28th May 2018
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Lords commentary team bowled over by Muckle Flugga delivery

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Here’s a conundrum. What have David Cameron and Mick Jagger, plus famous cricketers Imran Khan, Sunil Gavaskar, Ian Chappell and Viv Richards, got in common with our Isles Views columnist Lawrence Tulloch?

Answer: they have all been distinguished guests in the studio for Radio4’s celebrated Test Match Special programme.

Lawrence joined the illustrious names when he accompanied his nephew Phil Goodlad, the BBC Scotland reporter and fellow Yell man, to the fourth test between England and Pakistan at Lords.

The match itself will forever be mired in controversy, with the betting scandal allegations against the visiting team, but none of that should detract from Lawrence’s big moment, or his “holiday of a lifetime” as he puts it.

It was back in the 1950s that he first became interested in cricket, tuning into the radio first as a boy, when he used his pocket money to buy batteries for the old valve wirelesses, and later to while away the hours when fulfilling the often lonely existence of a lighthouse keeper.

Lawrence was stationed at various Scottish outposts, including the Isle of Man which strangely comes under Scottish jurisdiction, but it was the name of a certain Shetland lighthouse which caught the attention of the TMS team.

While at the “home of cricket” Phil enquired if there were any guided tours of Lords, especially the Long Room and Pavilion which are steeped in so much history, but was told that unfortunately none were available while a test match was in progress.

Not wanting to give up, Phil asked, through his BBC contacts, if there was any chance of seeing the new media centre. To make a case he told about how Lawrence had listened to TMS for over 50 years, especially during his lighthouse keeper days.

Producer Adam Mountford took an interest and before Lawrence knew it he was asked to come to the media centre at 3.30pm on the Friday.

Initially thinking he would be on air for a couple of minutes at most, Lawrence was rather shocked to learn he was to be the main guest on the teatime interval slot, which lasts roughly quarter of an hour.

Thankfully speaking is not us­ually a problem, and as he had arrived in London fresh from a storytelling trip to Slovenia, Lawrence was up to the task.

Presenter Jonathan “Aggers” Agnew was seriously taken with the “Muckle Flugga” connection, advising listeners earlier in the afternoon that they had “something really special” lined up for the teatime break, and even managing to pronounce the words correctly.

So what was it like in there with Aggers and Henry “Blowers” Blofeld? Has the influence of former commentators Brian “Johnners” Johnston and “Fiery” Fred Trueman remained, not to mention that mine of information Bill “The Bearded Wonder” Frindall, and is there still talk of chocolate cakes and red buses going down the Wellington Road?

Lawrence said: “I was led into the TMS box where they were doing the commentary. I could not believe that I was in this place that I had listened to for so long and the whole experience is a bit of a blur.

“When teatime came I was introduced to Jonathan Agnew, Henry Blofield, Christopher Martin-Jenkins as well as the producer and Rameez Raja. He got up, shook hands and handed me the headset. When my broadcast finished I got up out of the chair to find Michael Vaughan standing at my back waiting to sit in it so I gave him the headset.

“Aggers is a very pleasant man and asked gentle questions but his knowledge of Shetland and lighthouses was scanty to say the least. But he was very willing to allow me to say what I wanted.

“In true TMS traditions they had plenty of cakes and the media centre was full of broadcasters and journalists on more than one level. Among the things I told Aggers was that I was driving along a long lonely stretch of road when he and fellow commentator Brian Johnston had the famous giggle about Ian Botham not getting his leg over.

“During the interview there were folk who emailed the programme to say that they had stayed in our B&B and others who knew who I was. Since then I have been slightly surprised, and had emails, from people who had been listening.

“As well as the commentators on TMS we saw Geoff Boycott, Ian Botham, Nasser Hussain, Michael Atherton, Andrew Flintoff, Bob Willis and Phil Tufnell and we shared a lift with Gladstone Small.”

Lawrence said the whole ex­perience of being at Lords was wonderful and although he had heard the ground described as small he was surprised at how close he was to the action. He and Phil had arranged tickets so they saw play from all the different directions.

He said: “Day one we were in the Grandstand, day two in the Edrich Stand, day three the Compton Stand and day four back in the Grandstand.

“As for the game itself it was a bit of a roller coaster. The first day was spoilt by rain, with only 12 overs, and we were sure that the game would go into a fifth day.

“By far and away the highlight was the innings of Jonathan Trott [184] and Stuart Broad [169]. Take those away and there was not much left.

“The betting scam did not spoil things at all. Far more important was the sense of being at a test match at Lords for the first time and being at a match where history was made and a match that will be talked about for generations to come.”

Lawrence said he had harboured the ambition to be at Lords since he was a boy and would like to thank Phil for making it possible. The trip had taken shape over a “peerie dram” at New Year time when Phil, his wife Susan and little son Andrew were in Shetland on holiday.

Reflecting on the overall ex­perience he said: “Tired but triumphant would sum it up.”

Jim Tait

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About Jim Tait

Jim Tait is news editor at The Shetland Times.

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