Harry Carpenter 

22 March 2010 tbs.pm/1172

The news of the death of BBC commentating stalwart Harry Carpenter brought back a happy memory of meeting this delightful man at the Open Golf Championship when it came to the Royal Liverpool Golf Club at Hoylake in the Wirral in the late sixties.

Transdiffusion of the time was up and running, and three of the original Transdiffusion volunteers visited the course, hopefully to spot some Outside Broadcast (OB) vans in their various company liveries. Both the BBC and ITV were present at big events in those days, though there was more cooperation behind the scenes about shared facilities that was ever admitted on screen. Gaining access to the course involved sneaking in through a back gate (no security cordon in those terrorist-free days) and pretending to be there legitimately. After some sloping around with our little Kodak Brownie 127 cameras, we came across a fleet of BBC vans in their customary dark green and golden lettering, with a Corporation coat of arms on the side.

While gaping in awe at this representation of the broadcasting industry ‘in the flesh’ (a change from covering it vicariously from the living room), who should step out of one van, and startle us to the core, but Harry Carpenter – one of the two regular presenters of Grandstand (for which he was better known then). He treated us with immediate kindness and a relaxed lack of suspicion. We were all in best school uniform, even though it was a Saturday, as we had thought it would stand us in better stead for getting in to the course uninvited. We were more embarrassed than we need have been and in one of those ‘regretted for life’ moments, inexplicably declined his offer of a look inside the OB van. Children can turn away from the greatest moments of serendipity, under the force of shyness and embarrassment alone – and this was a classic case. We were only 14 or so and didn’t want to cause him any trouble. I expect we were nervous of the (almost non-existent) consequences of our imagined deceit in entering the course by the back gate.

Nonetheless, it was a great moment and we had shaken hands with a broadcasting figure who was already becoming a legend of television sports coverage.

I wonder what the inside of the van would have been like? The cameras were enormous and those raised up on cranes nearby were impressive. Commentary boxes on high scaffolding were dotted around the course and there were almost as many OB staff as there were golf spectators. We had spotted what we came to see and we crept away, excited and satisfied to report back to the original Transdiffusion gang.

Harry Carpenter, born 17 October 1925, died London 20 March 2010

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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2 responses to this article

Alfie Brown 4 April 2010 at 6:35 pm

did you record harry carpentr or did TBS radio have a portable recorder?

Kif Bowden-Smith 4 April 2010 at 7:04 pm

I wish we could have. At the time though additional portable open-reel tape recorders like the classic ‘Uher’ were too expensive for our school based budget and all the Transdiffusion output was recorded on large reel to reel tape machines, mass copied and posted to subscribers. It was before audio cassette recorders were commonly available and our budget ran only to cheap stills cameras for any outside broadcast type project that we might mount!

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