REG HAYTER left Pardons, then the Press Association's cricket and football reporting section, in February 1955, to launch his own agency because he saw an opportunity to supply national and provincial newspapers with a special service. It involved the coverage of matches and events, feature writing, the supply of statistics and results, and telephones and telephonists in the press boxes of all the main football and cricket grounds in and around London.
The deals were done, recorded in a red notebook, with a smile on its owner's face, with a firm handshake that assured sports editors that all would be well.
The agency's office premises changed down the years, starting in a single room high above the Strand, opposite the Law Courts, and moving to various addresses off Fleet Street, at Bridewell Place, Shoe Lane and, for the last 15 years, in Gough Square. But over 39 years, the man and his slogan never altered: 'Hayter's the name, always the same'.
Reg Hayter bought what was a run-down business, based in Woolwich, from the octogenarian Bert Long, who paid his correspondents in postal orders - sample fee, seven shillings and sixpence for a 300- word running report to the Lancashire Evening Post on Chelsea v Preston.
The first important change for some of the Saturday stringers Hayter took on was that they were paid by cheque at the end of each month. His first partner was his administration chief Freddie Garside, and Lucy, mother of Reg's five children, did the early accounts.
Stringers turned to staffmen, myself included in 1956, and to observe Reg Hayter at work in the succeeding years was to see a man who loved life, sportsmen and fellow scribblers, just as he loved his family. There will not be many to come who match his 60 working years in Fleet Street.
Hayter was born in Paddington in 1913, and joined Pardons as a junior journalist after matriculating at Marylebone Grammar School. By the time war broke out, he was of senior status and, on return from service in the Army Pay Corps, he became the Press Association's chief cricket reporter, covering Tests at home and those abroad 'on loan' to Reuters.
In recruiting staff for his own agency, he showed an extraordinary ability to 'sniff out' talent. Today, the sporting pages of nearly every national newspaper carry graduates of the Hayter Academy among the bylines. To every newcomer, he impressed the importance of punctuality and appearance, with the constant reminder that 'facts are sacred, opinion is free'.
As a young man, he was afflicted by a prominent stammer. He conquered it with the help of therapy and an awareness of the need to keep the phone bill down.
In the building of the business, Hayter mastered the eight-day week and very nearly the 25-hour day. Not all his time was spent at the desk, though. He was a great man for parties, as both giver and goer, and however much the wine flowed, he was immune to the morning-after hangover.
Cricket was his great love: he was a member of MCC; Lord's Taverner; player, umpire and, finally, president, of his local club, Stanmore; life member of Surrey CCC; one-time editor of the Cricketer. Two nights before his death, which followed several spells of hospital treatment, he addressed the Stanmore CC dinner at Lord's and received a presentation.
In his time, he was agent or adviser to many of the leading names in sport, including Denis Compton, Bill Edrich, Keith Miller, Godfrey Evans, Ian Botham, Basil D'Oliveira, Henry Cooper and Bob Wilson.
His idea of the week's holiday he allowed himself every year was to manage the El Vino's cricket team he founded 25 summers ago on tours to such places as Portugal, Malta, France and the Channel Islands. He was a great patriot, and a founder member, 21 years ago, of the charity-supporting St George's Day Club, membership of which has grown from an original 20 to more than 600. By tradition, the annual luncheon is accompanied by the band playing stirring music and ends with the assembly of businessmen, servicemen and sportsmen climbing the tables to sing 'Land of Hope and Glory'. On 22 April this year, without Reg Hayter among those present, it won't be quite the same.
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