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.


Anonymous said...

Today's commentators could learn so much from him - he knew the value of silence as well as of expert analysis. Thank you Ted.

Warren Ward said...

Ted's many key contributions to the sport of snooker are well known, but perhaps not the one great idea he outlined to me for the 1974 season when I was manager of Pontins Holiday Centre at Prestatyn. His idea was a pro-am tournament where the main matches would be played on four tournament tables in one arena, and then as the tournament progressed the number of tables was to be reduced to two and then to one for the final. I put the idea into effect and the whole tournament week was a roaring success, not least because of Ted's role as Master of Ceremonies. Following this week of snooker, Mike Watterson, a keen amateur player and a car dealer in Sheffield who was there, picked up the format and promoted it for the 1975 world championships at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. The format and the Theatre made the world championship attractive for BBC TV and the rest is history. Ted was a great character, and a friend and mentor to me and will be sadly missed. Warren Ward wward@therapina.com

Anonymous said...

RIP Ted. Snooker has lost another of the greats.

Robbie Pender said...

One of my favourite Ted quotes came at the Crucible and went along the lines of "The crowd look fishy tonight....they're all from Grimsby".

A true legend in snooker and broadcasting terms. And how apt (if that is the right word) he passed away on the day of the World Final.

RIP Ted.


Snooker has lost a great. The number 1 commentator. What a time for it to happen. The 1st of 2 days in which the sport marks it's most grand occasion. THANKS FOR ALL THE MEMORIE, TED. Many more comments, about this, will come, from Me in the days and weeks to come. He will, by Myself, and everyone else involved in snooker, be very SADLY MISSED, BUT NEVER FORGOTTEN. The man who set an icredable standard, A LEGEND. It is a grat pleasure for me to be involved in the game He loves also. My best wishes, thoughts, regards, and indeed, deepest sympathies and condoances to hi family. Although, He will always be with us in spirit, Th fact that, he's not with us in person, means for ne, that snookers will nver be the same again. The Voice of snooker. There will never be another like him. Moer than that, He was an complete gent. A FANTASTIC MAN. R.I.P. "WHISPERING" TED LOWE. X


Hi David, to follow on rom my last comment, I undiliberately, missed out the fact that Ted Lowe was made, an M.B.E. R.I.P. "WHISPERING"TED LOWE M.B.E. X

Anonymous said...

Warren wasn't the 1975 world championship's hold in Melbourne, Australia?


1130 PM- They were indeed!

Anonymous said...

Dont sit on the fence Jamie. You either liked Ted or you didnt.

Anonymous said...

Remembered and cherished forever. R.I.P. for the Voice of Snooker, Whispering Ted Lowe.



Hi David. When is the funeral?