Obituary: Harry Middleton - Obituaries - News - The Independent

Obituary: Harry Middleton

Henry Lambert Middleton, television producer and executive: born London 26 August 1923; recorded programmes assistant, BBC 1943-45, radio announcer 1945-49, presentation assistant 1949-54, Assistant Head of Outside Broadcasts (Sound) 1954-59, Assistant Head and Head of Event Programmes, Television Outside Broadcasts 1959-62, Chief Assistant to the General Manager, Television Outside Broadcasts 1962-72, Head of Television Liaison 1972-78; married 1964 Jennifer Berry (nee Fearnley-Whittingstall; one daughter and one (adopted) stepdaughter; marriage dissolved 1976); died Hungerford, Wiltshire 17 January 1998.

Harry Middleton was Peter Dimmock's troubleshooter and aide-de-camp in BBC TV Outside Broadcasts, and later an excellent ambassador for the BBC as Head of Television Liaison. He was a heavy smoker and suffered for many years from lung cancer. Last August, although he was very ill, he managed, by great force of will, to lead his daughter Laura down the aisle at her wedding near Belsay Castle, his family's Northumberland home since 1260, and to make a moving speech about what Belsay meant to the Middletons.

Middleton's broadcasting speciality was the coverage of horse racing. He was seldom without a racehorse of his own or as part of a syndicate. He was still in his twenties when his horse Porcupine won at Alexandra Park. He did a number of paddock commentaries for television at Ascot and Kempton Park in 1952 and 1953, and he made his first racing commentary for radio in May 1953: the City of Birmingham Cup.

In 1943 Middleton, who had been at Eton and New College, Oxford, was hoping to join the Coldstream Guards. While getting over an illness he took a job at the BBC as a stop-gap. But he was finally rejected by the medical board and settled down to two years as a recorded programmes assistant.

On one occasion his coolness was severely tested. One of Churchill's great war speeches, recorded on film, was being transmitted to the world. Middleton had to "shadow" the speech on disc recordings in case the film broke down. He kept his recording three words behind Churchill's voice on the film so that, in an emergency, the discs could be substituted for the film track with no audible break in the speech.

It was a rush job and Middleton had not had any time to rehearse the discs. All went well until he suddenly realised the two recordings did not tally. At that moment an engineer burst in. "The film is about to break. You take over." Frantically Middleton dropped the needle here and there on the disc, searching for the right line. Would Churchill be forced off the air? At last Middleton found it. Thirty seconds later the film broke. No listener noticed.

Middleton was a dark-haired, handsome man. He had a good speaking voice, and was soon tried out as an announcer. In 1947, when he was only 24, he became the BBC's youngest senior announcer. He then worked as John Snagge's deputy in Presentation and in 1951 he was the youngest man ever to read the general election results. Because of his interest in racing he was promoted to become the Assistant Head of Radio Outside Broadcasts under Charles Max Muller, before transferring, in 1959, to the equivalent post in television.

Middleton acted as the general deputy to Peter Dimmock, then in charge of television outside broadcasts. The two became close friends, and Dimmock was one of the last to visit Middleton in the Hungerford nursing home where he died. Middleton was particularly useful to Dimmock in dealings with the Royal Family - he shared a house with a senior member of the Buckingham Palace staff - and in supervising the coverage of events, as distinct from the other major areas of Outside Broadcasts, sport, science and features.

In 1972 Middleton was promoted to become Head of Television Liaison, where he spent the last six years of his BBC career. He was responsible for looking after the many visitors from all over the world who were anxious to see how Television Centre worked. His presence, charm and easy manner made countless friends for him and for the BBC. He retired at the end of 1978 to a new home in Berkshire, near to the race courses at Newbury, Ascot and Salisbury where he could pursue his major interest.

John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week