`Mellow' Snagge of BBC radio dies, 91

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The Independent Online

John Snagge, the unmistakable voice of the university boat race, has died aged 91.

Mr Snagge, who provided commentary for the Oxford and Cambridge race on the Thames for more than 50 years from its first broadcast, died in hospital in Slough, Berkshire, on Monday night, his nephew said last night.

His mellow voice also carried generations of British listeners through decades of change and momentous historical events, besides what he called his "lunatic race" broadcasts.

He gave a frenzied non-stop commentary at Buckingham Palace after the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, broke the news of the D-Day landings and the Hiroshima atom bomb in the Second World War and announced the birth of Princess Margaret in 1930.

He sprang to fame under the BBC's wartime policy of announcing broadcasters' names for the first time to identify them so they would not be confused with German propagandists.

But it was for his commentary on the annual race between Oxford and Cambridge that Mr Snagge will be best remembered. As the dark blues and the light blues sped down the Thames, his unmistakable voice would record their every move.

His most famous gaffe was in 1949 when he said: "Oxford are ahead, no Cambridge are ahead. I don't know who's ahead but it's either Oxford or Cambridge."

In 1944 he was awarded the OBE, and in 1953 he made broadcasting history when he covered the Queen's coronation from inside Westminster Abbey, providing seven hours of continuous commentary.

Michael Green, acting managing director of BBC Network Radio, said last night: "He was one of the great names of radio."

Mr Snagge, was married twice and lived at Dorney, Buckinghamshire.