Our story about rugby and cricket writer Ron Grimshaw reminded readers of other sports reporters who have written for the Oxford Mail.

Regular Memory Lane contributor David Brown, of Jordan Hill, Oxford, recalled Linda Spurr, one of only a handful of women who have graced the Oxford Mail sports desk.

He writes: “I took a photograph of her in about 1973 when she was reporting on an Oxford City game from the humble press box at the now defunct White House ground off Abingdon Road.

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Oxford Mail: “She now teaches people how to write fiction and has written a book herself called A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction.”

Many readers remembered John Parsons, who went on to become one of the world’s leading tennis correspondents.

His career in journalism began at the age of 14 while he was still a pupil at Magdalen College School.

He persuaded the Mail sports editor to take him on as a Saturday afternoon football reporter.

Leaving school, it was only natural that he should join the paper as a cub reporter.

He enjoyed the classic local newspaper training, covering parish council meetings, golden wedding anniversaries, Women’s Institute meetings and court cases.

It wasn’t long before he switched to sport full-time, succeeding Syd Cox as Oxford United reporter after the club had been elected to the Football League in 1960.

His reporting skills became widely known and it wasn’t long before he was approached by the Daily Mail, which appointed him its West Country sports correspondent based in Bristol.

In January 1981, he was appointed tennis correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, where he stayed for the rest of his life.

John had been born with only one functioning kidney, a disability which initially didn’t inconvenience him.

But in 1975, while covering a tennis tournament in Nigeria, he was caught in the middle of a military coup. A soldier clouted him with a rifle butt, damaging his good kidney.

For several years, he made regular trips to the Churchill Hospital at Headington to be attached to a kidney machine.

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Special arrangements were made during the Wimbledon fortnight.

He would report matches during the day, then dash back to be attached to the kidney machine overnight.

Eventually, he had a kidney transplant operation. That served him well for more than 20 years, double the time a new kidney was usually effective.

However, in 2004, he was taken ill while covering a tournament in Miami and died. Tributes were paid to him by tennis enthusiasts from all over the world.

Other readers remembered Syd Cox, who spent his working life in Oxford, Peter Sturges, who covered Oxford City and speedway, Reg Smith, the horse-racing specialist, Arthur Roche, the sports editor, John O’Callaghan, a later Oxford United reporter, and John Gaisford, who covered speedway and greyhounds.

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About the author 

Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

He joined the team more than 20 years ago and he covers community news across Oxfordshire.

His Trade and Tourism newsletter is released every Saturday morning. 

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