Ted Lowe, who has died at the age of 90, was for 50 years the hushed voice of televised snooker.
He earned the nickname ‘Whispering Ted’ because, when his commentary career began, he would sit in the audience and had to keep his voice down to a level that would not disturb the players.
Lowe devised the weekly BBC series ‘Pot Black’, which began in 1969 and led to a snooker boom which in turn paved the way for the professional circuit as it stands today. In the 1980s, he commentated on almost all of the sport’s best remembered moments, including the conclusion of the 1985 World Championship final, in which Dennis Taylor beat Steve Davis 18-17 on the last black watched by a BBC2 record audience of 18.5m.
His commentary career began by chance. He was part of the fledgling snooker 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, who won the World Championship in each of its first 15 stagings.
One day, the BBC’s regular commentator, Raymond Glendenning, was unavailable and Lowe was invited to fill in. He was to remain behind the microphone for half a century.
Snooker was used as a regular filler on Grandstand in its early days to ensure something was on screen between horse races. That it was hard to differentiate between the various coloured balls in this age of black and white TV did not seem to be a hindrance but snooker’s exposure was only fleeting.
That changed when colour television arrived. Lowe had tried for many years to get snooker a proper showcase on the BBC but he had to wait until 1969 and the launch of BBC2.
The channel’s first controller, David Attenborough, wanted something to show off this new service and snooker, with its colours and cheap production costs, was ideal.
Lowe devised the format for Pot Black, which featured the leading professionals of the day, and commentated on the matches. It brought snooker players into living rooms around Britain and the game’s popularity rocketed.
The BBC began to show highlights of what tournaments there were and, with the emergence of Alex Higgins and the following he gained, took the decision in 1978 to show every ball of the World Championship.
The professional game thus grew from just a handful of events to an international circuit, which next season will be worth over £6m in prize money.
Lowe was an unobtrusive commentator who preferred to let the action do the talking. Indeed, so sparing were his comments that when he collapsed in the commentary box one year at the Masters at Wembley, and his colleague Rex Williams put down his own microphone to go and get help, nobody rang the BBC to ask why 15 minutes had passed without a word being uttered.
A traditionalist, Lowe disapproved of the behaviour of some of the game’s wilder characters, most notably Higgins and, more latterly, Ronnie O’Sullivan.
He insisted Joe Davis – not Steve or even Stephen Hendry – was the greatest player of all time.
Lowe retired from BBC commentary in 1996 at the age of 75 but was invited back for a brief reprise of his role for the last World Championship to be sponsored by Embassy in 2005 and recently took part in documentaries on both Higgins and the Taylor-Davis final.
He lives on through the many snooker moments to which he lent his voice, part of a golden time when our sport hit the heights he could scarcely have believed were possible when he started out.