Ian Botham, cricket legend, member of the House of Lords, dad and grandad, 67, chats to us about sport & more.
Q. Hello there – should I call you Lord Botham? Ian…?
“You’re quite welcome to call me Ian, Beefy, whatever you want. The world calls me Beefy.”
Q. Who was your sporting hero growing up?
“Jack Nicklaus. I love golf, I love fishing – those are my main pastimes. I was lucky enough to meet Jack on more than one occasion and I caddied a round of golf where they opened a new golf course that Jackie had signed on the Welsh borders, and I caddied with Ian Woosnam and spent a lot of the evening in the locker room with the great man. I’ve always been a great fan of what he did for golf – he took it to a new level. He’s still right up there, and no one’s caught him yet. Perfect gentlemen, lovely man.”
Q. Did you enjoy school?
“School was a great vehicle to play sport. That’s pretty much all I did. From a very young age sport was ingrained, football as well. I got my obligatory exams at the end – you’d have to be a pretty big numpty not to get some of those right. But sport was the driving force all along. Mr Hibbert at Milford Junior School in Yeovil – that’s where my prowess in sport came to the front. Played football professionally, cricket, obviously, AFL in Australia, I love it. I spent about four to five months of the year in Australia – it’s part of life in Australia. I love rugby union, rugby league… there’s pretty much no sport I don’t like. Not quite sure about equestrian but we’ll move on, horses are a debate.
Q. Can you tells us a bit about your Sliding Doors moment in 1977 and how it led to your involvement with Bloodwise?
“I broke a bone in my foot playing against the Australians at Headingley in ’77. I went to see the club doctor who took me to the physio department through the children’s ward. I remember seeing children who were ill, whether tubes sticking out of them or legs raised in plaster. There were four lads round a table playing Monopoly and I asked the doc are these guys visitors? He said no they’re seriously ill; they’ve got leukaemia. I said what’s that?! I didn’t have a clue in 1977. And he said it’s cancer of the blood and there’s every chance these four won’t be around by the time you’ve finished your eight weeks of treatment for a broken bone. That’s how it started,; it grew into a family charity, my wife Kath & daughter Sarah kept it going.
We raised millions upon millions. We’re always doing golf days and whatever. I’ve heard numbers from 30 to 100 million. What drove us what when we first did the walk in 1985/6 there was a 20% chance of survival for children with the most common form of leukaemia. Before Covid it was announced that figure was 95%. So in a short period of time we’ve gone from 20 to 95 which is a miracle in many ways, and we built this lab outside Glasgow that’s expanded, and they’re the ones who should have the pats on the back because they work in the labs and come up with the remedies. At the end of the day I’ve paid for it – I had to have my spine redone, I had both of my hips removed and fully replaced, and seven months ago I had an open knee replacement… Bionic!”