Telegraph sports writer Terry Godwin has died

Terry Godwin, the former rugby union and boxing journalist for the Daily Telegraph, Daily Express and Sunday People, has died. He was 76.

Terry Godwin covered boxing as well as boxing - at a time when British newspapers still referred to Muhammad Ali as "Cassius Clay"
Terry Godwin covered boxing as well as rugby – at a time when British newspapers’ stylebooks still referred to Muhammad Ali as “Cassius Clay”

Like Max Boyce, Terry Godwin played rugby union 1,000 times for Wales, but more accurately he fell in love with the game while attending Hafod-y-Ddol Grammar School (in his native Nantyglo, in Monmouthshire’s Western Valley), Wolverhampton TC, RAF Cosford (through national service), Wanstead and London Welsh in the days when when they played at Herne Hill velodrome, and at Old Deer Park. His appreciation of boxing came through family connections with the sport.

He left Wales as a teenager in the 1950s and the story goes that having arrived in London, he knocked on the door of the Daily Telegraph to ask for a job. He spent 20 years working freelance for the Telegraph, reporting on rugby at all levels and boxing. The latter role included a trip to Atlanta in October 1970 to cover Muhammad Ali’s comeback fight with Jerry Quarry.

Former Telegraph rugby correspondent John Mason recalls an L-shaped trestle table in the office shared between Mason, Donald Saunders, Rupert Cherry and Terry, who would get in early to use the phones. They had one typewriter between them (a problem solved in part by Mason bringing in an Imperial Portable).

Terry served on the committee of the Rugby Union Writers’ Club, including a stint as Entertainment Officer. He organised a dinner for the returning, victorious British Lions tour party of 1971, hosted by the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Peter Studd, at Mansion House.

In November 1977 Godwin gathered a remarkable Rugby Writers’ “Invitation XV” – composed entirely of British Lions – to play at Moseley RFC in memory of the home club’s full-back, Sam Doble, who had played three Tests for England before suddenly dying of cancer. Household names including Gareth Edwards, Phil Bennett, Andy Irvine, Bill Beaumont and the Pontypool front row produced fast, flowing and exciting rugby. Terry also helped muster a star-studded team including JPR Williams and John Dawes to play in a fund-raiser for Andrew Keeling of Old Beccehamian RFC at Crystal Palace in 1978.

In 1978, Terry set up the International Sportswriters’ Club in Tottenham Court Road in London, and the Rugby Writers’ annual dinner was held there. In 1980 he took over the Old Quarry pub-restaurant in Lampeter, west Wales, before deciding to try his hand as a full-time author of factual books. He wrote many, including All Blacks in the Lions Den (on the 1972-1973 New Zealand tour), Heroes to a Man (1977 Lions tour), and autobiographies with Graham Price, Terry Holmes and Gareth Davies.

There were two editions of the Guinness Book of Rugby Facts and Feats; in the first written with Chris Rhys in 1981 there was a Rugby World Cup format laid out that would be more or less replicated when the competition eventually got off the ground in 1987. Their work researching the worldwide spread of the game was seized on gratefully by the International Rugby Board.

In 1984 Godwin produced an exhaustive history of the International Rugby Championship (aka the Five Nations) but even that huge work was dwarfed by his magnum opus, the extraordinary Complete Who’s Who of International Rugby, published in 1987, giving biographical details of the 6,000 players who had played Test rugby at the time. These two books are considered seminal works by rugby historians and supporters worldwide.

In the late 1980s Godwin and Rob Cole established Westgate Sports Agency in Cardiff, as a press and public relations company. They were press officers to the Heineken Cup (Terry attended the inaugural match: Farul Constanta v Toulouse in Romania), and crucial in bringing the fledgling competition to life for the media by telling the stories of its most important participants: the players. Concurrently, Godwin wrote on rugby and other sports for the Daily Express from 1989 to 1996, and was rugby union correspondent for The Sunday People during the 1990s, covering the Wales tour to Australia in 1991, Lions tours of 1993 and 1997, and the 1991, 1995 and 1999 World Cups, during all of which he lent his irrepressible bonhomie to players’ parents and fellow hacks chasing a deadline alike.

Terry retired in 2003, and apart from attending the occasional match involving Wales, London Welsh or Esher, he declared himself happy with his memories of Fleet Street, rugby and boxing in a unique era of fun, triumph and transition.

  • Terry Godwin’s funeral will be held on Friday December 12, 3.15pm at Chilterns Crematorium, Whielden Lane, Amersham, Bucks, HP7 0ND, followed by the wake at The Crown, 16 High St, Amersham, HP7 0DH
  • Terry Godwin: March 3, 1938 to November 18, 2014