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Vale Bill Whittaker - 1930-2009

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  Story By Racing Editor Chris Scholtz  

Saturday, 9 May 2009: Legendary Australian racing writer Bill Whittaker has died after a short battle with cancer. Whittaker was 79 and died peacefully at home.

Bill Whittaker
Bill Whittaker
Photo by Racing and Sports

A highly distinguished identity in the Australian racing industry, Whittaker hailed from north Queensland and moved to Sydney with his family in 1942 at the age of 12 where he attended Maroubra High School.

He left school at 15 to work as a clerk for the SHipping and Navigation Department but his early love of racing saw him land a job reporting for the weekly racing publication The Newsletter.

He worked for the Trotting Recorder and harness writer for the Daily Telegraph before moving to the Sydney Morning Herald in 1959 where his career spanned more than 40 years until his retirement as racing editor.

Whittaker's received many awards during his career including the Order of Australia Medal for his work as a racing journalist.

He was also the recipient of the Australian Sportswriter of the Year in 1984 was chosen as Racing Writer of the Year in 1987.

He was a fountain of advice and guidance to younger journalists - yours included, even though I worked in the opposition camp at the Daily Telegraph through the 1970s and 80s.

His love and great knowledge of racing history was recognised in 2001 when he was invited to be an inaugural member of the selection panel for the Australian Racing Hall Of Fame.

He was recognised by the Hall Of Fame in 2007 with the presentation of a special "Chairman's Medal" and Harness Racing NSW also named him a "Living Legend".

He rarely missed a Sydney race meeting and his counsel was always sought by a wide range of racing figures, including trainers and racing administrators.

He was a keen and astute punter and was renowned from landing many well planned betting coups on the many pacers and trotters he raced over the years with friends including his close mates Ray Alexander, John Newnham and John Tapp.

Whittaker is survived by his wife Alice, children David, Mark and Maree and eight grandchildren.

Funeral details to be finalised.

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