Belfast Telegraph

John McCririck dies weeks after harrowing final Nolan interview

John McCririck at the races
John McCririck at the races
John McCririck on Stephen Nolan’s TV programme
Ivan Little

By Ivan Little

Former TV racing pundit John McCririck has died - just 13 weeks after giving a last harrowing interview to Northern Ireland broadcaster Stephen Nolan.

McCririck - known as "Big Mac" to many in the racing world - was for many years the face of British horse racing.

A familiar face on Channel 4's coverage of the sport, his career on television spanned four decades.

A statement released by his family said: "Award-winning journalist, broadcaster and for many years the face of British horse racing, John McCririck, passed away at a London hospital on Friday, July 5 aged 79."

Back in April, in an interview carried out on BBC Radio 5 Live on the eve of the Grand National at Aintree, Nolan asked McCririck for tips about which horse would win the race.

But what started as cheerful banter quickly descended into a heartbreaking conversation.

McCririck opened up to Nolan about the devastating impact on his life and health of losing his job with Channel 4 in 2012 after 28 years as their racing expert.

McCririck said he found life tough after his 'enforced' retirement.

He asked Nolan: "Would you like to wake up in the morning and have nothing? No purpose in life? That's what my life is now. Work is more important than anything in life. You can't look after your family properly if you're not working. You don't want to go out. I never missed a day's work in my life for illness."

Nolan said that it was sad for listeners to hear his interviewee say he had no purpose in life and pointed out that he had people around him who loved him.

McCririck, who lost a case against Channel 4 at an employment tribunal, agreed that there were people who cared about him but he said the problems he was facing were shared by millions of people around the world.

He added: "I say 'don't retire voluntarily, cut down if you can, but go in your own time'."

He said his lack of purpose in life got him down and he added that if it wasn't for his wife "I wouldn't be here now".

Nolan asked McCririck bluntly: "Do you want to be alive, John?" to which he replied, "Yes. But when you haven't got a purpose it is awful."

McCririck said he believed in euthanasia, adding: "I have told all my doctors I will sign anything that they want.

"People shouldn't be kept ar tificially alive.

"Religion is part of the trouble - people believe in the sanctity of life and all that sort of thing," he added.

McCririck, who denied he was suffering from depression, said he didn't go out much and watched television instead.

Describing himself as a Donald Trump supporter, he said he was fascinated with politics.

He said he didn't eat much, adding: "The only reason I eat now is to keep alive. I don't look forward to food now. I used to be a glutton and that's how I got to 19-stone."

He swapped stories of losing weight with Nolan who at that time had shed three stone and he encouraged the broadcaster to keep going and to buy a dog to get exercise.

Last October on ITV's This Morning programme, in his last television interview McCririck predicted his own death.

Viewers had expressed their shock at seeing a gaunt and frail McCririck who said he didn't expect to see another summer.

McCririck is survived by Jenny, his wife of 48 years. His funeral will be private.

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