Eddie Waring

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Edward Marsden "Eddie" Waring (21 February 1910 – 28 October 1986) was a British rugby league football coach, commentator and television presenter.

Waring's commentaries on rugby league divided opinion: for some viewers he was "Uncle Eddie," the warm and friendly voice of the north, but others believed that his voice simply confirmed and promoted stereotypes.[1]

Early life[edit]

Waring was born on 21 February 1910 in Dewsbury, West Riding of Yorkshire to Arthur Waring, an agent of the Refuge Assurance Company, and Florence Harriet Marsden.[2]

Early career[edit]

Waring was never a noted rugby league player; he was actually more proficient at football, once having had trials with Nottingham Forest and Barnsley.[3] He began work as a typewriter salesman in his home town of Dewsbury, but he swapped that career to use them instead, joining a local newspaper and reporting on rugby league matches.

Alongside his fledging journalism career he ran the local Dewsbury Boys Rugby League Club, renaming them the Black Knights (this foreshadowed how Super League clubs were branded some 60 years later). During World War II Waring managed Dewsbury RLFC as he was exempted from armed service with an ear condition. Recruiting men from a nearby military camp, he led the club to its second Challenge Cup victory in 1943 - the club's last ever success in the competition.

Waring travelled on the HMS Indomitable with the Great Britain national rugby league team on the first post-war tour of Australia. Returning home via the United States, he met Bob Hope, who alerted him to the success of televised sport. This is believed to have convinced him that television would be crucial for rugby league's long-term success. In the UK, he pushed this case harder with the BBC, having written to them as far back as 1931. After several rejections, he was given a chance as a broadcaster when the BBC began to cover the sport.

Broadcasting style[edit]

Waring's commentary polarised opinion over the next decades. For some viewers he would be "Uncle Eddie," the warm and friendly voice of the north, but others believed that his voice simply reinforced stereotypes.[1]

During the 1960s, his eccentric mode of speech (rugby league was pronounced /rəɡˈb ˈlɡɑː/), Hull Kingston Rovers as "Hulking Stan Rovers" and northern accent began to be widely impersonated, largely due to the example of Mike Yarwood. Students formed the Eddie Waring Society in his honour.

One of his most notable commentaries came in the 1968 Challenge Cup Final at Wembley, a rain-affected game in which he described Wakefield Trinity player Don Fox with the line "He's a poor lad" after he missed a last minute kick from in front of the posts against Leeds - the miss handed the cup to his opponents.

Many of his lines became catchphrases in the game, including, "It's an up and under"[4] (a rugby tactic consisting of kicking the ball in a high arc, while the rest of the team rushes toward the landing point, hoping to gain possession and field position) and "He's goin' for an early bath"[1] (frequently heard during a game when a player was sent off the field for a serious foul). The Times newspaper in March 2006 published a list of 25 favourite sporting quotes and one of Waring's appeared there.

In 1978, Eddie Waring was commentating on a Rugby League Challenge Cup tie between Leeds and Halifax when a collie dog wandered onto the field during the first half. As the dog continued to chase the ball, the BBC coverage seemed to focus on the dog rather than the players themselves. On screen and to the viewers it was a treat to see the interruption of the dog and to hear Eddie's charm and chuckles, but secretly behind the cameras and off-mic Eddie was not pleased with the producer who had instigated a series of captions for the said dog, namely K-Nine and R.Dog. Eddie's frustration was probably as a result of the BBC's wavering Rugby League coverage at the time and this incident and treatment just added fuel to the fire, but looking back on the coverage of this match, it is Eddie entertaining whilst being a total professional. The whole footage has never been seen since 1978 (and it's likely the BBC have wiped the tape) but there are clips available online. Leeds went on to win the game and indeed the Challenge Cup in 1978.

Celebrity appearances[edit]

Waring branched out, appearing as a presenter on the television series It's a Knockout, and as the UK's representative on the international umpiring team for the European version of the show, Jeux Sans Frontieres, where his striped blazer made him easy to spot.

He also made guest appearances in the popular TV comedy programmes The Morecambe and Wise Show and The Goodies.

Decline and retirement[edit]

The split in opinion regarding his contribution to the game, plus illness, led to a decline in Waring's popularity. A petition was organised by some hardcore supporters asking the BBC to remove him from commentary as he was perceived to be portraying a poor image of the game and its northern roots.[5] The BBC however stuck with him as their main commentator.

It was illness that would affect him over the next few years and in some of his later commentaries it was clearly noticeable that he was beginning to struggle to identify players. He commentated on his last Challenge Cup Final in 1981.

Death[edit]

Waring's overall health declined very quickly after his retirement from the commentary box. He was diagnosed with dementia and died at High Royds Hospital in Menston, West Yorkshire in 1986.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Dave Russell. Looking North: northern England and the national imagination, Manchester University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-7190-5178-9, ISBN 978-0-7190-5178-4. p. 260
  2. ^ 1911 Census
  3. ^ Discovering the real Eddie Waring the independent
  4. ^ Eric Partridge, Tom Dalzell, Terry Victor.The concise new Partridge dictionary of slang and unconventional, Routledge, 2007, ISBN 0-415-21259-6, ISBN 978-0-415-21259-5 p. 677
  5. ^ Rugby league's TV 'visionary' Eddie Waring remembered bbc.co.uk

References[edit]

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