Editor of Wisden, 1951-1980

Norman Preston, MBE

Born March 18, 1903,

died March 6, 1980

The following tribute was paid by Denis Compton to Norman Preston at Norman's Memorial Service held at St Bride's, Fleet Street, on April 10, 1980.

Throughout my cricketing career I regarded Norman Preston as one of my best friends. His jovial face, lively sense of humour and infectious laugh endeared him to all cricketers. How true it was when he was affectionately described by John Woodcock of The Times as the Mr Pickwick of cricket.

Norman was always a great family man and very proud of his wife Molly and three children, Brian, David and Helen.

Many here today will, like me, have their own personal memories of Norman but there will be some we all share because Norman Preston was not one to present different faces to different people. Rather, he could be described as a definite man: definite in appearance, definite in his opinions, and definite in his likes and dislikes. To those of us who were privileged to know him well he was also a man of great humanity and pride in the best sense of that word.

That pride showed itself in his pleasure at being honoured by the award of the MBE in the Queen's Jubilee Honours List in 1977 - an award he regarded as belonging as much to his beloved Almanack as to himself. Pride, too, in his profession, which he showed on receiving his MBE from the Queen when, on being asked what he did, replied: I am a sporting reporter, Your Majesty. Sporting reporter he certainly was, with a career spanning 47 years which began when he joined the old Pardon's Cricket Reporting Agency in 1933 and took in three overseas tours as Reuters' correspondent.

The 28 editions of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack published under his editorship are also testimony to the truth of that statement. They cover a period which saw more changes and innovations than any other in the history of the game. Norman saw to it that Wisden faithfully recorded events as they occurred and never forebore to comment forthrightly whenever he thought such comment was called for.

Although cricket was perhaps his first love, this beautiful church reminds us of one of his other great joys - the sound of good choral singing. Norman always maintained that the greatest thrill he experienced on his overseas tours was not a cricketing moment but singing in the Sydney Cathedral choir one Sunday morning. I am sure many of his journalist friends will also recall that he always enjoyed a sing-song, and enlivened many a convivial evening with a rendering of the Fishermen of England in his rich bass-baritone voice.

Hubert and Norman Preston - between them 86 years of compiling and then editing Wisden Cricketers' Almanack.

Norman Preston is rightly assured of a place in cricket history, not because of prowess on the field of play, nor indeed because of the power of his pen, but because for 28 years he ensured that every detail of cricket was duly compiled, collated and published without fear or favour. He would not, I feel sure, have wanted it any other way.

A tribute by Harold Abel, who for many years was the late editor's closest adviser and assistant in the production of Wisden.

To have lived 35 years knowing Norman Preston, first as my employer, then as a close colleague, and finally, I like to think, as a trusted friend, means that his passing leaves a deep chasm. Here was a man who within half an hour could chastise you, console you and take you for a drink. To be able to forgive is one of life's great virtues - and Norman could do that. To bear a grudge was not for him. He was an extrovert, ever ready to enter a conversation, invited or uninvited. Nobody needed to be lonely in his presence, and no-one was for long.

Norman's voice was heard more than once from the choir stalls of St. Paul's Cathedral. He sang better than he played sport, though in his 76 years he entered wholeheartedly into many pastimes. Towards the end of his days he bore a strong facial resemblance to his father, Hubert, known, likewise with affection, as Deafy. Both spent most of their working days in Fleet Street as partners in the Cricket Reporting Agency (C. F. Pardon), from whence, until it was merged in 1965 with the Press Association, came the majority of Wisden's editors.

Hubert was in the editorial chair from 1944 until 1951, and Norman from 1952 (when Wisden cost twelve shillings and sixpence) until his death. The book was never far from the minds of either of them. Norman also found time to make three MCC tours as Reuters' correspondent. Wisden's other editors have been W. H. Knight (1864-1879), G. H. West (1880-1886), Charles F. Pardon (1887-1890), Sydney H. Pardon (1891-1925), C. Stewart Caine (1926-1933), Sydney J. Southerton (1934-1935), Wilfred H. Brookes (1936-1939) and Haddon Whitaker (1940-1943).

© John Wisden & Co
 
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