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Racing journalist known as ‘voice of the North’ dies at 61

Tom O'RyanA horse racing journalist who wrote for regional dailies and was known as “the voice of the North” has died aged 61.

Tributes have been paid to Tom O’Ryan, left, who held long-term reporting roles with York daily The Press and the Racing Post, as well as writing for the Northern Echo.

The former jockey was named Racing Journalist of the Year in 2002, and also presented on television channel racing UK.

He had been battling lung cancer.

Racehorse trainer and friend Richard Fahey said yesterday: “Devastated to say that Tom O’Ryan passed away earlier today. Can’t say how much we will all miss him. We’ve lost the voice of the North.

“Tom was an incredible horseman and brilliant writer. Racing is a poorer sport without him in it.”

Trainer Jonjo O’Neill said he was “heartbroken and lost for words” by the news of Tom’s death, while fellow jumps trainer Donald McCain said he was “always a pleasure to deal with and a real gentleman”.

Leading Flat jockey Jamie Spencer described Tom as a “proper man and a writer full of integrity” and National Hunt rider Tom Scudamore said he was “a gentleman and wise man of the press room”.

Tom is survived by his wife, Wendy, and his brother, Robin, who is travelling head lad for Fahey.


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  • August 30, 2016 at 8:43 pm

    First Ray Gilpin and now Tom O’Ryan. Both true “gentle” men of the racing Press. I had the pleasure of sub-editing their copy at two places of work. Ray, on the Birmingham Evening Mail, and Tom, on the Yorkshire Evening Press. And at a time when both papers sold in their thousands. Their copy was clean, informative and always had a hook for an under pressure sub-editor to find for a half-decent headline. They were no different in the flesh. Kind, courteous and with an ever-ready smile for everyone they met. That’s the way they went about their business. True gents RIP.

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  • August 31, 2016 at 11:50 am

    I fully agree with Ian Ward, a former Sports Editor of mine in York. Tom was a friend via his daily selections copy and tips in the Yorkshire Evening Press which evolved into The Press, when I was in charge of the racing pages most days until I retired ten years ago.
    Tom was one of the most highly respected men I have known, not just in racing but with everyone he met. He was a pleasure to work with and to meet. Although mild by nature he was as tough as they come in his soul, as was proved by the way he battled back with bravery and fortitude in his long recovery from his near-death accident a few years ago. That he has been a victim of lung cancer after all that is unjust. He died much too young.
    Tom was extremely knowledgeable about racing from his in-depth experience as a jockey and riding-out for trainers, key factors in his successful switch to journalism. For him then to win the award as Racing Journalist of the Year some years ago was a remarkable achievement, fully deserved. He had the knack of keeping information simple but with the touch of an expert.
    That he won the Racing Post Naps competition for daily papers as the Evening Press tipster Ebor was an amazing feat considering the often hasty changes he had to make to his Nap after the final declarations had been made in the days when they were issued late morning for the following day’s meetings.
    With his dry, sharp wit, possibly inherited from his Irish roots, he could tell some side-splitting true stories about his days as a jockey. The advice and help he gave to young jockeys was immense and they all willingly acknowledge his guidance.
    I was most touched when, one his way home after a day working at Haydock races, Tom stopped off in York and appeared unexpectedly at my retirement social ten years ago to wish me well and hand me a personal gift. I feel proud and privileged to have known Tom; his death is upsetting.
    All the tributes from far and wide which have been paid to Tom are fully deserved. He was a gem. We will not see his like again..

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