A ROWING correspondent and former director of Oxford University's sports centre has died aged 81.

James 'Jim' Railton, who lived in Wallingford, was a prolific writer for The Times and produced 1,500 reports over 30 years.

He coached rowing, as well as writing about it, and led a group of young men who would go on to achieve Olympic success.

He also, for several decades, ran Oxford University’s Iffley Road sports complex as the centre’s director.

In that role, which he performed until 1995, he passionately pursued better facilities and funding.

Mr Railton was born in Liverpool to parents Robert, an officer in the Royal Navy, and Florence, who ran an ironmongery business.

As a young man he was an impressive sprinter, an activity he took up at Liverpool Collegiate School.

During this time he held a record for British juniors, which he took in 1954 by sprinting 100 yards in 9.9 seconds.

When he finished school he went to study modern jazz at Loughborough College.

His interest in jazz informed his piano playing, a talent for which he was much revered.

After his graduation he became a PE teacher in London and joined the Amateur Rowing Association as a trainer during the 1960s.

He had no rowing experience and so would not be appointed as a coach by the association, so he responded to an advert for an unpaid coach at Thames Tradesmen’s Rowing Club in Chiswick, west London

It was during his time as coach that he assembled a four who became one of the leading crews in Britain in the 1970s.

Bill Mason, Lennie Robertson, Jim Clark and Fred Smallbone joined the Great British rowing squad in the early 1970s and went on to went on to win silver medals at the 1974 World Rowing Championships and 1976 Olympics.

It was in the 1970s that Mr Railton moved to Oxfordshire and took the post of director of PE at Oxford University’s Iffley Road sports complex.

He is recalled as being very effective in the position.

Mr Railton knew all the leading players and was known as a supporter of better facilities and funding for women’s sports, not least rowing.

He was instrumental in getting a licensing deal for Oxford sport with a Japanese company which led to greatly improved income for the sports clubs and took him to Japan and China.

During the same period, Mr Railton worked for The Times as a rowing correspondent, producing a prolific amount of copy during his time at the newspaper.

He was also taken on as a television commentator on the annual boat race between Cambridge and Oxford university teams on the Thames, which he did for a few years.

In 1990 his work at The Times came to an end, but he continued with his job at Oxford University.

In 1994 he married Atinee Frikoe.

A year later he left his post at the university and moved with his wife to Thailand, her home country, where he taught English in Bangkok.

While in Thailand he developed Alzheimer’s disease and the pair returned to Wallingford in 2016.

Mr Railton, who died on August 16, is survived by Atinee and their son James.