McGILVRAY, ALAN DAVID (1909–96)
Alan McGilvray began his career as a cricket broadcaster in November 1935, while in the middle of a career as a player for New South Wales, when he was asked by ABC general manager (Sir) Charles Moses to deliver close-of-play summaries of Sheffield Shield games in which he was involved. He became Australia’s most enduring radio commentator of cricket, with a career spanning half a century.
McGilvray took part in the ABC’s synthetic Test broadcasts in 1938, where commentators in a Sydney studio provided a commentary on Test matches in England by recomposing ballby-ball descriptions from telegrams. He first visited England 10 years later, broadcasting as the ABC’s representative on the BBC commentary team. His ‘straight’ style contrasted with the more picturesque and descriptive approaches of the locals, but he was accurate, concise, astute and sometimes trenchant.
McGilvray spent much of the 1950s in Sydney commercial radio, with 2UW and 2UE, and did not dedicate himself to broadcasting full-time until he sold his family’s shoe business in 1961. Thereafter, he was the ABC’s ‘voice of summer’, even in winter, when he generally accompanied Australian teams on tour; he also edited a hardy and popular annual, the ABC Cricket Book.
Late in his career, McGilvray achieved a kind of celebrity. The ABC promoted its cricket coverage with a specially written song, ‘The Game is Not the Same Without McGilvray’. When he called his 100th Test match between Australia and England in February 1980, the MCG scoreboard was adjusted to read ‘McGilvray 100’. McGilvray was appointed both MBE and AM. After a final visit to England in 1985, he wrote three successful volumes of memoirs with Norman Tasker, and a book of tributes, McGilvray: The Voice of Cricket (1996), was published after his death.