For anyone over the age of 30 who grew up watching snooker on British TV, Ted Lowe was an ever present part of the soap opera, his voice associated with so many great moments from the sport’s rich history.

Ted turns 90 today, a grand age for one of snooker’s great figures.

He commentated for the BBC for 50 years, starting in the days of black and white TV, then inaugurating Pot Black and eventually voicing the memorable highs of the boom years during the 1980s.

As is so often the case, Ted got his commentary break through sheer luck. He was part of the scene as manager of Leicester Square Hall, at the time the home of billiards and snooker, and knew all the greats of the pre and post war years, including Joe Davis.

One day, he stepped into the breach when the BBC’s regular commentator, Raymond Glendenning, was unavailable and found himself remaining there for half a century.

In the early years of championship snooker, Ted would commentate from the audience and so had to keep the level of his voice as low as possible, hence his ‘whispering’ style and subsequent nickname.

Snooker was used as a regular filler on Grandstand to ensure something was on screen between horse races. Often Joe and Fred Davis would play a frame, timing it to last long enough before the 3.40 at Ascot was ready to go, something that would doubtless see them up before Sports Resolutions these days.

Lowe tried for many years to get snooker a proper showcase on the BBC but it was not until the introduction of colour television at the end of the 1960s that he got his chance.

The controller of BBC2, David Attenborough, wanted something to show off this new service and snooker, with its coloured balls and cheap production costs, was ideal.

And so Pot Black was born and TV’s love affair with snooker began.

Ted devised the event and commentated. He was the BBC’s no.1 when they started broadcasting the World Championship ball-by-ball in 1978 and was in the box for a host of famous finishes including...yes I’m going to mention it...the conclusion of the 1985 world final.

I don’t know if he ever actually did say ‘for those of you watching in black and white the yellow is behind the pink’ but it hardly matters. He was much loved by audiences for his friendly, understated style.

Ted retired in 1996. His style would not be suited to today’s broadcasting environment where commentators are expected to talk much more than they did 25 years ago.

There’s a well worn anecdote about Ted collapsing on air at Wembley, his co-commentator putting down his microphone to get help and not a word being uttered for 15 minutes. Nobody contacted the BBC to ask why.

Ted was not one for shot analysis, leaving that to the players. He was instead a warm, unobtrusive presence with a voice that nicely complimented the constant click of snooker ball on snooker ball.

Ironically, the commentators at Power Snooker were placed in the audience in an unlikely hat-tip to the old days. I’d say Ted would not be a fan of this new form of the game.

He always demanded the highest standards of etiquette having come from an age where they were expected.

He believes snooker is a gentlemen’s game and the players should be professional at all times.

And he is unflinching in believing Joe Davis is head and shoulders above both Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis in terms of all time greatness.

Ted is a thorough gentleman himself. I once wrote a piece on him for Snooker Scene and received a charming hand written letter from the great man saying it was nice to be remembered.

Well, he is remembered. He played his part in snooker’s rise to dizzying heights of popularity and I’m sure everyone in the sport wishes him a happy birthday.


Anonymous said...

all the best, whispering

Redandblackblog said...

Happy Birthday Ted!

Betty Logan said...

Let's hope he knocks in a century!

Anonymous said...


i disagree there is a place for less is more in today's commentary box.

the BBC Getting rid of Clive Everton highlighted this and getting Ken Doherty in.

During the World Open it was great having Stephen Hendry in the box because he only spoke when he had something to say, some commentators whittle on for ever and saying nothing.

Ted Lowe was a perfect foil to qualified players and some should learn to take a leaf out of his book.

Happy Birthday Ted don't know if you drink or not but i will be toasting to your health.

Dave H said...

I agree. But I was saying that that's not the style broadcasters want today.

Anonymous said...

Surely the broadcasters should be after what the listeners want.
Is there an e mail address where we can voice our opinions to somebody relevant?

Anonymous said...

Stephen Lee won the tourney by the way.

Anonymous said...

we want a mixture of styles.

during the 80s you had

Ted Lowe,Jack Karnham,Clive Everton and Ray Edmonds.

but you also had the basis of today's commentary Virgo,Taylor and Thorne along With Spencer and Charlton.

there's room for all styles to feed off each other.

a football team with 10 Renaldo,best or Pele wouldn't be a effective team but that in essence is how the BBC are lining up the future of Commentary.

Anonymous said...

its all about opinions

i am glad clive gets less commentary

others will not be glad as they favour him

roundabouts and swings

SupremeSnooker.com said...

Many happy returns to Ted.
I'm only 27 but I have fond memories of listening to his voice as a child.

He was the voice of snooker in his era and was one of those 'classic' voices in sports commentary we'll remember forever, like Sir Peter O'Sullevan, Bill McLaren and Harry Carpenter.

In a fairly recent interview, Ted admitted that he doesn't watch the game as often as he used to, but he does still enjoy it. When asked to compare the commentary styles of his era with those of today, he said: "In my day, the commentators were promoting the players. Today, they're promoting themselves."

When Ray Edmonds was dropped by the BBC, he wrote a letter to The Daily Telegraph saying that he, along with pretty much everyone he spoke to, preferred commentators who knew when to shut up.

I agree that times change and I still enjoy listening to many of the commentators. But I strongly feel that commentary works best when you have someone from a journalistic background alongside an ex-player. Two ex-players together have a tendency to self-indulge, as Ted rightly said.

Look back at James Wattana's 147 in the British Open. The late John Pulman was commentating alongside Dennis Taylor for ITV. Pulman said about half way through the frame that he and Taylor were going to shut up and let the action do the talking. Can you really imagine that happening today?

What does Ted make of Power Snooker? Well, you could always ask him, I suppose, but I agree with David's assumptions. Ted didn't even like it when bow ties were dropped from certain events a few years back. He's a big believer in upholding the game's traditions.

I'm afraid I agree with Matthew Syed's comments about Power Snooker. The actual game itself was great fun, and I'd like to see more of it. But the set-up was vulgar and I actually felt quite sorry for Michaela Tabb having to listen to the filth that was directed at her by some of the louts in the crowd.

I know all sorts of people read this blog. I am a professional freelance journalist. I've worked in newspapers, on radio, and online. I'm an avid snooker fan. It is my considered opinion that snooker commentary works best when you have someone from a journalistic background alongside an ex-player. There are a number of journalists capable of fulfilling this role: Clive Everton, Phil Yates and David Hendon are the obvious three, but there are others as well.

ALL broadcasters apart from the BBC seem to understand this fundamental point.

Anonymous said...


what filth was diredted at her?

could you please post the comments, including asterisks if any swearing. i never heard anything vulgar at her

jamie brannon said...

I don't see many journalist in the commentary box on the other channels either, it is not a BBC thing. Peter Drury is not an ex-sportsman, but look at how bad he can be, it is about having the right ability to do the job. The fact of whether you are an ex-pro or a journalist is neither here or there in my eyes.

jamie brannon said...

Steve Davis on Radio 2 tonight at 6.45pm.

SupremeSnooker.com said...

I'd rather not. This blog, my website, and snooker in general, should be a child-friendly environment.

I don't think I misheard it. We are talking about a small number of people in that crowd, I'm sure. At any normal tournament, they'd have been out the door for a much lesser offence.

Dave H said...

What's needed is a clear division of roles between 'lead' commentator and 'summariser'.

Ex-sports people can be excellent lead commentators: there are few better in any sport than Richie Benaud.

But there's a reason Martin Tyler calls the goals in football. They are different roles and, if they gel together, make for a good listen rather than having two people talking over each other trying to do the same thing.

SupremeSnooker.com said...

Jamie- Eurosport use David Hendon and Mike Smith, as you know. In the past I've also heard Matthew Syed and Patrick Winterton on there.

Sky Sports use Clive Everton and Phil Yates.

Online streaming of the Championship League included Everton, Hendon and Irish journalist Michael MacMullen.

ITV, as you point out, use Everton and Drury.

Everyone, apart from the BBC, goes for a journalist/ ex-player combination, and are stronger for it in my opinion.

SupremeSnooker.com said...

Agreed, David (although Tyler was, I believe, a semi-professional at non-league level, but let's not be too picky!).

I take your point; they don't necessarily need to be trained journalists, but the roles should be clearly defined like they were in the old days.
To be fair, Sky have always done this. Mark Wildman was used as a lead commentator with Mike Hallett as a summariser up until 2004 ish. Wildman wasn't a trained journalist to my knowledge, but he did his job very well and had a great voice (I hope he's enjoying life in Spain now).

jamie brannon said...

Everton and Drury are both lead commentators, and Everton was more of a billiards player.

The BBC used Everton for ages and it's a loss, but in most jobs you would be pensioned off at his age to allow some other people a chance.

The BBC use plenty of non-ex players like Andrew Cotter, a host of football commentators, Iain Carter and others.

If you had Benaud and Boycott together, it would be brillant, even though they are both ex-players.

Syed has been used by the BBC at Olympics and Commonwealth Games.

I am not disagreeing the BBC could do more in this regard, but the other channels are no better.


Happy birthday to a true legend!

Anonymous said...

Mike hallet says every 5 minutes

my appologies


chip of the red

both annoying in the extream to everyone i know who follows snooker

the first, cos he makes so many mistakes, the 2nd cos hes a useless commentator imho

im not just saying it cos its his blog, but ive heard dave on snooker on es, live at glenrothes, on billiards etc and he is in the top 3 cuesports commentators imho

Anonymous said...

anyone else willing to suggest what was directed at michaela?

kildare cueman said...

8.27pm, I agree fully with you.
I turn down the telly when Hallett is on.
I can't understand how he gets so much work when he just prattles on non stop like some guy watching down the pub.

Clive, for all his detractors, is the perfect commentator. This is because he has played at a professional level, and although it was billiards, he will be acutely aware of the degree of difficulty of any particular shot.

His longevity and journalistic experience gives him a knowledge of how the game has evolved and what is or isn't the correct percentage shot at any given time, and also enables him to know any players biography from his junior days to the present.

Willie Thorne witters a bit like Hallett but is much more knowledgeable on the technical side.

Why does somebody not set up some kind of commentary school where these people can be
1. Shown when to keep quiet, and
2. Not to state a fact unless they know its a fact.

Anonymous said...

Snooker © The Fine Art Method
A secret is wasted if not shared
Dear Dave
Congratulations to Mr Ted Low on ninety (90) and still in play. Let’s hope the grand ole lad makes a century break plus.
Ted’s graciousness to all will always be remembered as will his biographical style of commentary. The whole world got to know each players lifestyle and habits on and off the table.

Ted’s remark on TV that Joe Davis, his life long friend “Preferred to use his left hand as opposed to getting his leg over” was a gem and said with such innocence.

The whispering Ted Low was a very loyal person to both the BBC and Joe Davis.
Let the record show that dear ole Ted had no part of the Joe Davis copyright disappearance. Mr Hey You

Anonymous said...

KC,totally agree with you.
I,m fed up of these commentators rambling like nobody has ever watched a snooker match before.
Willie Thorne and Mike Hallett constantly patronise the audience.
The viewers can work out for themselves what shot selections are on the table.
At least Clive,Neal Foulds and Terry Griffiths find the correct balance when commentating.

Anonymous said...

Ted Lowe would have hated Power Snooker and I expect Clive Everton probably did as well. At least it won't detract from the real thing.


Anonymous said...

i see you are letting that loony fine farty post nonsense again.

hope teds doing well

Anonymous said...

2.24 always wrong as usual.the leg over comment was about Fred Davis .I had hoped you had dissapeared.