ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND | He died in December 2020 but on Wednesday the voice, the laughter, indeed the very bones of Peter Alliss, as well as the affectionate words of many others, ricocheted around the walls of the Younger Hall at St Andrews University in a service of thanksgiving for the much-loved broadcaster. What could possibly be more appropriate than the “Voice of Golf” being heard so loud at the “Home of Golf”?
The ecclesiastical liturgy in the United Kingdom is, unlike Latin, much-loved and still vibrantly present, as great in the valleys of south Wales as in St Andrews, the ancient city that houses Scotland’s oldest university as well as the R&A. There, on the eve of the Open, the deeds of Peter Alliss were truly hymned to the rafters starting with that old favourite: “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise.”
In the first of many tributes during a service that lasted for more than two hours – “that’s a penalty for slow play” Alliss would have said – Steve Rider, a former colleague, recalled: “… Peter once said to me, ‘I want to illuminate the eccentricity of golf.’ ” Rider added: “He certainly did that.” It is doubtful whether anyone, anywhere, could disagree with that. Alliss and the game’s foibles were as good a partnership as white golf balls and green grass. Less well known is that Alliss and his charitable work raised over £7 million (about $8.3 million) to provide powered wheelchairs for the needy.
If there was a theme to the service other than sheer affection for Alliss, it might be his humour. It was mentioned time and time again. Alliss was witty and self-deprecating when he had a lot not to be self-deprecating about. He liked to mock himself, which became clear when Simon, one of Peter and Jackie’s two sons, wrote and read a poem entitled, “I’m famous, you know.” That was what Alliss would say to Simon whenever he was stopped in the street for an autograph or a selfie, as he so often was.
As the words of the famous hymn rang out, tears ran down my cheeks. A nerve had been touched, unexpectedly, and I was raw.
There is a memory from an earlier moment in his life when Alliss travelled the country giving talks about his life while promoting his latest book. He would walk onto the stage and settle into a wingback chair. Then he would shoot a glance at a woman sitting in the front row and say, “You’re not looking up my trouser leg, I hope.” He often talked of how he had held a record for 30 years of being the heaviest baby born in Europe. “I weighed 14 pounds, 12 ounces. Mum couldn’t ride her bicycle until Christmas,” he said with a dimpled smile.
Guy Kinnings, the deputy CEO of the DP World Tour, told of a priceless tip given to him years ago by Alliss: pack only one bag when travelling, then you don’t waste hours waiting for your luggage. Ian Pattinson, chairman of the board of the R&A, said that Peter Alliss wanted the Rules of Golf to be printed on a small postcard in large handwriting. Barbara Slater, head of sport at the BBC, presented a trophy from Team BBC to Team Alliss, and Jackie Alliss accepted it in her quiet and modest way.
Near the end, the tribute by hymn, “Guide me O Thou Great Redeemer,” is more normally, more often and certainly more loudly sung at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff when Wales’ rugby team is at home.
If I am honest, this was where the service struck home so forcibly. Here at a moving ceremony for a golfer and broadcaster came an unexpected conjunction of two of my sporting loves, namely golf and rugby. As the words of the famous hymn rang out, tears ran down my cheeks. A nerve had been touched, unexpectedly, and I was raw.
During her tribute, Judy Rankin, the broadcaster and longtime friend of Peter and Jackie Alliss, spoke of Alliss as being “quite the flirt.” She recounted how he had once told her he wanted to retire at St Andrews at the 150th Open, and on that occasion the two of them “would have a waltz on the 18th green.”
“I was greatly impressed by the way the service came off,” Rankin said later. “It touched me more than I thought it would. I happen to be here for the Open, but I am here really for Peter. There was never a day you weren’t glad to see Peter. He had a way. He could be so funny. He was the best company in the world.”
© 2022 Global Golf Post LLC
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Tell us how we can improve this post?