Leslie Welch was known as ‘The Memory Man’.
He was the star of eight Royal Command performances, 4,000 radio appearances, 500
television shows and 12 films for Twentieth Century Fox. Yet, one day in 1963, he
suddenly stepped out of the limelight and into obscurity.
Millions tuned in their radios during the 1950's to listen to the warm Cockney tones
of the Memory Man, as he correctly answered every question put to him on any one
of 37 sports.
Asked who won the Derby in 1900 he would stand in thought for a few moments as if
scanning the pages of the morning paper, and then answer, ‘Golden Jubilee ridden
by Herbert Jones’, and then the weight, and the owner - and then the names of all
the other runners and riders as a bonus.
Leslie Welch was born in 1907 in Edmonton, North London, where he went to school
at Latimers. Although he excelled at exams, his first love was always sport. While
his classmates were huddled over a copy of Comic Cuts, Leslie was engrossed in Ruffs
Guide to the Turf, or Wisden (the cricketers bible).
As some of us learn poetry, or lines for the local amateur dramatic society, Leslie
Welch learned FA Cup winners, Derby winners and snooker champions, scores, results,
names, colours. He loved sport and he learned it all off by heart.
After gaining honours in history at school he worked in the accounts department of
the Royal Ordnance in Enfield. And there he might have remained, as an anonymous
accounts clerk, but for the interruption of the war.
His talent for memorising and then being able to recall accurately the smallest of
sporting detail, was discovered almost by accident while he was serving with the
8th Army in the Western Desert. He overheard two officers arguing over the result
of a football match; Leslie was not only able to settle the dispute but name the
two teams as well.
As news of his ability spread it was only a short time before he was transferred
to ENSA where he was able to put his civilian training in accountancy to good use
by doing the performer’s books by day and entertaining the troops on stage by night.
Knowledge of his amazing memory came to the attention of everyone from Monty downwards.