MICHAEL EDWARD GEORGE TUCKER
30 November 1944 – 28 March 2018
A Service of Thanksgiving will be held to celebrate the life of Mike Tucker at the Parish Church of St John Baptist, Cirencester, on Tuesday 10th April at 3pm which the family welcomes everyone to attend.
No flowers please. Donations if desired in memory of Mike for Great Western Air Ambulance, Retraining of Racehorses and the MS Society.
The Telegraph, 29th March 2018
Mike Tucker, equestrian commentator – obituary
Mike Tucker, who has died from a heart attack aged 73, was a farmer, huntsman, event rider and course designer who was, for many years, the Murray Walker of the equestrian world, his plummy tones becoming familiar to BBC viewers at everything from the Badminton Horse Trials to the Shetland Pony Grand National at Olympia and the London Olympics.
A modestly successful event rider in his day, Tucker had 12 rides round Badminton, his first when he was 19, finishing second to Lucinda Green there in 1983, and he competed for Britain at championship level, finishing seventh at the 1975 European Championships, though he never rode in the Olympics.
He designed the cross-country course at the 2002 World Equestrian Games in Jerez, Spain, and, among others, courses for Chatsworth, Bramham, and Burghley three-day events. He served on many equestrian bodies, including the board of British Eventing from 1999 to 2005, chairing the organisation in 2004-5. He was the cross-country controller at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and eventing technical delegate at the 1992 Barcelona games.
Tucker joined the BBC in 1977 and took over as its main equestrian commentator following the death of Raymond Brooks-Ward in 1992, bringing to the role a competitor’s knowledge combined with enormous enthusiasm for the sport – and a gift for building up atmosphere during moments of tension.
He covered such historic occasions as Zara Phillips’s triumph at the Eventing World Championship in Aachen in 2006, and was in the commentary box at six Olympic Games.
His most emotional moment came at the Rio Olympics in 2016 when Nick Skelton finally claimed an individual Olympic title in his seventh Games, by which time, aged 58, he was Britain’s second-oldest Olympic gold medallist. “Nick was not the only one in tears,” Tucker admitted.
Tucker took some stick during the 2012 London Olympics when disgruntled viewers began a “How can I get Mike Tucker sacked?” thread on the website forum of Horse and Hound, complainants accusing him of getting names wrong, failing to turn off his microphone during dressage and “endless rabbiting on” – among other things.
In a 2017 interview with the magazine, Tucker admitted that he had got “a bit uptight” about some of the criticism, while pointing out that the BBC commentary team had been thinly spread.
On the whole, though, he took a positive view of the Games, in which British riders won three gold medals, including team gold in showjumping – all conducted “in the best sporting atmosphere I’ve ever witnessed in an equestrian competition”.
Michael Edward George Tucker was born on November 30 1944 at Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire, into a farming family based at Church Farm near Tetbury, and educated at Wycliffe College, Stonehouse, and at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester.
The foundations of his equestrian career were laid early on when he became a member of the Beaufort branch of the Pony Club, where he and several others, including “a little bowler-hatted man called Phillips” (later Captain Mark Phillips), were taught by Frank Weldon. Later he trained with Bertie Hill, who encouraged him to help out at big events such as Burghley Horse Trials as a groom.
At the 1968 Olympics he went out to Mexico as groom for Richard Meade, recalling an emotional moment as he held Meade’s horse Cornishman as the National Anthem was played, the British having won gold in team eventing. “I thought I wanted a bit of this,” he recalled.
He never did ride in the Olympics, although he was a reserve for the Montreal Games in 1976. The highlight of his riding career was coming second at Badminton in 1983 riding General Bugle, a horse he had bred at his farm.
“It was particularly special because that was one of the last Badmintons that the Queen visited and she was accompanied down the line-up by the 10th Duke of Beaufort,” he recalled. “I hunted with him and he took a great interest – he told the Queen all about the horse.”
Tucker’s commentating career began somewhat unpromisingly on Easter Monday 1969, when he took the microphone at the popular Old Berks point-to-point at Lockinge, when he was instructed to learn the colours “sitting on the bog”.
Unfortunately in the first race, a two-horse affair, both riders wore black and red and he managed to get them muddled up. Eight runners filed on to the course for the second race, but there was a delay and as they milled around, Tucker turned to a friend and said: “Why don’t they hurry up and start – the silly buggers.”
Unfortunately the microphone was on and his words were broadcast to some 10,000 spectators.
Tucker was encouraged at the end of the day when invited back the following year, but soon found a more comfortable berth in show jumping and eventing, in which competitors tend to appear one at a time. He also commentated at big shows, beginning in 1972 with the Great Yorkshire, at which he became a regular over four decades. As well as working for the BBC, from 2004 he commentated for Sky Television. He retired from commentating in 2017.
Tucker served at various times as a steward at Cheltenham and as field master of the Duke of Beaufort’s hounds, continuing to hunt into his later years. As a farmer, in later life he specialised in Wagyu cattle producing Kobe beef, which he had first tasted while commentating at the Beijing-Hong Kong Olympics in 2008, working with his son Andrew to build up a herd of more than 70 animals.
He had a wide circle of friends with whom he enjoyed chewing the fat, including the Princess Royal, a neighbour and fellow equestrian.
In 1972 he married Angela Sowden, an international eventer and later a respected eventing judge. From their home they ran Tetbury Horse Trials together from 1977 to 1992. She survives him with their daughter and son Andrew who, as well as helping his father run the family farm, is polo manager to Princes William and Harry.
Mike Tucker, born November 30 1944, died March 28 2018