At 8.50 this morning (30th September) the Gentleman of Sport, John Lees, will make his last broadcast on BBC Sussex. One of the great pleasures for me when doing an early morning interview on BBC Sussex is the prospect of a few minutes chat with John, a conversation that has been known to continue out of the door of the studio as I try to head off to work. John’s knowledge of sport is encyclopaedic and his enthusiasm for everything Sussex cricket is infectious.
John has been a fixture reading the sports news on BBC Sussex for as long as I remember, and his commentary on Sussex CCC games has brought me great pleasure, even when the performance of Sussex disappoints as they go down to yet another defeat!
I imagine that the high point in his commentating career must have taken place a few minutes after 2.00pm on September 18th 2003 when Murray Goodwin hit the run that secured the bonus point that guaranteed Sussex its first ever County Championship.
I was there that day, and I was there when John fulfilled his pledge to sing ‘Sussex by the Sea’ live on radio at the end of the game. His singing, it has to be said, was not as good as his commentating!
John might be known and loved by thousands because of his time on BBC Sussex, but his own sporting prowess goes back several decades, not least his historic, 1972 record-breaking feat of race walking 2,981 miles, coast to coast across America, in a new record time of 53 days 12 hours, 15 minutes, taking some eleven hours off Bruce Tulloh’s previous record. You can read an account of John’s amazing achievement here.
Enjoy your retirement, John, enjoy being able to spend more time pursuing your other passion, bird watching, and I hope to catch up with you next spring at the County Ground as Sussex start their campaign to gain promotion and achieve a one day and T20 double (the pre-season optimism of a Sussex supporter before cruel reality intrudes).
Thank you for bringing such enjoyment and heartache to this Sussex supporter.
(Note: the original version of this said John had beaten Tulloh’s record by eleven days. It should have read eleven hours).