"Earth’s distant orb appeared the smallest light that twinkles in the heaven; whilst round the chariot’s way innumerable systems rolled and countless spheres diffused an ever-varying glory. It was a sight of wonder: some were hornèd like the crescent moon; some shed a mild and silver beam like Hesperus o'er the western sea; some dashed athwart with trains of flame, like worlds to death and ruin driven; some shone like suns, and as the chariot passed, eclipsed all other light." From "Queen Mab" by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1813)

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Harry Carpenter

I was sorry to hear about the death of sports commentator Harry Carpenter a few days ago. He was one of those ever present “people on telly” while I was growing up, like Frank Bough, Roy Castle and Morecambe and Wise. I used to watch a lot of boxing when I was a kid, it was just one of those things we did as a family. There were numerous big TV events we would all sit and watch together, cup finals, the Grand National, Miss World competitions, Eurovision, the Royal Command Variety Performance, it was just what you did back then, before many of us became aware of the wider social and political issues associated with some of those events, and before we realised that some of those shows just weren’t very good; and in my case when I got older I realised I just didn’t like sport. We watched because of a combination of innocence, ignorance, and national pride but mostly because we enjoyed doing it. I have so many fantastic memories of my family from when I was young and getting excited about Roy Castle being introduced to the Queen after the Royal Variety Show is just one of them.
However, there was an added thrill from watching boxing for us as my dad had been a boxer before my brother and I were born; I think he had his last fight the year he married mum, which was 1963. So when we watched the boxing, not only did we have an on hand expert to explain the finer points of the match but an extra tinge of family pride by association. I remember being allowed to stay up late to watch one of Muhammad Ali's fights. Actually, now I think about it, it wasn’t that we were allowed so much as it was expected that we would stay up and watch the fight. It was important, like attending a family wedding or sitting at the table for dinner, doing anything else was simply unthinkable.
My dad always liked Harry Carpenter’s commentaries on the BBC. There was another regular fight commentator over on ITV but my dad didn’t like the way he did it, so we were fans of Harry. And he was good, he knew what he was talking about, described exactly what was going on and did it all in this wonderfully enthusiastic, avuncular style and not just boxing but loads of other sporting events too. So as soon as I heard on the news on 6 Music I rang my dad. It was one of those pieces of information that you feel a need to share with someone and the only one I could share this news with was dad.

He’d already heard. Yes it was sad but he was 84, that’s a pretty good age to get to. Yes, he had commentated at some of my dad’s fights, one time saying something like my dad was “the apple of his trainer’s eye”. It turns out my dad had met Harry Carpenter on a number of occasions including once when he came into a souvenir shop in Sweden while my dad was there with another fighter by the name of Dick Richardson who was in the same “stable” as my dad, that is they shared trainers, managers, facilities etc.
I don’t really know where I stand on boxing these days. On the one hand I consider it dangerous and barbaric but on the other I am immensely proud of my dad and his achievements in the sport. He was in the top five featherweights in the UK at one time and by the huge number of cups and trophies we used to have at home (loads more than in the photo above) he was really good at it. I consider Muhammad Ali to be a genuine hero, someone who had style and charm as well as being exactly what he said he was, the greatest. My dad was also the greatest (there can be more than one “greatest” because of the different weights). I know my dad must be disappointed that neither I nor my brother took up sports but then I’m disappointed he left all his trophies behind during a house move. What you gonna do?

So I was sorry to hear that Harry Carpenter had died. He seemed to be around a lot when I was a kid, back in the day, when we used to sit together as a family and enjoy watching boxing on the telly, feeling family pride that my dad was accomplished in the noble art, “know what I mean, 'Arry”.


  1. I had no idea your dad was a boxer. We didn't watch boxing in our house (it would have taken valuable cricket and football watching time) but his voice is still very familiar from that time.

  2. Lovely article Gary....and I do know exactly what you mean.( 'Arry ).

    Shame about the trophies being left behind in a house move - didn't know about that!

  3. Although he must have been disappointed by the lack of our sporting success I think he is more disappointed by the lack of our ability at DIY

    Nicely written though. I might copy and paste it as it could have been written by me, apart from you spilt urs write

  4. I used to think that Gary was the "funny" one out of you two,( as in funny ha ha, not funny peculiar.....don't know what that made you Neil...well, it was a LONG time ago ) but it is becoming more and more apparent that together you make a right pair of comedians. Good stuff. x x