Sussex Cricket has been mourning the sad death of one of its foremost actor members, Michael Jayston, at the age of 88 years.
Michael was born in Nottingham in 1935, where his love of cricket grew with every boyhood season at Trent Bridge. Over the years, he developed a veritable encyclopaedic knowledge about the achievements of that County’s many iconic post-war players. Indeed, his knowledge of the history of cricket became incredible, details of which he was always delighted to share with others!
When Michael came to live in Hove, he joined Sussex Cricket Club and became a playing member of Rottingdean CC, where he was always thrilled to display his skills as a fine leg-spin bowler. In later years, he was elected Club President in which position he was a hugely admired and respected figure.
Similarly, he was a popular member of the mid-week playing Brighton Brunswick CC, whose events he looked forward to with relish and it was always a pleasure to listen into his discussions with ex-Sussex stars, John Snow, Peter Graves & Jerry Groome, as well as with his great friend, Tony Dougall.
Michael also took delight in his frequent selections for the Lord's Taverners CC, where he much enjoyed being amongst other national celebrities.
Michael’s career as an actor was an enormously successful one, during which he become an acclaimed star of film, stage, television, radio and audio. A versatile performer and, genuinely, a man of many parts!
It was said in his early days that “with his granite jaw, dark magnetic eyes and urgently resonant voice, he became a specialist in playing romantic anti-heroes and he was tipped for Hollywood stardom after his acclaimed performance as the tragic Tsar Nicholas II in the 1971 film Nicholas and Alexandra”.
Nevertheless, Michael was not afraid to admit that he would have preferred something more slapstick. He once said “It sounds naive, but, basically, I love to entertain people. I love to make them laugh, I love to make them cry and I also I like to make them think, but most of all I just love to entertain.”
It is not surprising, therefore, that Michael was rarely out of work and he will be remembered widely for his appearances in Doctor Who (1986), Eastenders (2002) and, in 1996, in front of a television audience of nearly 25 million, in the episode of Only Fools and Horses in which Del Boy finally becomes a millionaire.
In the 1980s and thereafter Michael was to become “king of the advert voice-over”, when few commercial TV breaks seemed complete without him promoting anything from teabags to cleaning products, all with his signature Shakespearean diction.
Those of us who were fortunate to have known him, admired his incredible talent and unparalleled work ethic throughout a career spanning several decades, during which he made significant contributions to the entertainment industry.
However, most of all, we will have enjoyed the chat invoked by a glass of red wine, a pint of bitter, or a cup of coffee, the topics of which ranged from international affairs, the stock market and the recent form of Sussex Cricket – particularly the latter. Indeed, he will be greatly missed in the local restaurants and cafes of Church Road, George Street and Woodland Parade in Hove!
We pass our heartfelt commiserations to his wife Ann and their children Richard and Katie, who survive him.
Finally, I recall the day some years ago, when I invited Michael to be my guest for a day in the Sussex Cricket Board Room. It was the first day of a County Championship match against Nottinghamshire CCC, who Michael had supported all his life. During the first session of play, I asked him if he would be kind enough to read a poem written by the previously mentioned great Sussex cricketer, John Snow, which I had always admired. It was titled “Sometime When I’m Older”. He said he would be delighted to do so and viewed the words for a few minutes.
After we had sat down and before lunch was served to our Nottinghamshire guests, Michael read the poem to superb effect.
Those of us present will never forget the occasion, not quite believing how fortunate we had been to listen to a wonderfully talented actor, with a superbly sensitive and passionate voice loved by millions! It was a day to remember.
Past President, Sussex Cricket