THE man who was the voice of the Durham Regatta for more than four decades has died at the age of 79.

Members of the rowing community in Durham have been paying tribute to Keith Yates, who has been involved in annual event every year since 1953.

Originally from Langley Moor, near Durham, he spent much of his life in the Midlands but returned to the city every summer for the annual rowing competition.

He had been the chief commentator for the event since 1976, covering his final event last year.


Keith Yates, pictured at Durham Regatta in 2013, when he was honoured for his 60 years' service to the event

Mr Yates first became involved in rowing while he was a pupil at Durham Johnston Grammar School, becoming a cox in 1951.

He went on to cox for Durham Constabulary and the Durham County Eight and joined Durham Amateur Rowing Club (ARC) in 1956.

He first competed in Durham Regatta, in the Mayors Plate, in 1957 before becoming cox for the first crew.

Durham ARC chairman Barry Hudson said: “Older members remember Keith as the cox of the all-conquering Durham ARC senior coxed four of the late 1950s and early 1960s which regularly won the Grand Challenge Cup and other senior trophies.

“The crew included Bill Parker and Ian Shepherd who are still active members at Durham ARC.”

The crew won the Grand Challenge Cup five times in succession between 1958 and 1962, also winning the Wharton Challenge Cup four times during the same period, and attended GB Trials at Henley in 1959.


Keith Yates had been involved in every Durham Regatta since 1953

In 1962 Keith moved from Durham to Nottingham to set up a printing company, and lived for many years in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire.

He was an honorary vice president of the regatta, and participated in every regatta since 1953, as a cox, volunteer marshal, and commentator.

In 2013 he was honoured for his 60 years of service to the event.

Anne Yates, his widow, said: “Keith’s beloved Durham Regatta will continue, but without his lovely voice and the information that he so loved to share with members of the public.”

He died suddenly on January 1 and his funeral will take place at 11.30am on Wednesday, January 16, at Sage Cross Church, Melton Mowbray.