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Sporting figures mourn Jimmy Walker

By Frank Brownlow

Published 16/12/2015

By the book: Jimmy Walker interviews Robert Dunlop after the Ballymoney man won 125cc race at the 2000 Ulster Grand Prix
By the book: Jimmy Walker interviews Robert Dunlop after the Ballymoney man won 125cc race at the 2000 Ulster Grand Prix

Tributes have been pouring in for top sports journalist Jimmy Walker who has passed away at the age of 78.

Jimmy was a renowned expert on a range of sports but was best known for his coverage of horseracing and motorcycling.

He was Deputy Sports Editor of the Belfast Telegraph for almost 30 years until retirement in 1994, mostly under the late, great Malcolm Brodie.

Mervyn Whyte MBE, Event Director of the Vauxhall International North West 200, had many dealings with Jimmy over the years.

"I am saddened to hear of the passing of Jimmy Walker, one of the old school of journalists and one of life's characters," he said.

"I will always remember him hovering about the North West looking for stories or tit-bits that he could report. He didn't have the advantage of e-mail, mobile phones or text messages but captured a lot of information in his head.

"He reported on all the golden years of motorcycling through the 60's, to a few years ago.

"He was a great journalist who provided fantastic coverage of the North West 200."

Ulster racehorse trainer Neil Mulholland, now based near Bath, has fond memories of Jimmy at Northern Ireland's two courses, Down Royal and Downpatrick.

"When I was starting out as a jockey over 20 years ago, Jimmy was very good to me," he said.

"Jimmy really knew his stuff and loved his racing.

"He was always very positive and he gave me a few nice write-ups in the paper. I was really sad when I heard the news of his passing."

Former Belfast Telegraph Sports Editor Sammy Hamill worked alongside Jimmy for many years.

"Jimmy was the ultimate professional," he said.

"One of his greatest assets was that he could simply ad lib copy. He was never known to sit down and write a report. He would simply ad lib over the phone, usually faster than the copy-taker could handle.

"Jimmy had this incredible photographic memory and was knowledgeable in many subjects," he added.

"He was a guest on the Hughie Green show 'Double Your Money' and his specialist subject was to have been boxing.

"But at the last minute he was told someone else had already taken boxing as their specialist subject and so Jimmy said he would switch to jazz.

"He walked through it on his second subject of jazz despite having little warning," Sammy explained.

"He was particularly knowledgeable about horseracing and motorcycling."

Jimmy is survived by wife Iris, daughter Shelley, grandson Olly and brother Roy, who now lives in California.

His funeral service will be held at Malone Presbyterian Church in Belfast at noon on Friday.

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