When Colin Slater died in January 2022, Nottingham lost one of its most distinguished journalists and one of its most distinctive voices.
Whilst best known as the voice of Notts County during half a century with BBC Radio Nottingham, he reported on cricket and other sports and was well-known, and well-liked, at all the County’s clubs and venues.
He was, though, much more than another reporter – Colin also spent 27 years as a magistrate, serving as chairman of the bench for many years. He was a committed member of Christ Church, Chilwell, and was elected to the General Synod in 1990 as a lay representative of the diocese of Southwell and Nottingham.
In addition to being a founding member of the East Midlands branch of the Lord’s Taverners charity, which works to empower disabled and disadvantaged young people through sport, he supported many other community and charity campaigns.
His work with the Sporting Hearts charity, also supporting disadvantaged children, led to a long friendship with Nottinghamshire CCC Treasurer Paul Ellis who spoke for many when he described Colin Slater as, “a true gentleman…there was ‘no side’ to him.
“I saw how he could talk to anyone and everyone with the same easy-going personality and his ability to calm nerves and ease tension was greatly valued.
“Later, I found Colin to be a trusted support when I was helping to look after a friend and colleague who needed lots of care in their later life. Typically, he gave of his time willingly and never sought thanks.”
Fittingly, Colin Slater was awarded an MBE in 2001 for services to local radio and the community; the trip to Buckingham Palace to receive his award from Prince Charles was a highlight of his long and illustrious career. In 2009 he received a lifetime achievement award from the Sony Radio Academy.
Other recognition of his long and dedicated service included a special award from the Football League in 2014; Freedom of the Borough of Broxtowe (2010); the Paul Harris Fellowship from Rotary International for ‘furtherance of better understanding and friendly relations among peoples of the world’ (2008); and a Pride of Nottingham award at the 2016 Nottingham Sports Awards.
As with his good friend and colleague Peter Wynne-Thomas, (who died in 2021) Colin was an adopted son of Nottingham, having been born in West Shipley, Yorkshire. He had fond recollections of his time following the fortunes of local clubs in the Bradford League, where his father played for the splendidly-named Bowling Old Lane Club. Colin also recalled watching the great Learie (later Sir) Constantine playing for Windhill CC.
All long-serving sports reporters have a store of “I Was There” moments; for Colin Slater these included an England v The Rest test trial played at Bradford Park Avenue in which Len Hutton was bowled by his county colleague Fred Trueman, having opened the batting with Nottinghamshire’s own Reg Simpson. Another Yorkshireman on the field that day was Brian Bolus, a good friend of Colin’s who would also find his way to Trent Bridge.
Indeed, Colin Slater held a number of roles at Trent Bridge, leading the venue’s marketing department from 1988 to 1996, acting as PA announcer and frequently performing master of ceremonies duties for club functions – the fees for which he usually donated to the Church of England or the Trent Bridge Community Trust. He joined the club in the year of their 150th Anniversary and the experience gained in that campaign proved valuable when he was set the challenge, by the Notts Committee, of raising the funds to re-build the Hound Road stand – which he duly accomplished.
One of his favourite memories came not in the 150th season but a year later and away from Trent Bridge when Eddie Hemmings cut a ball from John Lever for four to win the Benson & Hedges Cup at Lord’s off the last ball of the match. Two ‘home’ highlights that he singled out both involved Nottinghamshire’s Stuart Broad but as an England player – his hat trick against India in 2011 and the extraordinary 8-15 that helped skittle Australia on the first morning of the 2015 Ashes Test.
By that time, Colin was retired (or as near as he ever got), having begun his career on local newspapers in his home county, becoming Notts County reporter on the Nottingham Evening News before its merger with what is now the Nottingham Post.
He became Notts County correspondent for BBC Radio Nottingham in 1968, the year the station was launched, his first match being a 5-0 defeat to Lincoln City and remained for 57 years, the only reporter to stay with the station throughout the five decades. Ironically, his final commentary was also a defeat – on the last day of the 2017 season at Newport County.
Tributes were paid by colleagues, friends and fans across the county. Jeff Moore, Chair of Notts CCC, knew Colin well and said: “I first met Colin in the early 1980s. During the forty years I knew and worked with him in local government and sport I considered him a friend as well as a colleague.
“When I was Chairman of Notts County his knowledge, advice and insight were immensely valuable to me and we worked closely together throughout that time. His journalism was always fair and objective and he was a credit to that much maligned profession.
“Above all he was the epitome of a gentleman. I shall miss his wisdom and company”
Colin Fray, Sports Editor for BBC Radio Nottingham, said: "Colin was a colossus of local broadcasting, and his influence spread far and wide, from local listeners and supporters to international footballers and managers.
"His cheery, instantly recognisable voice brightened not only radio programmes, but any room he was in”.
Notts County Chief Executive Jason Turner said: "Naturally he will be best remembered for his commentary work, to which he dedicated such a huge part of his amazing life, but he did so many other amazing things for the club which must never be forgotten."
These included playing a pivotal role in securing investment for the club when it was on the verge of extinction in 1965 and chairing the Former Players' Association. Colin was inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2014. Three years later he was elected an Honorary Vice President at Notts County.
Colin Slater's commentaries won him many famous fans, including John Motson, who called him "one of the doyens of the broadcasting industry" and "a member of the commentators' cabinet".
In the city, he was honoured by having a tram named after him and even had a beer brewed in his name.
Appropriately – and to great public acclaim and warmth – his funeral cortege on 31 January went via Meadow Lane and BBC East Midlands en route to St Mary’s Church in the Lace Market.