Bill Whittaker was one of racing’s most influential journalists for more than 40 years. His knowledge of thoroughbred racing and the excellence of his writing earned him the admiration and respect of his peers and the public alike. He was equally at home in writing about harness racing, which was his other sporting passion.
Bill Whittaker’s early years were spent in a small town on the Atherton Tablelands. His enthusiasm for racing was kindled by his father who took him to the track from the age of four. The Referee and The Sporting Globe were his favourite reading, and by the time he moved to Sydney as a teenager in the early 1940s he was a devotee of the sport. In Sydney he combined racegoing with his studies, in which he proved to be a star pupil in English.
His early years in sporting journalism were with the The Newsletter, Turf Monthly and The Trotting Recorder. In 1954 he gained a position at The Daily Telegraph where, in his own words, working for Sir Frank Packer and was “a never-to-be-forgotten experience”.
In 1959 he moved to The Sydney Morning Herald, writing on both thoroughbred and harness racing. He remained there until his retirement in 1988, although he continued to write columns and feature stories for the paper until 2004. Apart from his journalistic work, Bill Whittaker was a respected racing historian and a greatly valued member of the selection panel of the Australian Racing Hall of Fame.
Bill Whittaker’s immense contribution to the racing industry was recognised when he was named Australian Sportswriter of the Year in 1984 and Australian Racing Writer of the Year in 1987. In 2008 he received the Order of Australia Medal for his work as a racing journalist.