkins
Christopher Martin-Jenkins
Christopher Dennis Alexander Martin-Jenkins MBE, also known as CMJ , is a cricket journalist and Past President of the MCC. He is also a commentator for Test Match Special on BBC Radio....

, the cricinfo biography, and the biography by Johnston's son Barry, Johnston never actually made the remark. Barry Johnston
Barry Johnston (writer)
Charles Barry Johnston , also known as Barry Alexander, is a British writer, audiobook producer, radio presenter and songwriter. He is the eldest son of the BBC cricket commentator Brian Johnston...

 says "It was too good a pun to resist...but Brian never actually said that he had spoken the words on air." However, this is contradicted by an account offered by Henry Blofeld
Henry Blofeld
Henry Calthorpe Blofeld is a sports journalist. He is best known as a cricket commentator for Test Match Special on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra.Blofeld had an exceptional career as a schoolboy cricketer, cut short by injury...

, who claims to have been present at the time.

Apartheid in South Africa


In 1970 and on 13 July 1983, Johnston said that he didn't agree with the boycotts of South Africa by England cricket teams because he believed that sport and politics shouldn't be mixed. He also had disagreements with John Arlott
John Arlott
Leslie Thomas John Arlott OBE was an English journalist, author and cricket commentator for the BBC's Test Match Special. He was also a poet, wine connoisseur and former police officer in Hampshire...

 who backed the boycotts. However, in his 1974 autobiography, Johnston wrote that he both disliked and disagreed with Apartheid, and looked forward to it being ended, which it was in the 1990s.

Other work


Johnston variously presented and participated in a wide range of BBC radio and television programmes. These included radio programmes such as In Town Tonight
In Town Tonight
In Town Tonight was a BBC radio programme broadcast on Saturday evening from 1933 to 1960 . It was an early example of the chat show, originally presented by Eric Maschwitz.Its theme music was the Knightsbridge March by Eric Coates...

, Down Your Way
Down Your Way
Down Your Way was a BBC radio series which ran from 29 December 1946 to 1992, originally on the Home Service, later on BBC Radio Four, usually being broadcast on Sunday afternoons. It visited towns around the United Kingdom, spoke to residents and played their choice of music...

, Trivia Test Match
Trivia Test Match
Trivia Test Match is a British radio programme that aired originally from 1986 to 1993 on BBC Radio and has been repeated more recently on BBC Radio 7. As its slogan stated, it combined trivia and the laws of cricket...

, and the Royal Command Performance
Royal Command Performance
For the annual Royal Variety Performance performed in Britain for the benefit of the Entertainment Artistes' Benevolent Fund, see Royal Variety Performance...

 of The Good Life in 1978. He also commentated on events such as the funeral of King George VI
George VI of the United Kingdom
George VI was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 until his death...

, the coronation of Elizabeth II
Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Elizabeth II is the constitutional monarch of 16 sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize,...

 and the wedding of HRH The Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer
Diana, Princess of Wales
Diana, Princess of Wales was the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, whom she married on 29 July 1981, and an international charity and fundraising figure, as well as a preeminent celebrity of the late 20th century...

 in 1981. Johnston was also for several years one of the presenters of the Channel 4 magazine programme for the over sixties Years Ahead" along with Robert Dougall
Robert Dougall
Robert Dougall MBE was a British broadcaster and ornithologist, mainly known as a newsreader and announcer.-Television news:...

, Zena Skinner and Paul Lewis.

He appeared as himself in the 1952 British film Derby Day
Derby Day (1952 film)
Derby Day is a 1952 British drama film directed by Herbert Wilcox and starring Anna Neagle, Michael Wilding, Googie Withers, John McCallum and Alfie Bass. An ensemble piece, it portrays several characters on their way to the Derby Day races at Epsom Downs Racecourse...

.

Johnston was a great fan of the British Music Hall
Music hall
Music Hall is a type of British theatrical entertainment which was popular between 1850 and 1960. The term can refer to:# A particular form of variety entertainment involving a mixture of popular song, comedy and speciality acts...

 and revelled in its often mildly risqué 'schoolboy humour'. An Evening with Johnners, a one-man show that he performed towards the end of his life, included many excruciating jokes, as well as his broadcasting and cricket reminiscences. A recording
Sound recording and reproduction
Sound recording and reproduction is an electrical or mechanical inscription and re-creation of sound waves, such as spoken voice, singing, instrumental music, or sound effects. The two main classes of sound recording technology are analog recording and digital recording...

 of one of these shows was released and reached #46 on the UK Albums Chart
UK Albums Chart
The UK Albums Chart is a list of albums ranked by physical and digital sales in the United Kingdom. It is compiled every week by The Official Charts Company and broadcast on a Sunday on BBC Radio 1 , and published in Music Week magazine and on the OCC website .To qualify for the UK albums chart...

 in March 1994, two months after his death.

He was appointed OBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

 in 1983 and CBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

 in 1991.

Death


In the Autumn of 1993 Johnston undertook a series of UK theatre tours, with himself speaking and entertaining audiences, as well a host of after-dinner speeches. On the morning of 2 December 1993, whilst in a taxi going to Paddington train station (Johnston was speaking at Bristol that day), he suffered a massive heart attack. The taxi driver drove him straight to Maida Vale
Maida Vale
Maida Vale is a residential district in West London between St John's Wood and Kilburn. It is part of the City of Westminster. The area is mostly residential, and mainly affluent, consisting of many large late Victorian and Edwardian blocks of mansion flats...

 hospital, which was the nearest one, where he was revived, after his heart had stopped. He was transferred to St Mary's Hospital, Paddington where he remained until 14 December. He was then transferred to the King Edward VII hospital for Officers where he was a patient until 23 December. He was discharged but was re-admitted to hospital on 4 January when his health deteriorated again.

When Brian Johnston died on the morning of 5 January 1994, at the King Edward VII hospital for Officers in Marylebone, London, The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph is a daily morning broadsheet newspaper distributed throughout the United Kingdom and internationally. The newspaper was founded by Arthur B...

described him as "the greatest natural broadcaster of them all" and John Major
John Major
Sir John Major, is a British Conservative politician, who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1990–1997...

, the British Prime Minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

 and cricket fan, said that "Summers simply won't be the same without him". Brian Johnston’s memorial service was held at a packed Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

 on 16 May 1994. Over 2,000 people were present. The following year the Brian Johnston Memorial Trust was established to promote cricket in schools and youth clubs, to help young cricketers in need of financial support, and to further disabled cricket. The trust is now part of the Lord's Taverners
Lord's Taverners
The Lord’s Taverners is a thriving club, the official charity for recreational cricket and the UK’s leading youth cricket and disability sports charity whose objective is to 'give young people, particularly those with special needs, a sporting chance'.The Lord’s Taverners was founded in 1950 by a...

.

External links