Harry Carpenter OBE (1926-2010)
Neil Allen writes
My Dulwich neighbour, friend and fellow ringside boxing reporter for many years, Harry would have been amazed, even embarrassed by the warmth of the tributes he received in the press, and on radio and television, when he left us, this March, aged 84.
A master of microphone commentary, especially at amateur boxing where he was informed by his extraordinary card index system of fighters’ records, Harry was a private, often shy man, most relaxed at home, with a few press colleagues or a handful of companions in a semi private bar of his beloved Dulwich & Sydenham Golf Club.
I learned of his beginnings at first hand while we shared the challenge of our first two summer Olympics – Melbourne in 1956 and, four years later in Rome, where we agreed: “This 18 year old American light-heavyweight Cassius Clay, seems a bit of a character….”
Harry recalled that the first time he ever attended boxing was as a youngster at the old Crystal Palace in the Thirties just before it was burned down. His father, also called Harry, was vice-president of a South London amateur boxing club and also a follower of “the dogs”, so Harry junior, who left Selhurst Grammar School at 15, had his very first job with the Greyhound Express, ironically when no racing was taking place because of the war. In 1941 he joined the Royal Navy and served as a telegrapher in destroyers for the rest of the hostilities.
He began writing about boxing for the weekly Sporting Record in 1950 but his first television commentary was from an amateur boxing show at the Rotax factory canteen in Willesden – a far cry, we agreed, from the world famous venues like New York’s Madison Square Garden where we remembered Joe Frazier beating Muhammad Ali (aka Clay) while Frank Sinatra was standing in front of the writers as an accredited photographer.
Outstanding at presenting both Wimbledon and major golf, Harry was earlier a staff writer for the Daily Mail from 1954 until 1962 when he joined the BBC full time. The greatest event we ever reported together, we agreed, was the Rumble in the Jungle when Ali dramatically defeated George Foreman for the world heavyweight title in the exotic setting of Kinshasa, Zaire in 1974.
Harry, who was inducted into the Royal Television Society’s Hall of Fame in 2000, was also a devoted family man, survived by his wife Phyllis and his son Clive, once an outstanding golfer at Dulwich College, who now runs his own web site business in France.
Neil Allen has reported on international sport for The Times, The London Evening Standard, The New York Times and L’Equipe of Paris.