Shaw Taylor’s Snooker Memories
Veteran TV presenter Shaw Taylor made a welcome return to our screens earlier this year after a gap of more than 20 years as he reprised his best-known role on Police 5.
The 89-year-old, who retired in 1992, had a long and varied TV career. For many years, his ability to set the tone made him the natural choice to guide viewers through ITV’s coverage of the Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph and at various Royal Occasions, while his lighter side came across in his role as a judge on talent show New Faces. In addition, he was the first DJ to interview The Beatles, while he presented quizzes and chat shows for both TV and radio.
A less well-known fact is that Shaw worked as a snooker commentator when Thames Television started covering the sport in the 1970s after Ted Lowe, who had been the default commentator for all broadcasters, signed an exclusive contract with the BBC.
Shaw said: “I played snooker for fun, and very badly at that. I think I got the job because they wanted someone who was recognised as an authoritative voice and could add gravitas.
“I was never a great snooker commentator. I can’t remember the name of the summariser who sat alongside me but I was certainly glad to have him there.
“My biggest memory of working on snooker was the time I got on the wrong side of Alex Higgins and he threatened to shove his cue up my arse!”
Shaw’s time as a snooker commentator was brief, and it wasn’t long before Thames replaced him with Clive Everton, who even then was already a well-established snooker journalist.
Shaw now lives on the Isle of Wight and continues to follow the game on television. “I think today’s players are superb” he said. “Their break building skills are incredible and quite often a single missed pot can cost them the frame.”
However, Shaw offered some criticism of some ex-players who have made the transition to the commentary box. “I’m less keen on the modern approach to commentary” he said. “Certain ex-players talk far too much for my liking and state the obvious.
“When you commentate, whether it be on sport or anything else, there are times when you should just keep quiet and let the pictures do the talking.”
In addition to snooker, Shaw commentated on ice skating (alongside ex-skater Malcolm Cannon), ten pin bowling and water skiing, which were among the sometimes eccentric offerings on World of Sport, the ITV Saturday afternoon magazine during the 1970s and early 80s.
He continues to enjoy ice skating, and offered praise for Robin Cousins’s commentaries during the BBC’s coverage of the recent Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Shaw, who was awarded an MBE in 1987, largely disappeared from our screens following the end of the original Police 5 in 1992. He was the victim of a ‘Gotcha!’ prank on ‘Noel’s House Party’ shortly before his retirement, and in 2008 he appeared on a spoof Police 5 segment during an episode of the BBC drama series ‘Ashes to Ashes’ set in the 1980s, which he remembers fondly. He said: “We filmed those scenes at the former Thames studios at Teddington. Philip Glenister, who played the lead role, was a superb actor and great to work with.
“The crew were on the lookout for a 1980s style suit for me to wear. I told them not to worry because I had a wardrobe full of them at home, and sure enough I ended up wearing one for the programme!”
In retirement, Shaw has been enjoying his leisure time and didn’t envisage working in TV again, but ITN approached him with a view to having a role in the planned Channel 5 revival of Police 5. “I wasn’t interested at first” he said. “They came back and asked me three times. I didn’t want to come back because I felt that I’d had my time and they should look to younger people, and I must say I’ve been very impressed with the show’s main presenters, Joe Crowley and Kate McIntyre, but in the end they took me out to lunch and talked me into it.”
Shaw’s role saw him present a short segment each week in which he would try to reunite owners with their stolen items, and he would sign off with his fondly-remembered ‘keep ‘em peeled’ catchphrase. All the segments were filmed in one day from Shaw’s living room.
To celebrate his 90th birthday in October, Shaw and his wife Shirley will be taking a cruise around North America. He said: “After I retired from Police 5, I did quite a bit of lecturing on cruise ships for a few years, but this time I’m hoping to just sit back and relax.”