This stemmed from a conversation with Toby Hadoke last May, over BAFTA/Oscar tributes and their ability to omit people. And then from many, many conversations with poor old Jon Arnold following.
Arnold's belief, and one I share, is that if someone makes a mark on your life, however oblique, it is right to tip a hat of respect towards them at their death. They could have written a book you love, or been a hero of your childhood (or adulthood), or even had a passing role in an episode of a TV show you liked. Whatever they did, it is right to acknowledge their role in an aspect of your life, much as we hope others will do for us in the future when we are gone.
Having written a Memoriam now lost in time back in 2007, I had planned to write one last year. Then got ill. The plans for one this year came out of conversation again with Jon in early March. In fact, he even ordered it. He made one small ruling though: "it can't be a meaningless list of names, it has to express why these people meant something." For some people, that is fairly obvious. Dick Tufeld's legacy, for example, is fairly easily defined and adored. The bigger challenge was in expressing the adoration felt for so many unsung heroes, too many of whom we lost this year. Folk who might not get a moment in a Year End Memoriam on TV, but who deserve a moment of respect none the less. In fact, researching the finer details of folk I had as fuzzy memories led me to appreciate them all the more again.
This bloody year brought up its own issue however. In that the damned Grim Reaper appears to be operating his own "buy one get four free" policy. I can scarcely recall a time before when I was able to log onto the laptop and see four separate new obituaries in the news for four different people I'd known of. I guess as you get older, your spheres of knowledge widen, and so by degrees do the vast number of people involved. Take Doctor Who for example. The average fan has an interest in a show going back fifty years, and knows of many of the main stars, production teams, assistants, writers, associates and guest casts of the show. Thats a list of over two thousand names from the off, and I've never met anybody whose sole interest in life is merely one TV show.
This is, however, the reason Part 1 of a Year End In Memoriam shows up in October. In this one, we get to the end of April, and that takes us to the extreme of a blog post length. I write in full knowledge that the project is not nearly finished, and that the cruel months of November and December are bound to, as they always do, bring the horrible news of brilliant lovely people no longer with us.
It has been a personal year too. In January, we lost Mandy's granma, a lady of considerable intellect and power. An activist for the vulnerable against vested interests like too many others we lost this year, and a sweet, kindly lady we lost too young. Too young too was the irreplaceable John Braithwaite, seemingly fine at Christmas, buried in early February, from that scourge of all the finest, cancer. In September, we buried our pet, Sally, and it will come as no surprise to all who know of my fierce animal activism that I count her as dearly departed as I do many humans. Finally, in June, my grans sister, the indomitable immovable force, Margaret Gallagher, passed away. I remember her chiefly as the Great Teddy Thief of 1996, but also as possessing of the steadiness of the Rock of Gibraltar, like all of the Cameron women.
It feels strange not to have them about the place, and I know that never goes away, much like there's still a double grandfather shaped hole in my life years on. And I'm not alone either, both the Cewshs lost family this year, as did my SNP acquaintance Christina McKelvie.
So on top of the personal tragedies, here is a small (small not being the operative word here) tribute to lives that moved: writers, musicians, politicians, historical figures, war heroes, actors, geniuses, activists, footballers. Some may be acknowledged for their place in history, others for their effect on me. All people made equal by that final exit.
It isn't a complete list. You wont find the Deaths of Everyone in 2012 here - go to Wikipedia for that. I can't pretend to know everything: indeed, I notice many an American football obit, but being blind to the sport, I would have no knowledge of their existence within the sport. Conversely, due to my political history and cult TV geekdoms, folk of those aspects may well show up more than normal.
There was also some judicious editing. I wondered wither to include John Demjanjuk, whose case I had followed with much cynicism for many years. In the end, I decided against. I will do the same for Erich Priebke if he passes before the 31st December. My interest has always been primarily in brilliant people, or, at the very least, people I can understand the motivations of. Folk involved in crimes such as these, I find little brilliance in.
For Death is merely a point. All of the people, in their own way, were awe inspiring. So enough of me. Lets pay tribute to the first of these sadly departed.
(My sources are numerous: the Guardian, Telegraph, BBC, Independent, Daily Mail, New York Times, Huffington Post, Le Monde, specialist websites to name but a few. All newspaper quotes cited back to their publication)
1st January – Gary Ablett, 46
English footballer, who spent many years with Liverpool, and, as left back, appeared in both the 1988 and 1989 FA Cup finals. Moved to Everton in 1992 by Graeme Souness, Ablett went onto become the only footballer in history to win the FA Cup with both Merseyside rivals. Took up coaching after retirement from playing, and became Reserve coach at Liverpool under Rafa Benitez in 2006. Held management of Stockport County during 2009-2010 in a tumultuous season for the club on and off the pitch. Took ill and diagnosed with cancer shortly after joining Ipswich Towns playing staff, and died at a stupidly young age.
1st January – Bob Anderson, 89
Served his country in the Marines during World War 2. Represented his country at the 1952 Olympics in fencing. Became a noted film stunt man for battle scenes, best known for the Darth Vader fight scenes in the original Star Wars trilogy.
"He was truly one of our greatest fencing masters and a world-class film fight director and choreographer and both the fencing community and film world will miss him."
Fencing Academy President Philip Bruce.
2nd January – Gordon Hirabayashi, 93
Important civil rights activist. A man who took on the US government. Interned along with all the other Japanese-Americans once the US entered World War 2, Hirabayashi took his case as a human rights decision all the way to the Supreme Court... which ruled against him, but in doing so managed to prevent the same thing happening again. Lived to see his conviction overturned in 1987. After the war, went to college and became a notable sociologist.
“"I consider it my duty to maintain the democratic standards for which this nation lives. Therefore, I must refuse this order of evacuation."”
3rd January – Charles W Bailey, 81
American writer who penned the ground breaking Seven Days in May in 1962.
3rd January – Jenny Tomasin, 75
Actress best known for her role in Upstairs Downstairs, and a memorable guest spot on Doctor Who. Also had roles in Emmerdale.
3rd January – Bob Weston, 64
Guitarist. Replaced Danny Kirwan in Fleetwood Mac. A talented place in the band was undone by controversy and turmoil, and he left in 1974. Produced solo albums thereafter. Died of a haemorrhage.
4th January – Harry Fowler, 85
“Never turn anything down, Harry. Stars come and go, but as a character actor, you’ll work until you’re 90.”
And so he nearly did. Appeared in Went the Day Well?, Hue and Cry, A Day to Remember, Lucky Jim, The Army Game (in forty-six episodes), The Longest Day, Lawrence of Arabia, Dr Finlay’s Casebook, Dixon of Dock Green, Jackanory (as a story teller), Z-Cars, Crown Court, George and Mildred, Minder, The Professionals, Dramarama, Doctor Who (as cafe owner Harry in Remembrance of the Daleks), In Sickness and in Health, The Bill, Casualty, Young Indiana Jones, the Jon Culshaw show and The Famous Five... to name but one or two of his hundreds of credits. A dependable support to all the biggest names in acting. He was made an MBE in 1970 by Harold Wilson.
5th January – Frederica Sagor Maas, 111
A child of Russian immigrants who was born in New York, Maas became a Hollywood script writer in the 1920s. Wrote The Waning Sex. Early success did not translate into further joy after being labelled a trouble maker due to being “ignorant of studio politics” (Kevin Brownlow). Hounded during the anti-Communist witch hunts of the 1940s and 50s. Her memoir, The Shocking Miss Pilgrim (1999), is a valuable insight into early Hollywood.
“I know I've been hard on the motion picture industry [in the book] ... [The] facts and the stories I tell – about the plagiarism and the way I was handled and the way other writers were handled – are true.”
6th January – Roger Boisjoly, 73
It is important we don’t turn our backs on whistleblowers, for they put their careers on the line to do what they think is the best. Sadly, for Roger Boisjoly, doing what he thought was best turned him into a pariah in his line of work. For the event he warned against was the Challenger Disaster.
Wrote a memo six months before Challenger exploded, denouncing that if the weather on launch was too cold, the rocket boosters could fail. Pleaded for the launch to be halted unsuccessfully, and was ostracised from NASA after testifying in a federal investigation.
A man who repeatedly tried to do the right thing in this life, and was made to pay for it by selfish business interests.
6th January – Bob Holness, 83
The Blockbuster host was always a family favourite. And no shrinking violet either: whilst he may not have performed the sax solo in the Gerry Rafferty classic Baker Street, as the urban legend suggested, he was one of the first men to play James Bond. He also revealed in an interview in his final years that he had survived eighty strokes in his seventies. Now, that’s hardcore.
6th January – Ellen Pence, 63
Helped found the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project in 1980. Leading activist in the fight against violence against women. Died after a battle with breast cancer.
9th January – Bill Dickie, 82
Football chairman who took over Motherwell in their darkest hour, and, not only saved them from the threat of closure, but played a part in them become the most financial stable club in Scotland.
9th January – Malam Bacai Sanha, 64
President of Guinea Bissau from 2009 till 2012. Placed in temporary charge by the military junta after the assassination of Joao Vieira, and then won the 2009 President election. Promised to fight corruption and crime, but spent most of his presidency seriously ill from diabetes.
10th January – Lila Kaye, 82
Actress. Appeared in An American Werewolf in London, Nuns on the Run, and was the fearsome headmistress in Bodger and Badger.
11th January – Frank Cook, 76
Labour MP for Stockton North 1983-2010. Labour whip under Kinnock, and leading anti-guns activist after Dunblane. Opposed his own party on ID cards. Spent his final years in an unsavoury battle with the Daily Telegraph who produced an unsavoury obituary in return. Campaigned for a change in the double jeopardy laws. Died of lung cancer.
12th January – Reginald Hill, 75
Writer of the popular Dalziel and Pascoe novels, which became a TV series of the same name.
14th January – Janey Buchan, 85
Labour MEP for Glasgow, 1979-94. Life president of Outright Scotland (now part of Stonewall).
"We were all intensely proud of her. Her interests went right across politics and the arts. She was a great anecdote-teller. You could easily think that the anecdotes she told were name-dropping, but in fact she knew all of the people that she would tell you about.
14th January – Dame Lesley Strathie, 56
Chief executive of HMRC from 2008 until she stepped down due to cancer issues in November 2011. Had previously worked as a high ranking permanent secretary in the DWP during the Blair and Brown eras.
17th January – Johnny Otis, 90
“The Godfather of Rhythm and Blues”. “As a kid I decided that if our society dictated that one had to be black or white, I would be black." (Otis) Formed his own band in 1945. Discovered Etta James. Co-wrote Hound Dog. A pioneer in his field, he later became a journalist, a farmer, and attempted to get into politics.
18th January – Sir Tom Cowie, 89
Owner and founder of T. Cowie Ltd, the precursor to Arriva. Chairman of Sunderland FC from 1980 to 1986.
20th January – Etta James, 73
Six Grammies. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Blues Hall of Fame, Grammy Hall of Fame, ranked 22nd greatest singer and 62nd greatest artist of all time by Rolling Stone magazine. The facts and accolades speak for themselves for Etta James, who lost a long battle with personal demons this year.
21st January – Jeffrey Ntuka, 26
African footballer who was a youth team player at Chelsea for several years. Murdered in South Africa.
22nd January – Dick Tufeld, 85
Voice artist best known for providing the voice of the Robot in Lost in Space. Was also the narrator in the Spiderman and Fantastic Four cartoons.
23rd January – David Atkinson, 71
Conservative MP for Bournemouth East 1977-2005. Chairman of the Young Conservatives in 1970. Voted against the smoking ban, against foundation hospitals and against the Labour anti-terror laws. His record on gay rights and climate change was mixed. Opposed his party over the hunting ban.
24th January – James Farentino, 73
Actor known for many roles.
25th January – Sir Alfred Ball, 91
a “fine leader who displayed brilliant airmanship”.
Flew a Spitfire in World War 2. Commanded several photo-reconnaissance squadrons during the War. Former Director General of the RAF, former Chief of Staff at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, UK military ambassador to the Central Treaty Organisation.
The Telegraph reports:”In October (1941) he took off for the Continent but flew into a thunderstorm. At 25,000ft the aircraft became uncontrollable and, when he attempted to bail out, the canopy jammed. Such was the turbulence that he was thrown through the canopy; recovering consciousness at 3,000ft, he opened his parachute and landed in Norfolk.”
He was back in action within a month.
26th January – Ian Abercrombie, 77
Played a boss in Seinfeld and a butler in Desperate Housewives, among many roles in a long career.
26th January – Alex Eadie, 91
Labour MP for Midlothian, 1966-1992. Before entering parliament was the Clackmanshire representative on the Scottish NUM Executive (his father was killed in a mining accident). Junior minister for Energy under Tony Benn. Promoter of green energy. Overlooked after being a candidate for head of the National Coal Board in 1983, was later to claim he could have prevented the strikes which were to follow. Activist for special needs, founded the Private Members Bill which to guarantee the right for special needs teaching for children in Scotland.
"This is very sad news. Our thoughts are with all of his family".
26th January – Colin Tarrant, 59
Actor best known for his role in The Bill.
29th January – Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, 93
President of Italy from 1992 to 1999.
30th January – Frederick Treves, 86
The great nephew of the surgeon of the same name famous for discovering the Elephant Man Joseph Merrick. Received the British Empire Medal aged 17 for his actions after the bombing of the Waimarama, in which he was one of a handful of survivors. Played supporting and guest roles in... (takes a very deep breath)... The Adventures of Sir Lancelot, Carry on Constable, The Avengers (the memorable episode The Hidden Tiger), Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), Doomwatch, The Liver Birds, Warship, The Two Ronnies, Edward the Seventh, The Naked Civil Servant, The Sweeney, Z Cars, When The Boat Comes In, All Creatures Great and Small, The Elephant Man, Play for Today, Minder, Crown Court, The Jewel in the Crown (as Col Layton), Mr Palfrey of Westminster, The Invisible Man (the creepily effective Barry Letts version), Defence of the Realm, Sleeping Murder, Yes Prime Minister, Rumpole of the Bailey, Bomber Harris, Summers Lease, Bergerac, The New Adventures of Black Beauty, Drop the Dead Donkey, Young Indiana Jones, Jeeves and Wooster, To Play the King (the sequel to House of Cards), Between the Lines, Just Williams, Casualty, Silent Witness, The Bill, Longitude, Midsomer Murders, Monarch of the Glen and Judge John Deed.
And that’s just the roles I recognise him from. Many of which bring a smile to the face. There’s about a few hundred others I’ve not seen.
Toby Hadoke mentioned how, after writing the part of Brotadac as an anagram of bad actor, Andrew McCulloch was delighted when the notable Treves was cast in the role. Bad actor, played by a great one.
1st February – Angelo Dundee, 90
A legendary boxing trainer, whose work with fifteen world champions would make him memorable, but his work with one alone made him immortal: that of Muhammad Ali. For over twenty years, Dundee was Ali’s trainer, mentor, corner man and support. Inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1994. Was seen at Ali’s 70th birthday a fortnight before his death of old age.
1st February – Wislawa Szymborska, 88
Legendary Polish poet who won the Nobel Literature prize in 1996. From someone unpublishable for not being “socialist enough” to a world famous name. Had a wonderful way with phrases. Here are a few (with the poem in brackets):
“You look like a ghost who's trying to summon up the living.” (Negative)
“Death always arrives by that very moment too late.” (On Death, without Exaggeration)
“The sorry fact is that we arrive here improvised and leave without the chance to practice.” (Nothing Twice)
“I prefer to leave early.
I prefer talking to doctors about something else.
I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations.
I prefer the absurdity of writing poems
to the absurdity of not writing poems.”
3rd February – Ben Gazzara, 81
One of mums favourite actors, who got a film break as a man accused of murdering his wife’s rapist in Anatomy of a Murder. He was rarely in film in those days, seeing stage as the finer art form. As he grew older, he developed into a character actor who turned down very little. In his 60s he was courted by every big name director. His finest role was noted, however, in his biography In the Moment: during the Soviet crackdown on Czechoslovakia, he helped a young Czech girl escape the country.
3rd February – John Christopher, 89
When I was about ten years old, my favourite book series was The Tripods. The story of how a race, who looked a bit like H.G. Well’s Martians, came to rule the Earth through manipulation and playing to both man’s greed and his prejudice, was a favourite in our household. My mum had been a big fan as a child herself, and so passed the books to me.
Perhaps going against the flow, I found the first book the best and most unnerving. The idea of these aliens arriving and winning over the children by subliminal messages in kid’s shows was an unsettling and effective way of subverting the usual alien invasion storyline.
4th February – Mike de Gruy, 60
Documentary film maker who worked on Trials of Life with David Attenborough. Acclaimed for his undersea filming. Killed in a helicopter crash.
4th February – Nigel Doughty, 54
Chairman of Nottingham Forest.
4th Feburary – Florence Green, 110
With the passing of Florence Green, a great annal in the history of humanity has been relegated to the history books. I speak of the First World War, as Green was the last surviving veteran of the war. She served in the women’s RAF in 1918.
5th February – Bill Hinzman, 75
Some actors have careers lasting decades, yet never reach recognition in the public conscience. Bill Hinzman was only in one film of real note, yet made that recognition. You may recognise him as the zombie in the cemetery in the very early scenes of Night of the Living Dead!
7th February – Florence Holway, 96
"In New Hampshire at that time, you would actually serve more time for stealing a stereo than you would for raping a woman! Can you imagine that? I could not stand for this. Something terrible had happened to me, and I wanted as many people as possible - everybody - to know about it, and to know that the men who do this are being let back on the street. My rapist will be in his thirties when he gets out, free to rape again. The idealist in me is gone forever, but he will get a second chance? What kind of people make the laws that allow this?"
"Someone told me once that change comes slowly. 'Look how much has changed for women in thirty years' they say, or 'Be patient.' Well, patience is not one of my virtues and I don't have another thirty years. So I am dedicating the rest of my time to telling the truth: Until enough men decide to make other men stop abusing women, until the laws are tougher and we take these violent criminals off the streets, the situation will go on."
Florence Holway, taken from Faces and Voices
8th February – John Fairfax, 74
British Adventurer. After a childhood part dangerous (expelled after shooting at other Boy Scouts!), part-Tarzan like, Fairfax grew up to become (after a time working as a smuggler in Panama) the first man to row across the Atlantic. For an encore, he later rowed across the Pacific too.
Fairfax was beginning to wonder why he was doing this: “Money? No, people don’t do this sort of thing for money, certainly not me.” He concluded that he was “doing what I have always loved to do, being part of and fighting against Nature”.
9th February – Adam Adamowicz, 42
Concept artist for Fallout 3 and Skyrim, who died of lung cancer aged 42.
11th February – Whitney Houston, 48
Tragic singer. Before a drug induced decline which led to a stupidly early death, Houston was one of the biggest selling singers on the planet. 170 million sales worldwide, more awards than you could put on a shelf. Films, music, TV, commercials: you name it, Houston did it. Her songs – particularly the near-permanent number one track I Will Always Love You – had entered the public osmosis.
12th February – David Kelly, 82
Always a dependable face in acting circles, it was sad to see the evergreen David Kelly depart us this year. The Dublin born actor was always worth watching be he on film, TV or the theatre. His comic timing – shown in Whoops Apocalypse and Waking Ned – was as adept as his more serious roles. Be it Krapps Last Tape or Waking Ned, you could see why the Irish Times called him the “grand old man of Irish acting.”
“I remember, six years ago, on my 70th birthday, some journalist writing: David Kelly is 70 today. But what I want to know is how come he’s been 70 for the past 40 years’. . .”And it’s perfectly true. It’s a very strange thing.” He was asked if he had ever considered retiring and replied “Oh God, no. Ah no . . . I will continue hanging on to the script until they prise it from my cold, dead hands.”
Kelly, to the Irish Times in 2005.
"He was a hilarious man. He had an outlook on life that was slightly skewed and made you laugh all the time."
“I’ve been 52 years on stage, and yet those five minutes (in Fawlty Towers) make me recognised anywhere in the world.”
In Fawlty Towers, he players the inept builder Basil brings in to renovate the hotel.
13th February – Eamon Deacy, 53
Irish footballer who was part of the Aston Villa squad which won both the English league title, and the European Cup in the early 1980s.
16th February – Dick Anthony Williams, 77
An actor very familiar with American audiences as a main stay guest actor on many TV shows, he is known to me for two roles. First as the sympathetic police officer in Edward Scissorhands. Secondly, as Fox Mulder’s doomed mentor Reggie Purdue in the early X-Files episode, Young at Heart.
17th February – Robert Carr, 95
A Tory politician who had the unique distinction of not only surviving an assassination attempt, but having the would-be assassins apologise to him after the fact. An MP for 26 years from 1950, until 1976 when he was given a life peerage. As employment secretary under Ted Heath, was responsible for introducing compensation for those unfairly dismissed from work (in the midst of a complex and at times controversial Industrial Relations Act of 1971).
He was also Home Secretary under Heath, and held his Westminster seat in the first 1974 election, despite reports of being under threat. In 1971, the Angry Brigade, an anarchist terrorist group – bombed Carrs house, destroying his kitchen. Luckily no one was in it at the time. In 2002, it was revealed that one of the men jailed for that attack, sent Carr a Christmas card apologising for his actions!
As Home Secretary, he produced a long list of liberal prison reforms, including the abolition of the bread and water diet punishment, and the abolition of the censorship of prison letters. In his earlier days, he was a long serving umpire at Wimbledon.
18th February – M.R.D. Foot, 92
Well respected historian, known for his histories of the Special Operations Executive. Such was his acclaim, he is name checked in Le Carre’s Smiley stories.
18th February – Peter Halliday, 87
Peter Halliday, support actor extraordinaire, often holds a special place in Doctor Who fans hearts, as he had roles in six stories. The favourite of mine is The Invasion, where as Packer he plays a sadistic yet rather hapless henchman, forever frustrating his boss Kevin Stoney in a truly wonderful double act. He also played blind vicars, voice over’s and sinister aliens.
In this way Doctor Who works as a microcosm of this entirely very talented actor’s career. At home in theatre, film or the small screen, he stole the frame be he a one scene extra or a main part. After a breakthrough as the star of A for Andromeda, he appeared in dozens of roles over the next fifty years. But his acting breakthrough (as opposed to his mainstream one) came early: a graduation from RADA directly after war service led him straight into the hands of the formative RSC, guided then by John Gielgud.
The strength of his variety is a key hint as to his acting longevity. Compare him in Doctor Who, to him in the 50s B-movie Fatal Journey, to him in serious political satire plays of the Thatcher era. All incredibly different performances, all the same actor. A wonderful actor for all seasons, and though he lived a long life, it is still saddening to see him pass from existence. But he did leave us a wonderful legacy.
19th February – Robin Corbett, 78
Erstwhile Labour politician. After a journalism career spanning two decades following demob, Corbett joined parliament for Hemel Hempstead in the October 74 election. He promptly lost his seat in 1979, returned to journalism, and won another seat (Birmingham Erdington) in 1983.
As an MP Robin always championed those causes close to his heart with passion and dedication - whether it be prison reform, animal welfare or safeguarding civil liberties.
"It was also thanks to Robin that the anonymity of rape victims found its way onto the statute book. Robin was a popular Chair of the Labour Peers group and I know his colleagues in the House of Lords will miss his wit, passion and good humour. Above all, he was Labour through and through, deeply rooted in values of equality and social justice. Robin was also as loyal and dedicated as they come.
Ed Miliband, Birmingham Post
The right for anonymity of rape victims came through a Bill in 1976. His passion for “open government” (which led to him naming the head of M15 publicly once) may well have inspired parts of Yes, Minister. (He championed Clement Freud’s doomed bill for more transparency in government.) He predicted the problems with the “sewer end” of the press three decades before the world was shocked at the extent of the hacking crisis.
His commitment to the cause of making the world better for the vulnerable was such that three consecutive Labour party leaders found room for his talents in that respect. Despite this, he was his own man, even willing to criticise Tony Blair’s Freedom of Information Act as “watered down”. In his retirement, he was on the boards of charities as diverse as Save the Children and the Farm Animal Welfare Co-ordinating Executive. He was never paid for any of these jobs.
“I was very supportive of his political life because I once met a rather embittered wife in the family room of the House of Commons and she said: “Keep up with what he’s doing otherwise you will be locked out of the main obsession in his life.” I know what she meant. Once I looked up to find him staring at me with a particularly loving expression. When I asked him softly what he was thinking about, he said: “The Housing Finance Act.”
Val Corbett, in tribute
“Editorial independence includes a licence to make mistakes.”
Robin Corbett on the BBC’s “failure to report positive trade figures” (Telegraph)
19th February – Renato Dulbecco, 97
I admit to an incredible fondness for all the Nobel Prize winners in their own ways, but few more than the precious few that won the Nobel Medicine Prize. This might surprise a few folk, who might suspect I preferred the Literature prize, and while that too has a special place in my heart, the Medicine recipients mean that more to me. I mean, the things they did, I can barely get my head around – physics and chemistry and kinds of sciences tend to go whoosh over my head now as much as they did when I was in school trying to learn them. But these people in their own quiet genius saved lives, sometimes even millions of lives.
With his co-awardees Howard Temin and David Baltimore, Renato Dulbecco showed how certain viruses can lead to cancerous like changes in cells. This allowed them to replicate the structure of events, and create an enzyme which reacts in that way, but in a more positive viral fighting way. (Deepest apologies for that terrible layman’s attempt at describing an incredibly complicated procedure).
The jist is, Dulbecco and company’s work helped the world understand cancer that bit better, and allowed us to develop ways to fight that horrid illness.
"While we spend our lives asking questions about the nature of cancer and ways to prevent or cure it, society merrily produces oncogenic substances and permeates the environment with them. Indeed, society does not seem prepared to accept the sacrifices required for effective cancer prevention."
Having been part of the Italian Resistance in World War Two, Dulbecco had, prior to his cancer work, been involved in the development of the polio vaccine. He sort of won two Nobel Prizes also, as the founder of the International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War which won the peace prize in the 1980s. In a long lived life, he outlived a son, and even his own obituary writer by fourteen years.
22nd February – Frank Carson, 85
“I thought there was a chance my wife didn’t like me, when I had a heart attack and she wrote for an ambulance.” Frank Carson made us laugh. He was addicted to jokes. Even the worst groan inducing gag got a laugh when Frank gave it; it truly was ‘the way he told ‘em.’
"Private Carson I didn't see you in camouflage class today! Thank you very much sir."
"A fella said to the doctor: 'What's the good news?' 'You've got 24 hours to live.' He says: 'What's the bad news?' And the doc says: 'We should have told you yesterday.'
“It’s quiet down here. God help them up there!”
A family spokesperson in their statement.
22nd February – Marie Colvin, 56
Award winning Sunday Times journalist murdered in Syria during the Siege of Homs, along with her camera man Remi Ochlik.
“'The reason I've been talking to all you guys is that I don't want my daughter's legacy to be ''no comment'' ... because she wasn't a ''no comment'' person.' 'Her legacy is: Be passionate and be involved in what you believe in. And do it as thoroughly and honestly and fearlessly as you can.'
Marie Colvin’s mum, in the Daily Mail.
25th February – Lynn Compton, 90
A member of the Band of Brothers parachute company in World War Two, and the prosecutor in the trial of Sirhan Sirhan, murderer of Bobby Kennedy.
26th February – Richard Carpenter, 82
Creator and writer of children’s shows: Catweazle, Black Beauty and Ghosts of Motley Hall being but three.
27th February – Sailen Mana, 87
One of the finest Asian footballers of all time, the captain of the Indian side which qualified for the 1954 world cup, but refused to enter the competition, allegedly after being refused permission to play barefoot.
29th February – Dennis Chinnery, 84
West End theatre actor of no small acclaim, trained by RADA, who became a familiar face on TV over the decades. Doctor Who fans remember him as Gharmann, the man who nearly wiped out the Daleks in Genesis of the Daleks. He also appeared in Z-Cars and The Avengers to name but two.
29th February – Davy Jones, 66
A daydream believer, who became a star. Davy Jones was the lead of the Monkees, that 60s reality TV band turned real life success.
2nd March – Doug Furnas, 52
A fine pro-wrestling who had limited success in the WWF, but greater acclaim in Japan. His run with Philip LaFon in the WWF was notable for a few good matches against Owen Hart and the Bulldog, but they were unable to connect with fans in a transitional time for the company, so left within a year. Furnas and LaFon (or Kroffat as he was better known) had bigger success and better respect in Japan. Doug Furnas died of complications from Alzeimers.
2nd March – Norman St John-Stevas, 82
St John-Stevas was being interviewed live on the BBC when the word came that Shirley Williams had lost her seat for Labour in the 1979 election. Ever the gentleman, he broke party ranks to attempt to console her. But Norman was never one to stumble over his ways. He infamously nicknamed his party leader, Margaret Thatcher, “Tina”, for “There is no alternative”.
Arts Minister under both Ted Heath and Margaret Thatcher.
"A public monument on whom the prime minister has slapped a preservation order"
St John-Stevas on Lord Thorneycroft.
“He had a first-class brain and a ready wit – but he turned indiscretion into a political principle.”
“Like Oscar Wilde, he put his genius into his life, affecting the flamboyant mannerisms of an Edwardian aesthete (proffering his hand in papal fashion, lapsing into Latin, deliberately mispronouncing modern words). At his Northamptonshire rectory he amassed an impressive collection of Victorian bric à brac and royal memorabilia, including photographs and mementos of the Royal family and a pair of Queen Victoria’s undergarments.”
“The trouble with you Norman, is that you are such a compulsive name dropper.”
“The Queen said exactly the same thing to me yesterday!”
I don’t know, I kind of liked the old rogue.
3rd March – Viv Bingham, 79
Long term political activist and Liberal party member who campaigned heavily for nuclear disarmament. National president of the Liberal party in 1981.
3rd March– Dave Charnley, 76
British boxer of renown.
3rd March – Leonardo Cimino, 98
Long running stage actor who found fame on TV in the mini-series V.
5th March – Robert B Sherman, 86
You may not know the name but you know the songs. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. A Spoonful of Sugar. Chim Chim Cher-ee. Let’s Go Fly a Kite. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I Wanna Be Like You. Song writer, with his brother, of all of our child hoods.
5th March – Philip Madoc, 77
One of Wales’s finest actors. Immortalised forever for being in *that* episode of Dad’s Army. You know the one.
Madoc’s Nazi – You will also go on the list. What is your name?
Mainwaring – Don’t tell him, Pike!
If he’d only done that and that alone, we’d remember who he was. But Madoc’s career was A-list, in TV terms, stretching from the early 60s till this year. Cut off prematurely, one suspects, because he never seemed to be on the wane. It felt like he had more yet to give. But with all such formidably brilliant actors, one never suspects there will be a day when they’re not about to give new performances. Like with Ian Richardson, so we have with Philip Madoc.
7th March – Wlodzimierz Smolarek, 54
Polish footballer who scored in two World Cups (1982 and 1986), and the father of Ebi Smolarek, a modern day footballer.
14th March – Censu Tabone, 98
President of Malta from 1989-94 and leading activist against climate change. Previously he had been the first eye surgeon engaged by the World Health Organisation, working in a variety of countries like Iraq and Taiwan as a trachoma consultant. Within a newly independent Malta, helped to create a diverse economy, and nearly wiped out unemployment. Promoted laws aiding vulnerable people (ie special needs cases) and was to demand the UN look both after aging populations and deal with climate change as a world heritage.
“Few political personalities can look back at the past with as much satisfaction as Vincent Tabone.”
17th March – Margaret Whitlam, 92
Australia’s First Lady, social activist, wit and wife of former PM, Gough Whitlam. The social worker behind one of Australia’s more progressive leaders, and a woman who would never be accused in a million years of being a shrinking violet. An advocate for abortion law reform and equal pay.
18th March – George Tupou V, 63
The King of Tonga from 2006 to 2012. Relinquished most of the Kings power and relied on a Prime Minister.
21st March – Robert Fuest, 84
A director whose style was often copied but few were able to match his slickness. In the Dr Phibes films, he directed a genre of horror best seen today in the Saw films (the two series are vaguely similar) yet done with more artistic temperament. Which naturally makes the ‘yucky bits’ stand out all the more. Having contributed material for Peter Cook early in his career, he made a name for himself on cult shows like The Avengers. All of his work retains the same sort of psychedelic charm to it. You can spot a Fuest work in the same you can a Hitchcock or a Kubrick.
“Aside from the relentless black humour of the premise, Fuest and Price worked hard on an unusual blend of sophistication and sickness, playing up the art deco sets and befuddled succession of mostly doomed British character actors”
“Movies are not art anymore. They are product. You have to smuggle art into them.”
21st March – Bruno Giacometti, 104
Long lived architect, Europe’s answer to Oscar Niemeyer. In 1939, he planned the Hallenstadium in Zurich, which you can still go and see tennis in, now and again.
“Bruno Giacometti’s style was an unfussy modernism that placed more emphasis on functionality than shape.”
24th March – Jocky Wilson, 62
Jocky Wilson Said. People are still split on the infamous moment in Top of the Pops history, when Dexy’s Midnight Runners sang Jackie Wilson Said in front of an enlarged photo of the Scottish darts player. Deliberate joke, or goof? We may never know, though Kevin Rowland claims it was deliberate. In his prime, however, Jocky Wilson was one of Britain’s finest darts players. A two time winner of the BDO World Championship (in 1982 and 1989) and a founder member of the breakaway PDC in 1993. A man addicted to sweets, and who never brushed his teeth until he was 27 as his “gran told him the English put fluoride in the water.” He was a complex man: he infamously was banned from darts in 1982 for a while during the Falklands War, after he punched an umpire, claiming stress over treatment of his Argentine wife. He also was hammered by his long time rival Eric Bristow in a key match that year when he showed up for the contest blind drunk. A lifetime of heavy smoker contributed to his early demise from lung disease, just two days after his sixty-second birthday.
“Jocky transcended the whole spectrum of life in the UK. It's a very sad day because Jocky was loved by so many people for the great character he was."
"He was such a good laugh to be with. People talk about the great characters in darts and he's one of the greatest. Jocky had false teeth, and I remember playing snooker with him. He asked someone to clean the white ball and took his teeth out to mark the ball. He'd always be doing things like that, and he'd have a great little grin on his face."
Phil “the Power” Taylor
“In the early 90s, Jocky was one of the brave professionals who broke away from the [BDC] and helped to turn the sport into the multi-million pound set-up that exists today. Around the same time, he developed diabetes and was required to settle a tax bill, so Jocky – sick and trying to drink only water on exhibition nights – began trudging the circuit again. And did he light things up: I remember him at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool in 1995, waving a Saltire flag and taking seven minutes to walk 70 yards on to the stage, through an adoring crowd.”
Sid Waddell, Guardian obit
25th March – Anthony Newton, 74
Tory MP who served in government under both Margaret Thatcher and John Major until been ousted in the tidal Labour surge of 1997. He was from 1997 until his death Baron Newton of Braintree. Donations at his funeral went to the Rethink Carers Support group, Newton having chaired two NHS mental health groups.
Tony Newton... was a walking contradiction of the cynical mantra that politicians are all in it for themselves. To the Guardian's Hugh Young, Newton was "a good man, quite outside the nasty brigade," and to Ruth Lister, of the Child Poverty Action Group, "the best health and social security minister of the Thatcher years". From the presidency of the Oxford Union in 1959 until his life peerage made him Lord Newton of Braintree in 1997, he was a quiet, technocratic, slightly worried and very conscientious full-time professional.
Edward Pearce, Guardian obit
His role in the Thatcher government was mixed: he increased the disability benefit, but was unable to fix child benefit. He ended free dental tests in 1987 to free up money for “underfunded hospitals”. Like the legislation which led to the CPA bureaucracy, Newton’s heart could often be in the right place, but not able to see the issues that would stem from his fixes.
“Until earlier this month Newton was active in proposing amendments and voting against aspects of the welfare reform bill, on issues such as the cutting of legal aid to people pursuing welfare benefit appeals.”
Edward Pearce, Guardian obit
He struggled with the poisoned chalice that was Leader of the House during the Maastritch debacle, but then, men far greater would have struggled with less. All in all, for a man dubbed “never one of us” by Thatcher, he did well to stay in a number of jobs in government over a decade and a half. Perhaps his fierce loyalty to his friends helped: being the only official confided in about the John Major/Edwina Currie affair, he kept the secret from all, it only being revealed in Currie’s autobiography.
He did seem to care about the people under his watch: as a dying man, he carried oxygen cylinders to the House of Lords to breathe into so he could speak out against the current Coalitions draconian reforms. That, I dare say, is going well beyond the call of duty for most.
“RIP Lord Tony Newton, Tory peer who spoke out against the welfare reform bill. That act alone proves a life lived well.”
25th March – Bert Sugar, 74
Boxing historian, commentator and encyclopaedia, forever with hat on head and cigar in between his fingers.
27th March – Adrienne Rich, 82
Feminist American poet.
“"All her life she has been in love with the hope of telling utter truth, and her command of language from the first has been startlingly powerful."
“"[Art] means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of the power which holds it hostage."
28th March – John Arden 81
Angry Young Man. An English playwright with a deep interest in social issues.
“Arden is one of the very few 20th-century dramatists you could mention in the same breath as Shakespeare, Molière and Brecht without the parallels sounding too far-fetched.”
Michael Coveney, Guardian obit.
“ He thought on a large canvas so that even when his plays are produced in small intimate theatres they gave the impression of size and space, belonging as much to the outdoors as Pinter to the indoors. Arden had the same virtues and failings as Brecht, writing out of a passionate desire to educate and make his audiences think, while sacrificing style and his own artistic integrity where he saw a possibility of increasing the weight of his message.”
John Calder, Independent obit
“Serjeant Musgrave’s Dance (1959), written in the wake of an atrocity committed by British troops serving in Cyprus. Set in the 19th century, it concerns four Army deserters, sickened by the colonial war in which they have been fighting, who descend on a northern English town with the intention of somehow “bringing home” the brutality they have witnessed overseas...the work won praise in some quarters for its theatrical power and its use of verse and incidental ballad (Sean O’Casey called it “far and away the finest play of the present day”)”
28th March – Earl Scruggs, 88
American blues musician with a career that extended over sixty seven years, and who was still touring till near the end. In the 1960s, he was one of the few ‘country’ stars to come out against the Vietnam War. Scruggs won two Grammies (in 1969 and 2001), was inducted in three music halls of fames, was handed the National Medal of Arts by his own government, and had his own star on the Hollywood Walk.
1st April – Miguel de la Madrid, 77
Was President of Mexico from 1982 to 1988. He was handed the poisoned chalice to end all such clichéd terms though: unemployment at 25%, inflation at 100%. Could fix neither despite a lengthy privatisation fix. Austerity measures and inability to deal with the aftermath of the 1985 earthquake led to his lose in the 1988 elections.
3rd April – Chief Jay Strongbow, 83
Former WWF tag team champion and later became a long term road agent (backstage producer) for the company, and a Hall of Famer.
3rd April – Jose Maria Zarraga, 81
A midfield footballer of great renown, and a Real Madrid legend, where he won 5 consecutive European Cups, and played in all of the first five European Cup finals. He later managed Malaga.
5th April – Barney McKenna, 72
The last surviving founder member of The Dubliners.
“"The greatest tenor banjo player of his generation, Barney spent his life travelling the world playing Irish music. He loved it. The world loved him. May he rest in peace."
There’s something quite special about how McKenna was involved in creating a folk band fifty years ago, which still continues on to this day, despite the drawback of its entire original group having now sadly died in the intervening fifty years. Their inspiration, not just on their direct musical descendents The Pogues, but in Irish (and British) soul ever since has been a lasting legacy. And in that, Barney McKenna, Luke Kelly, Ciaran Bourke and Ronnie Drew pass into folk legend.
“While Ronnie Drew's gravelly voice gave the band its memorable vocal sound, it was McKenna's playing of the tenor banjo, coupled with John Sheahan's fiddle, that gave the Dubliners their original instrumental quality. In the process, McKenna redefined the role of the banjo in Irish traditional music.”
Derek Schofield, Guardian obit
7th April – Mike Wallace, 93
American journalist. In his long and varied life, Mike Wallace could give authority to subjects as diverse as a Groucho Marx game show and a documentary exploring Malcolm X. Controversial at times (he anchored the infamous CBS documentary on gays, and later had to apologise for a racial slur when unaware he was recorded). Inspirational at other times: he brought mental health issues into the mainstream America with a public fight against depression, braver more so for his doctors warning not to go public as “it would be bad for his image”. (Dick Cavett was to follow in his footsteps.) He interviewed anyone who was anyone.
““What Mike Wallace did by his willingness to talk about his depressive illness was extraordinary. That kind of openness with something that is usually shunned, avoided and stigmatized in our society was very brave and courageous of him.”
Dr Carol Bernstein, associate professor psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine
“You’re not a nutcase if you want to go see a psychiatrist.”
“Some subjects were unfazed by Mr. Wallace’s unblinking stare. When he sat down with the Ayatollah Khomeini, the Iranian leader, in 1979, he said that President Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt “calls you, Imam — forgive me, his words, not mine — a lunatic.” The translator blanched, but the Ayatollah responded, calmly calling Sadat a heretic. “Forgive me” was a favourite Wallace phrase, the caress before the garrotte. “As soon as you hear that,” he told The Times, “you realize the nasty questions about to come.”
Tim Weiner, New York Times obit
8th April – Janusz K Zawodny, 90
Polish historian, resistance fighter, scientist, and advisor to Ronald Reagan. Wrote the first accounts of the Katyn Massacre in 1962.
10th April – Raymond Aubrac, 97
Aubracs obituary begins with how he was captured and tortured by the Nazis in occupied France in 1943. That we are reading this obituary in 2012 gives some idea of the strength of the man. A leading member of the French Resistance alongside his wife Lucie, he was leader of the underground paramilitary. Arrested twice in 1943, his interrogator was none other than the vicious Klaus Barbie, yet Aubrac was able to keep his identity and secrets safe even under intense torture. Rescued by Lucie, he took time to recover before going back on the offensive against the Nazi occupiers. His struggles made all the more personal by his parents being moved to Auschwitz (there is no happy ending there, I’m afraid, his parents were assumedly murdered in that horrible place). After the war, he had a varied life in a variety of guises, but his friendship with Ho Chi Minh was used by the Americans to try and broker peace during the Vietnam War. Despite efforts by Barbie to slander him, Aubrac remained till the very end a fiery symbol against what he viewed as tyranny, from war time Nazis to Sarkozy economic policies. His equally wonderful wife Lucie died in 2007.
(Obit based heavily on information from Julian Jacksons Guardian obit)
His Le Monde interview from last year even does well to dispel the ideas of the gung ho hero. By most definitions of the phrase, Aubrac was involved in a just cause, yet the ramifications and life or death struggles he was forced to chose as a result prayed as heavily on his mind as had he been a warmonger.
“What are you most proud of?”
“The choice of my companion. I must say it was well played. In life, you know, there are only three or four basic choices to make. Everything else is a matter of chance.”
Raymond Aubrac, speaking to Le Monde in 2011.
14th April – Eddie May, 68
English football manager, twice manager of Cardiff City in the 1990s, once manager of Newport County in the 1980s. He also had short reigns at Torquay and Brentford, among several others.
“"On behalf of everyone at the club I would like to pass on our sincere condolences to Eddie May's family at this sad time. We will be honoured this week to collectively show our respects and appreciation to a man who will forever and rightly be remembered as an integral part of modern Cardiff City history. He will be sadly missed by all."
Alan Whitely, Cardiff City.
14th April – Piermario Morosini, 25
Tragic footballer who collapsed and died during the middle of a Serie B match in Italy.
18th April – Dick Clark, 82
America’s answer to Bruce Forsyth, I believe. At one point called the “youngest teenager on TV” for his youthful looks, Clark went onto become a powerful icon both for the dreadful effects of a massive stroke, and the bravery in being able to recover from it and attempt to get back to a normal life. Almost a part of the American TV furniture, New Years will be odd without him.
19th April – Levon Helm, 71
Drummer and usual lead vocalist for The Band.
19th April – Greg Ham, 58
Men at Work were a curious band. They lasted longer in their native Australia than they did over here, best known in Britain for their wonderfully satirical “Land Down Under”. That song has an iconic opening that everyone of a certain age will remember. That was Greg Ham. It was his legacy, and his tragedy. In 2009, a court ruled that the flute parts in that song breached copyright of a 1930s nursery rhyme owned by a music corporation. Be it accidental or deliberate (and let’s assume accidental breaching here, for benefit of the doubt), this ruling seemed to have destroyed Ham. He descended into a drug induced decline. His cause of death was not revealed, though one can make a few tragic guesses.
20th April – Bert Weedon, 91
Teach Yourself Guitar! Of the 50 million guitar players in the world, roughly five of them weren’t taught by Bert Weedon. Allow me the usual of hyperbole to make the point in hand, that Weedon’s influence on the guitar and guitar music is as large as Marxism is on early Communism. Play in a Day, his guitar tutorial book, has inspired people from Clapton to the Beatles since its publication in 1957.
“I wouldn’t have felt the urge to press on without the tips and encouragement Bert’s book gives you. I’ve never met a player of any consequence that doesn’t say the same thing.”
Weedon was also heavily involved in disability charities and fundraising.
Without his influence, modern music of the last sixty years wouldn’t be anything like what we know of it. So thanks.
20th April – Jack Ashley, 89
Long lived disability activist operating from both the Commons and the Lords, Jack Ashley was MP for Stroke on Trent from 1966 to 1992. That he responded to the accidental loss of his hearing after an ear operation by taking on the mantle of disability activism would be noble enough, but Ashley was already building a reputation as a crusader for the vulnerable long before he became disabled himself.
“His causes were many and varied. Jack Ashley conducted high-profile campaigns on behalf of widows and battered wives, rape victims, disabled and mentally ill people. He helped pioneer live captioning on television for deaf people. And, most challengingly, he sought to help the victims of thalidomide.”
“One lives in a glass cage. You see lips move, but there's no sound. You see babies cry, but hear no crying."
Jack Ashley, 1967
Whatever the disability, Ashley was to become a fighter for. Demanding research into dyslexia? Rebelling against his own Labour party’s inability to provide “pensions to disabled housewives”? Speaking out against Distillers Company, until they finally agreed to pay compensation to the victims of Thalidomide? Oh yes.
“He was always looking out for the interests of underdogs, such as soldier victims of bullying or negligence. Another target was forcing giant companies to pay for the damaging side-effects of drugs like Opren, Halcion or Debendox. A third abiding concern was how negligent big institutions, notably hospitals and prisons, could hide behind crown immunity, making them impervious to reform.”
Andrew Roth, Guardian obit
Moved to the House of Lords by John Major in 1992, he used his higher seat to campaign for the rights of domestic abuse victims, and the Disabled Persons Independent Living bill.
“They have suffered neglect and even ostracism for too long. It is time that they came in from the cold."
Ashley, on disabled people.
“there followed campaigns to help those in the armed forces who were suffering from bullying, and those caught up in nuclear testing; hospital and prison authorities were made responsible for their filthy kitchens; and grand judges and legal luminaries brought to task over their lack of feeling for battered wives. Ashley was driven to right wrongs. He never did anything trivial. His causes were well-chosen and vital to desperate people.”
Some manner of the man could be found in his paper obituaries, all of which referred to him as “courageous”, “brave”, a “hero”, even the likes of the Daily Mail! The tributes, from politicians (of all parties), disability charities, constituency members, family, friends and activists are overwhelming.
“"Jack Ashley was the greatest champion Britain's disabled have had. He was compassionate, direct, forceful and radical. The man who, speaking with the authority of personal experience, took the cause of disabled men and women into the chambers of Parliament and to the heart of government."He leaves behind a contribution in legislation and policy progress for the cause of tackling disability that will not easily be surpassed."
“None of his campaigns were abstract, or about process; they were all concerned with people less well off or badly treated in some way. For him politics was an earthy, practical trade, as well as a great romance. He continued to attend the Lords for as long as he could and his spirit never dimmed: only days before his final visit to hospital he was planning yet more campaigns and questions he had little physical chance of being able to put. All yesterday, he was trending on Twitter. Though he would not have the faintest idea what that meant if we'd been able to explain it to him, he would probably have said, "bloody nonsense" and given the happiest of grins.”
BBC journalist and writer Andrew Marr, his son in law.
““Jack and I lived in close fellowship for over five decades. We campaigned and legislated together on improving the well-being of disabled people and others in special need.”
“His heroism was most obviously manifested by his triumph over the devastating disablement of sudden and total deafness. But its uniqueness was proved through his unbending determination to serve, his tenacity, his vitality, his raw courage. Those qualities gave him the lifelong will to achieve liberating victories for others against personal and institutional indifference, cruelties and prejudices as old as the human race.”
http://www.homenotworking.co.uk/jackashley/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Script-of-memorial-service-for-Lord-Jack-Ashley-held-Church-House-2-July-2012.pdf (To read more on the tributes from family and friends to this wonderful man)
A life well lived. If we had ten Jack Ashley’s, the world would have been a far better place. It already was a far better one for having one.
(All pics borrowed from free sources, as far as the author is aware)