Cliff Morgan, Wales rugby great and BBC broadcaster dies at 83

Cliff Morgan
Image caption Cliff Morgan was described as an ambassador for rugby and a gifted broadcaster

Wales international and broadcaster Cliff Morgan, described as "one of rugby's greats," has died at the age of 83.

Rhondda-born Morgan became one of the nation's most talented fly-halves before a successful broadcasting career.

He was a respected commentator and a head of BBC outside broadcasts.

He won 29 caps for Wales from 1951 and captained the British Lions against South Africa in 1955.

Tributes have been flooding in from the rugby and broadcasting worlds, and also public life.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said: "Cliff Morgan made a huge contribution to both Welsh and Lions rugby.

"As a BBC broadcaster, it will be his voice that will be forever remembered when we think of that magnificent Barbarians try against the All Blacks in 1973. Cliff was a true Welsh legend, who will be greatly missed."

Wales international Gareth Edwards told BBC Radio Wales: "We should celebrate his life."

Edwards's try for the Barbarians against the All Blacks in 1973 was helped into rugby legend by Morgan's memorable commentary.

"He was a fantastic broadcaster," said Edwards "He was so eloquent and knowledgeable."

"He could cut anyone down in a moment if he didn't agree with them. It was a privilege to have known him."

Broadcaster Des Lynam, a friend for 40 years, said: "Cliff was one of the most charismatic men I ever met.

"I knew him as a brilliant rugby player for Wales and the British Lions only through those grainy black and white images from the 50s but later he was my boss at BBC radio, became my mentor and we formed a friendship that lasted for 40 years."

Lynam added: "A brilliant broadcaster himself, his advice to those of us trying to make our way in the business was wise and invaluable. But underlying it all was his great sense of fun. 'Enjoy yourself' he would say, "It's not working down the mine, is it?'"

Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) president Dennis Gethin said: "I have lost a friend and we have all lost one of rugby's greats who was also a true gentleman."

WRU chief executive Roger Lewis said: "Cliff Morgan epitomised the values of Welsh rugby and throughout his life remained a great ambassador for our sport and for Wales.

"He possessed remarkable ability as an outside half whose flair was rightly recognised with the top honours rugby has to offer with Wales and the British and Irish Lions.

"His face was known to millions because of his successful career and perhaps that famous voice of his will live on forever particularly when we recall his magnificent commentary of the Gareth Edwards try against New Zealand for the Barbarians in 1973."

Rugby journalist and broadcaster Peter Jackson said: "He was a great Welshman - and that word is tossed about a bit carelessly these days.

"He was one of my heroes. Sometimes it's not a good idea to meet your heroes because when you do you become, perhaps, aware of their flaws but when I met Cliff, many years ago, he was just everything I expected and more.

"I think the greatest thing about Cliff was his generosity."

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionA look back at the life and career of Cliff Morgan

Current Wales fly-half Dan Biggar said: "It's devastating news and our thoughts from not just not myself but everyone at the Ospreys go to his family."

"He had so much skill and such a personality and it is just very, very sad."

Former British Lions and Wales star Scott Quinnell, whose father Derek was involved in the move in the famous 1973 match, tweeted: "So sad to hear that Cliff Morgan has passed away. Great man. RIP."

Born in Trebanog, Morgan said his upbringing in a mining community and the "sour hard toil of the pit" was a huge influence on him.

Morgan joined BBC Wales in 1958 after retiring from playing, becoming a respected commentator.

His on-screen career saw him as team captain in A Question of Sport in the 1970s, on opposite sides to boxer Henry Cooper.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media caption'A privilege to have known him' - Gareth Edwards

Morgan came back from stroke he suffered at the age of 41, which he later wrote had not only affected his speech and movement but also led to financial problems.

In 1975, he was appointed as the BBC's head of outside broadcasts - a post he held for 12 years.

He then later presented the Sport on Four magazine programme for BBC Radio 4.

Morgan had been suffering from cancer in recent years, which had involved the removal of his larynx, which limited his ability to speak.

BBC Cymru Wales director Rhodri Talfan Davies said: "Cliff Morgan's contribution to sport broadcasting was immense, both in front of and behind the microphone and camera.

"In his work here in Wales and for the BBC across the UK, he brought the fierce commitment of an international player, an instantly recognisable voice and a talent for charismatic leadership."

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionDerek Quinnell said he would remember Morgan as a "choirmaster" when on tour

Other tributes included BBC Five Live presenter Mark Pougatch, who said: "To work in the same room as Cliff Morgan was to know you were working in the right place alongside the very best."

Cricket commentator Jonathan Agnew tweeted: "Rugby and broadcasting giant. Kindest of men".

Former BBC tennis commentator Gerald Williams said Morgan "was an inspirational figure to all of us who worked for him as commentators".

Mr Williams, who has retired to Carmarthenshire, said: "He was so great at what he did.

"He was a great Welshman and probably the best Welsh broadcaster ever".

Racing journalist Brough Scott tweeted: "Cliff Morgan - has gone. It is the saddest of days. He was an inspiration and the sweetest and greatest of men".

The Treorchy Male Choir worked with Morgan at various events and they sang when Morgan appeared on This Is Your Life.

Choir chairman David Bebb said they hoped his family "may they find some comfort in the knowledge that he was loved and respected by all those who had the pleasure of knowing him."

A tribute programme Cliff Morgan: A Lifetime of Achievement, will be shown on Thursday 29 August at 22:40 BST on BBC One Wales. BBC Radio 5 live has a tribute at 19:30 BST.

More on this story