John Norman: Producer who filmed Sobers' sixes

The cricketing world owes a huge debt to John Norman for his dedication to duty 40 years ago. For, despite having been told by the producers of Grandstand to shut down the cameras at the Glamorgan v Nottinghamshire county championship cricket match at St Helen's, Swansea on 31 August 1968, he kept them rolling.

Rather than take the easy option of having a cup of tea, Norman and one of his cameramen, John Lewis, decided to focus on the great West Indies all-rounder Garry Sobers, at the crease for Notts.

The game appeared to be going nowhere that Saturday afternoon until Sobers decided to make his mark in history. Five minutes of mayhem ensued and arguably cricket's most viewed and highly prized piece of film was captured.

Having broadcast some of the game to BBC Wales viewers earlier in the day, one of the production team from the BBC's flagship sports programme, Grandstand, had rung Norman at 4.45pm to say the camera and commentary crew could "stand down".

"We were told to go home by Grandstand, but John Lewis, the cameraman and a keen cricketer, asked if we could keep the camera running because he wanted to take a look at Sobers through a fixed lens," Norman recalled. "I rang Derek Griffin, the recording engineer in Cardiff, and told him to switch the tape on, just in case. It was all really a chapter of accidents."

The rest, as they say, is history. Malcolm Nash got thrashed all over Swansea as Sobers became the first man in cricketing history to hit six sixes in an over. The final shot went out of the ground and it didn't take long for the news to travel. "Fifteen minutes after it was all over, the Grandstand producer who had told us to stand down rang back and begged me not to spill the beans," Norman said.

The film that Norman and Lewis had shot, voiced by the commentator Wilf Wooller, made the national news and by the next day had been sold to 15 countries around the world. The bat that Sobers used that day was sold at auction in Australia for £54,257 in 2000, the ball that flew out of the ground for his sixth six raised £26,400 at Christie's in London two years ago and the current going rate to use the five-minute film at the BBC Wales archive is £18,000.

Born in Cardiff in 1928, Norman was a real-life "Sporting Sam" who became a Nigerian rugby international in the late Fifties when sent by the BBC to work as Head of Nigerian Broadcasting. He had joined the BBC in Cardiff as an engineer shortly after leaving the RAF in 1955. He had an electrical qualification and went through every engineering department learning every facet of broadcasting.

But sport was his great passion and he spent time in London working on Match of the Day and Grandstand, alongside the great commentators, David Coleman, Kenneth Wolstenholme and Harry Carpenter. He eventually returned to become an assistant producer within the newly created Sport Wales department in Cardiff and was responsible for bringing many sports to air, including baseball and bowls.

A dedicated follower of the fortunes of Old Illtydians RFC in Cardiff, he retired from the BBC in the late Eighties but was always in demand for freelance work.

Rob Cole

John Norman, television producer: born Cardiff 26 December 1928; married; died Groes-faen, Rhondda Cynon Taff 29 July 2008.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Recruitment Genius: PA

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A PA is required to join a leading provider of...

Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - Franchised Main Dealer

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness