Voice of rugby league Ray French hangs up the microphone

Ray French with his MBE medal, presented by Queen Elizabeth II during an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace
Ray French with his MBE medal, presented by Queen Elizabeth II during an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace

Ray French - the voice of Rugby League - has decided to call time on his broadcasting career which stretches back to the early 1980s.


He worked for both BBC TV and Radio Merseyside as a commentator on his favourite sport after taking early retirement from his job as a teacher at Cowley School.

Ray in the commentary box for the BBC

Ray in the commentary box for the BBC

St Helens-born Ray also wrote a weekly column for me when I was Editor of the old Rugby Leaguer - at that time the only newspaper in the country devoted to the 13-a-side code.

Never once did he fail to meet his deadline for copy which was written with a Biro on foolscap paper (no computerisation in those days).

Each Friday, he or his good wife would head to the Reporter head office in College Street, St Helens, whatever the weather, to deliver the most authoritative column in Rugby League.

He still writes for League Weekly and has no intention of completely severing his links with the sport he loves.

A modest man in every sense of the word, he even felt a little sheepish when he was awarded an MBE for his services to sport in the Queen's New Year Honour List eight years ago.

Ray, a former Saints and Widnes player who played Rugby Union and Rugby League for both his local side St Helens, and represented England at international level in both codes, said at the time: ''I feel it is an honour for the game itself and Rugby League has been rewarded.''

He added: ''I have been somewhat embarrassed by it because normally I'm used to reporting on these things and interviewing people who have deserved such honours awards.

''It's not been like work, it's a passion, I have thoroughly enjoyed it.''

During his time behind the microphone he has many wide and varied experiences - none more hilarious than when he covered a Huyton match for the local radio station.

Geoff 'Piggy' Fletcher was in charge of the Merseyside club at the time and found himself short of a player and turned to Ray and said: ''Will you sit on the subs bench?''

Ray duly obliged and went on to commentate on the match from the dugout!

Now at the age of 79 and having travelled the world over the past few decades, he will be taking a well earned rest.

Put up your feet, Ray. You deserve it.