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The Third Man


A rare cover appearance. Female fans were outraged that the banner obscured much of his generally admired forehead

The passing of Dorset itv's "forgotten third man" - author, journalist, tv presenter and longtime sports anchorman Dickie Desmond at the age of 106 - marks the "end of an era in televised sport", writes our Locker-room Correspondent Jock Strappe.


Author of Be A Sport Old Bean a recent no-holds-barred biography of Dickie Desmond's life on and off screen, Strappe says we will not see his like again and suggests that only now - in an era dominated by sports commentators who "spend more time on social media opining on the price of fish than in front of a camera doing what they are paid to do" - can we appreciate properly the value of "The Three Antennas"* of terrestrial tv's golden age


* thought to be a rather strained reference to the large headsets each was obliged to wear whilst making Outside Broadcasts [OBs]. The name was coined in the early 1970s by a studio executive who had the bright idea of cashing in on the idea of The Three Tenors [You've Never Heard Of] See HERE . Unfortunately The Three Tenors [You've Never Heard Of] would not become household names until nearly 50 years later - long after everyone had forgotten The Three Antennas.


Alongside Dickie Lynam and Des Davies, Dickie Desmond was welcomed more or less willingly into our homes on Saturday afternoons largely as a result of there being "nothing else on". Professionals to their fingertips, even these broadcasting legends sometimes struggled to mask their embarrassment at being asked to front hill-climbing from Lilliput or billiards from The Working Men's Institute Bloxworth when frozen ground meant the postponement of football, rugby league, horse-racing, amateur fen-vaulting and [on one occasion when a power cut extinguished the lights] ping pong from Talbot Heath's famous Community Hub.



Desmond began his career at Dorset itv commentating on swimming and archery [taking over from veteran Alan Everey Weeks-Achore] - something he later described as a punishing regime of commuting on alternate Saturdays between events at the Chilfrome Municipal Baths and the Buckhorn Weston Archery Club. [It was a journey of of some 28.5 mi via the notoriously difficult A30 which, even today, can take up to 52 minutes in a decent hybrid automatic road car.] He went on to present ice skating [from the Creekmore Rink], wrestling [generally from the Allington Arena], greyhound racing [Monday nights from the Corsecombe Stadium], speedway [Wednesday nights from Belleview Park, East Stoke] and show-jumping [Olympia Arena, Lytchett Minster] before settling into the relative comfort of the studio as the main presenter of Dorset itv's Saturday sports flagship: Grandview [later Sports 'R Us]. The programme, which broadcast between afternoon pub-closing and evening pub opening 52 weeks a year was a staple of the weekend schedules and attracted in its heyday audiences of more than 300 die-hard snorers.

Dickie Desmond was famous for his sense of humour and OB japes. Here he responds to a correspondent who had "urged him to come clean and to express himself more openly".

The transition into the "Colour Era" in the 1970s proved challenging for all three presenters [make up alone took several hours whilst the increased definition brought about by the move from 405 to 625 lines was described by some fans as "cruel"] but especially so for Desmond whose moustache was never as naturally luxuriant as those of his rivals. Friendly rivalry between the three - who never actually met - was the topic of many a comedy show. Desmond was frequently lampooned by impressionist Mike Yetminster who portrayed him as a sheepskin-coat wearing muppet with an enormous handlebar moustache said to have been modelled on that of Dorset war "hero" Squadron Leader Kite [HERE].


In his retirement Desmond often lamented the decline in sports coverage on terrestrial television and in particular the removal of "protected status" from key events such as the Littlemoor Marathon, Miniature Golf's Snyder Cup and especially the All-Dorset Quoits Open [HERE and HERE]. The last was particularly close to his heart since Desmond was married for 82 years to the sister of 26 times Dorset Open Quoits Champion and winner of thrupiecetelevision's Sports Personality of the Year 2016, Bob "Tiger" Twelvetrees. [HERE]

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