Friday, 30 August 2013

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Goodbye" to an old rugby player, sports commentator and Welsh gentleman called Cliff Morgan

Cliff, who was one of the leading figures of British rugby in the post Second World period and played fly-half for Wales and the Lions with flair and inventiveness and then went on to become a radio and tv commentator, has died at the age of 83.

What you possibly didn't know about Cliff, that he : 

* was born in 1930 in Trebanog, in the Rhondda Valley where his father was a coal miner and educated at Tonyrefail Grammar School in an era when rugby was part of the informal curriculum of Welsh secondary education, left school and joined Cardiff Rugby Club in 1949.

* first played for Wales at the age of 21 in 1951, against Ireland, in direct confrontation with the great Jack Kyle and the following year, was a member of Wales's grand slam-winning side and in 1955 was selected for his first British Lions Tour, on which his try at Ellis Park, Johannesburg secured a famous 23-22 victory over South Africa in  front of a world-record crowd of almost 100,000.

* the following year, was made 'Captain of Wales' and went on to win 29 caps making his last appearance in a first-class rugby match at the age of 28 wearing the Barbarians' colours in 1958, in a game against East Africa in Nhairobi.
* on his retirement from the game, was approached by BBC Wales to become organiser of their sports programmes, then  moved away from sport for two years from 1964 to '66,to become the editor of ITVs 'This Week', current affairs programme, then returned to the BBC to take charge of  'Grandstand' and the midweek 'Sportsnight' with David Coleman.

* in 1970, he and boxing champion, Henry Cooper, became the team captains in the first series of 'A Question of Sport', a year later, survived a stroke at the age of 41, recovered and in 1974, was appointed 'Head of Outside Broadcasting' for BBC Radio and two years later, moved back to BBC tv in a similar capacity, supervising the coverage of royal weddings as well as the Olympic and Commonwealth Games, the World Cup and other major sporting events.

* as a commentator, went down in  history describing Gareth Edwards's magnificent try for the Barbarians in the opening minutes of their match against the All Blacks at Cardiff Arms Park in 1973, widely held to be the greatest of all time when he said :
"John Pullin, England's captain, the hooker … McBride trying to get … Wilkinson … Going … Williams again … everyone with him … Sid Going … good tackle by Slattery of Ireland … almost on the half-way line … Kirkpatrick, to Williams … this is great stuff … Phil Bennett covering, chased by Alistair Scown … brilliant … oh, that's brilliant … John Williams, Bryan Williams … Pullin … John Dawes, great dummy … David, Tom David, the halfway line … brilliant by Quinnell … this is Gareth Edwards … a dramatic start … What a score!"

* on retirement in 1987, continued to present 'Sport on Four', which he had started 10 years earlier, interviewing the stars of  sports with warmth, enthusiasm and generosity of spirit accompanied with smiles and laughter.

* in his later years, while living in retirement on the Isle of Wight, suffered from cancer of the vocal cords and found the removal of his larynx reduced his ability to speak, a cruel misfortune for a man of such conviviality and eloquence, who had loved to sing while playing the piano.

The Channel 4 tribute :

Dennis Gethin, President of the Welsh Rugby Union said; “"I have lost a friend and we have all lost one of rugby's greats who was also a true gentleman. His exploits as a player for Cardiff, Wales, the Barbarians and the British and Irish Lions  are legendary but he also achieved so much off the field of play. As a broadcaster he became one of the best known faces and voices of radio and television in the UK and as a producer and editorial executive he reached the top of his profession. Despite all that success he remained a true gentleman throughout his life and always remained a true son of the Rhondda."

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