Thursday, 24 December 2015

In Memoriam: August 2015

1st August 2015 – Cilla Black, 72

TV Presenter who was a familiar face due to presenting Surprise Surprise and Blind Date.

“It was her ability to combine mischievous curiosity with deadpan humour that sealed her success with Surprise, Surprise (1984) on ITV, the strangely gripping show for which she was paid £15,000 a week. As well as emotional reunions of long-lost relatives, the show featured “Cillagrams”, in which she again turned up at a location unannounced but this time marking some special occasion with a song.”
Telegraph obit

2nd August 2015 – Forrest bird, 94

Aviator who invented the Bird Universal Medical Respirator, a respiration system for aircraft.

“In the 1950s and ’60s, he pioneered some of the first portable and reliable mechanical ventilators for people with acute and chronic heart and lung afflictions. These relatively small devices, used in all but the worst cases, made primitive and expensive mechanisms like the iron lung virtually obsolete only a decade after hospital wards had been lined with them at the height of paralytic polio epidemics. Dr. Bird was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1995 for developing the first low-cost, mass-produced pediatric respirator, known as the Baby Bird, which has been credited by medical experts with significantly reducing the mortality rates of infants with respiratory problems. The device, he said, saved two Idaho neighbor boys born with breathing distress. Among those aided by his inventions was his first wife, Mary, who learned she had pulmonary emphysema in 1964; his respirators, including one that used percussion to loosen secretions in her lungs, helped prolong her life until 1986.”
Robert D McFadden, NY Times obit

3rd August 2015 – Robert Conquest, 98

English historian who specialized in Stalin. His books included Common Sense About Russia (1960), and The Great Terror (1968), in which he argued that Stalin’s purges were a natural conclusion from the Russian revolution.

“At the outbreak of the Second World War Conquest volunteered for military service and was commissioned into the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. Transferred to the Intelligence Corps towards the end of the war, from 1944 he served in Bulgaria as a liaison officer to the Bulgarian forces fighting under Soviet command, and later as a press attaché with the British military mission to the Allied Control Commission in Sofia. In 1945 his poem For the Death of a Poet won the PEN Brazil Prize for the best long poem of the Second World War.  After demobilisation Conquest joined the Foreign Office, but continued to serve in the same job for the British legation in Sofia. In 1948, however, he was recalled to London under a minor diplomatic cloud, after helping to smuggle two Bulgarians out of the country, now in the grip of hard-line Stalinism.”
Telegraph obit

“He must be one of the most important writers of the second half of the 20th century, producing a string of books that — like Solzhenitsyn’s – put the lie to Communism, in particular to Soviet Communism. In the early 1990s, Richard Nixon — a fair judge of world events — said, “[Conquest's] historical courage makes him partially responsible for the death of Communism.” Another high tribute came from a member of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party — who denounced, and immortalized, Conquest as “anti-Sovietchik Number One.” Martin Amis’s father, the novelist Kingsley, was a close friend of Conquest’s, although they often had rows. Kingsley liked to make up stories about Conquest (and others, of course). Perhaps the most famous is: “When asked whether he’d like to retitle a new edition of The Great Terror, Bob said, ‘How about, I Told You So, You F***ing Fools?’”
Jay Nordlinger, Conquest’s Conquest, National Review December 9 2002

“In writing the first (1968) version of the Great Terror, Conquest provided a counter-narrative that cut through all that convenient obfuscation. He set out the core truth of what had happened, placing it in a broader and more accurate context than had been typical before, moving away from a narrow focus on the lethal intra-party battles of the 1930s and towards a broader discussion of Stalinist terror and, in many respects, its inevitability under the system that Lenin had designed. In the 1960s there were plenty of people in the west who conceded that the Soviet experiment was flawed, but argued that it represented a nobler alternative, an alternative that could be made to work with a tweak here and better intentions there. Robert Conquest did not, unfortunately, put them all out of business, but he made their job very much more difficult. Two decades later, Conquest wrote the The Harvest of Sorrow, the first widely available book in English to describe the Soviet famine of the early 1930s for what it was, not only the product of a cruel and destructive agricultural reform (collectivization), but also part of a deliberate attempt to break Ukraine as a nation, an attempt that left millions of Ukrainians dead. Again, Conquest’s writings had a devastating effect, both in bringing a shamefully little-known horror into full public view, and in highlighting the ‘national’ issues that mattered so much in the politics of the USSR, yet, as the Soviet Union fell apart, came as a surprise to so many in the west.”
Andrew Stuttaford, National Review obit

“This religious atmosphere continued, and it was not un-typical during the Cold War. Any doubt cast on the achievements of the Soviet Union was simply dismissed as "Cold War propaganda". When a notable dissident was imprisoned in a mental hospital, the view was that he must be mad if he doubted the merits of Soviet socialism. So for those of us who did have doubts, Robert Conquest's The Great Terror: Stalin's Purge of the Thirties was an extraordinary work. It was a book which changed minds and dispelled doubt (mine included) when it was published in 1968, the year of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in response to the liberalisation of the Prague Spring. It laid out facts without adornment so they could speak for themselves, spelling out in clear language the detail of the purges and the executions. Fellow travellers of the Soviet Union sneered - and perhaps still sneer - but they couldn't find factual errors because Conquest's research was so meticulous.It is said that the Mexican writer Octavio Paz said that Conquest's books "closed the debate" on Stalinism. They ended the argument. That isn't true. Nostalgia for the monster remains, perhaps even in Russia today. But Conquest's books did open the eyes of those with minds to open. I know. I remember.”
Stephen Evans, BBC Magazine obit

I’d quote from The Guardian, as is my usual with academic deaths, but their obituary on Conquest, at time of writing, is a complete disgrace. I wouldn’t expect sneering character assassination attempts from one of the lesser tabloids, let alone one of the would be standard bearers of British media.

4th August 2015 – Les munro, 96

One of the last surviving Dambusters.

“Munro’s Lancaster was one of the first to take off on the night of May 16. Their target was the Sorpe Dam. Flying at very low level over the Dutch island of Vlieland, the bomber was badly damaged by anti-aircraft fire. The radios and electrical system were disabled but, crucially, so was the intercommunication system between members of the crew. Without this it was impossible to carry out the precise attack from a height of 60 feet, so with great reluctance, Munro turned for his home base at Scampton, near Lincoln, still with his “bouncing bomb” on board. The raid against the Ruhr dams was successful, with the main targets, the Mohne and Eder Dams, both breached. But the cost was high with eight of the 19 Lancasters failing to return, with the loss of 53 airmen. The leader of the operation, Wing Commander Guy Gibson, was awarded the Victoria Cross.”
Telegraph obit

5th August 2015 – Aldo Nardini, 85

Legendary ice cream maker who sweets were regarded far beyond his childhood home of Largs.

“For most of the latter half of the 20th century, Aldo Nardini and his brother, Pete, reigned unchallenged as “the ice cream kings of Scotland”. Their white, art-deco café, Nardini’s, on the Largs esplanade next to the historic red sandstone St Columba’s church, put the little Ayrshire tourist resort on the map before Aldo’s daughter Daniela, now a much-in-demand actress, was even born. Nardini’s secret? Ice cream to die for. And it eventually, by word of mouth, attracted film and TV stars, King George VI, his daughter Queen Elizabeth, foreign royalty, prime ministers, sporting heroes and simple working-class mums and dads dragged “doon the watter” or by road from Glasgow for a lip-licking treat.”
Phil Davison, Scotsman obit

5th August 2015 – Herbert Wise, 90

Highly regarded TV director. Early roles saw him behind the camera for episodes of The Sky at Night, Elizabeth R and Budgie.

In 1976, he was director of all twelve episodes of the sublime I, Claudius, carefully balancing each shot and performance. Three of the earlier Rumpole of the Baileys followed, as did nine episodes of Tales of the Unexpected (including the famous Skin, Royal Jelly, and the wonderfully shot The Landlady).

He was behind Denis Quilley’s performance as Gladstone in Number Ten, and Albert Finney’s as Pope John Paul II.

He was also director for the terrifying 1989 Nigel Kneale adaptation of The Woman in Black. Into the 1990s, he was director for Breaking the Code (the Derek Jacobi drama about the life of Alan Turing), three episodes of Inspector Morse (Ghost in the Machine, Twilight of the Gods, and The Daughters of Cain) and two episodes of Cadfael with frequent collaborator Derek Jacobi.

He had a knack for atmosphere, just the right level of lighting and mists (lots of smoke machine, in The Woman in Black!) to get the optimal conditions for great television.

“On demobilisation, he determined to try for a career in the theatre and while training at the New Era Academy in Hampstead, north London, anglicised his name to Wise. We first met when I was drama critic-cum-late-shift reporter on the Scottish Daily Mail and he was director of Dundee Repertory theatre. The theatre-goers of Dundee were more used to Bunty Pulls the Strings than Wise’s choice of Noah by André Obey. But with The Dashing White Sergeant, a new Scottish light comedy, and a rousing production of The Tempest, in which, because of repertory theatre economics, he memorably acted himself, he wooed audiences. In 1956 he won a place on the training course set up by Granada TV in preparation for going on the air. Despite his theatrical experience, Wise was assigned to outside broadcasts but manoeuvred himself into drama via The Verdict is Yours, a series of improvised trials presented as live relays from the fictional Birkenhead Assizes. After creative differences with Sidney Bernstein, the Granada chairman, he was summarily sacked, but, satisfyingly, won acclaim soon afterwards with a civil war epic for BBC2, The Siege of Manchester (1965), set in the very heart of the region Bernstein liked to regard as Granadaland.”
Philip Purser, Guardian obit

“The historical character Claudius was a complex man full of contradictions, and, one could reasonably argue, dramatically more resonant than the sanitized emperor offered readers of Graves’s novels and viewers of I, Claudius. The BBC production is, nevertheless, excellent entertainment featuring superb ensemble acting and Herbert Wise’s expert direction.”
Hal Himmelstein, Encyclopaedia of Television: Second Edition

“The first of nine Tales of the Unexpected episodes to be directed by Herbert Wise, The Landlady is a classic tale,  when the show actually had a dark sinister edge that was sadly lacking by the time it was canned... The Landlady is one of the few Tales of the Unexpected stories I have seen that I would describe as horror orientated, most are moral tales or crime dramas with a twist so it's a rare treat to see a horror based tale. It has better than usual production values with nice sets. This is actually quite a creepy episode and therefore is one of the more memorable ones.”
Paul Andrews, The Landlady imdb review

“Wise realised that Jacobi had the dramatic range to appear to age from 17 to 80 in the course of the 13 episodes. With Siân Phillips, who appeared as Livia, Wise explained that he wanted her character to resemble Cruella de Vil from the 1961 Disney animation 101 Dalmatians. Despite its immaculate pedigree – the series was based on two novels by Robert Graves, which together were universally reckoned a masterpiece – Wise felt there was a curse on I, Claudius. Several failed attempts had been made to stage it in the theatre, and in 1936 a feature film starring Charles Laughton was called off because Laughton struggled with the part, and his leading actress, Merle Oberon, was injured in a car accident. When Wise entertained Graves to lunch during filming at Television Centre, he asked him about this so-called jinx, to which Graves replied: “This doesn’t apply to you. It’ll work.”  In the event, after Wise had directed the television version to great acclaim, the writer of the screenplay died of a heart attack, and the producer was killed in a car crash. At the Bafta awards ceremony in 1978, I, Claudius earned Wise the Outstanding Contribution award, Derek Jacobi taking the prize for Best Actor. In 2007 I, Claudius was listed as one of Time magazine’s 100 Best TV Shows of All Time.”
Telegraph obit

“In adapting the novel for television, the great Nigel Kneale made a technological addition to Eel Marsh House which was typical of his work. Here, the late Mrs Drablow not only had electricity but she made use of a phonograph so that in Kneale’s version the dead don’t just appear, they can tell tales. This version of The Woman in Black is rarely seen and has been described by no less a fan of horror than Reece Shearsmith as “the most terrifying programme I’ve ever seen”. Without giving away any spoilers, there are some shocking moments in this TV adaptation which will linger in the memory of anyone who sees it. Veteran director Herbert Wise manages the manifestations of the Woman in Black perfectly and they are all the more startling for their rarity. Nancy Banks-Smith remarked that “the spectre arrives suddenly like a migraine and causes a genuine physical reaction as if one layer of your skin had shifted over another”. This is the thrill of the Woman in Black, it’s not content to merely scare you, it wants to terrify you – to make you afraid to turn around and see what might be behind you. It’s a creeping fear that’s not easily laughed off afterwards.”
Lisa Kerrigan, Why I Love... The Woman in Black, BFI 9 December 2013

5th August 2015 – George Cole, 90

Acclaimed actor who was the young Ebeneezer Scrooge in Scrooge, and Flash Harry in The St Trinian movies. He had small roles in the 1954 Alistair Sim An Inspector Calls, Our Girl Friday, and The Green Man. By the mid 1950s, he was in permanent demand, and remand so for the next fifty years. His performance in The Last Lonely Man was notably full of pathos, and he could combined moments of quiet personal tragedy like his military precision trained lower league Sunday football manager in Friendly Encounter, alongside appearances in things like The Vampire Lovers. He was Sir Giles Lynchwood in Blott on the Landscape, Henry Root in Root into Europe, and Freddie Patterson in An Independent Man. However, it was 109 appearances as Arthur Daley in Minder for which he became a household name to millions. He was one of the few bright sparks, well into his 80s, in the ITV Marple adaptation of Nemesis (of which Alison Graham dryly noted the only thing kept from the Agatha Christie book “was the title”).

“It was not until he took to radio and television that his victimised and victimising personalities found their natural media. His BBC radio series A Life of Bliss, in which he played David Bliss, a diffident young bachelor ruled by his mother and his dog, Psyche (“voiced” by Percy Edwards), ran for many years from 1953 and also moved to television (1960-61). His choice of parts was often self-limiting – he once turned down Othello – but for ITV he was more adventurous in A Man of Our Times (1968), a series in which a middle-aged man is faced with a dilemma: accept redundancy or a lower status with his firm. It won him a wide audience, good notices and a great deal of personal satisfaction. But nothing bettered the wide popular appeal of the unscrupulous conman “Arfur” Daley in Minder, in which he was paired with Dennis Waterman (who also sang the show’s theme tune) as his “minder”, Terry McCann. Here the two poles of his personality fused to create a character with both a rabbity caution and an agile exploitative brain. Cole used to say that he might well have turned into “Arfur” but for Sim, pointing out that while in the RAF from 1943 to 1947 he had helped to run a mess bar and become familiar with all sorts of dodges. So closely did Cole become identified with the part that the first “autobiography” that appeared with Cole’s photograph on the cover was Straight Up (1991), in fact the fictional life story of Daley, an oblique comment on modern fame, about which Cole did not complain. He published his own autobiography, The World Was My Lobster, in 2014.”
Dennis Barker, Guardian obit

 7th August 2015 – Neville Neville, 65

Football agent who was the father of Phil and Gary Neville.

7th August 2015 – Frances Kelsey, 101

Brave Canadian pharmacologist, who, when in charge of US FDA, and despite the efforts of the big drug companies, refused to allow the marketing of thalidomide in the US, over her fears that the drug was unsafe for children. She was later proven entirely right.

“Over the next 18 months she came under increasing pressure from senior FDA officials, as Merrell lobbied vigorously for the drug’s approval. At one point the pharmaceutical company contacted Dr Kelsey directly to demand that she license thalidomide within 24 hours. She refused. By December 1961, it was clear that her concerns were well-founded. Reports were coming in of newborn babies in Germany and Australia with malformed or missing limbs. When Dr Kelsey pointed this out, however, Merrell’s representative threatened to sue the FDA for libel. The company also distributed more than two million thalidomide tablets to American doctors on an “investigational” basis, as was legal at the time. Consequently, 17 babies were born with deformities. Faced with repeated demands for more data, Merrell finally withdrew its application in March 1962.  The extent of the thalidomide scandal received scant attention until the following July, when The Washington Post broke the story. The public outrage that followed gave the US senator Estes Kefauver the impetus he needed to pass the Kefauver-Harris Drug Amendment, a revolutionary new bill requiring that all manufacturers provide “substantial evidence” of a drug’s safety prior to FDA approval.  On August 7 1962, President Kennedy presented Frances Kelsey with the President’s Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service .”
Telegraph obit

“As it turned out, the drug (better known by its generic name, thalidomide) would cause thousands of children in Europe to be born limbless or with flipperlike arms and legs. With her probing analysis of Merrell’s application and her insistence on scientific rigor, Dr. Kelsey ensured that the effects in the United States were far more limited.The thalidomide disaster led Congress to pass legislation giving the F.D.A. authority to demand that drug makers prove their products safe and effective. Moreover, Dr. Kelsey helped write the rules that now govern nearly every clinical trial in the industrialized world, and was the first official to oversee them.“She had a huge effect on the science that we all take for granted today,” said Daniel Carpenter, a professor of government at Harvard and the author of “Reputation and Power” (Princeton, 2010), a definitive history of the F.D.A.”
Gardiner Harris, The Public’s Quiet Saviour from Harmful Medicines, NY Times Sept 13 2010

9th August 2015 – Susan Sheridan, 68

Actress who was the original Trillian in the radio version of The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy.

“Sue’s timing was superb, whether working ensemble in a radio studio, alone in an animation voiceover booth, or on stage. Although she was well known for Hitchhiker’s, she also reached huge audiences, from the late 80s onwards, as one of the UK’s most popular animation voices in television series such as Jimbo and the Jet-Set and Moomin. In 1992, when the BBC unveiled a television version of Enid Blyton’s Noddy in Toyland books, Sue played the title character with her usual attention to detail, becoming Noddy’s voice for a generation of children.”
Dirk Maggs, Guardian obit

9th August 2015 – David Nobbs, 80

Comedy writer who wrote The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, Fairly Secret Army, and was an early contributor with The Two Ronnies.

“Articulating in comic form the existential crises of 1970s middle England, Nobbs’s anti-hero sprang fully formed from his 1975 novel The Death of Reginald Perrin (originally the synopsis of a half-hour play) before transferring to television. The actor Ronnie Barker read the book and reported laughing 287 times and crying twice.  Nobbs would write three more Perrin novels and more than a dozen others, all humorous, leading Jonathan Coe to acclaim him “probably our finest post-war comic novelist”. As well as four Henry Pratt novels, Nobbs’s favourites included Going Gently (2000) and Cupid’s Dart, published on Valentine’s Day in 2007. His final novel, The Second Life of Sally Mottram, was published last year.  Granada Television had wanted to make the Reginald Perrin show as a two-parter with Ronnie Barker in the title role, but Nobbs’s agent steered him to the BBC where the head of comedy, Jimmy Gilbert, sat Nobbs in a chair that he remembered made a mournful noise “like a cross between a muffled fart and an elderly toad’s sigh of satisfaction”. Nobbs took this as an omen, and when, after a successful pilot episode, Gilbert commissioned the first series, the farting chair became a running gag along with the hippopotamus which trotted into Reggie’s mind’s eye at every mention of his mother-in-law.”
Telegraph obit

9th August 2015 – Jack Gold, 85

British film director who was responsible for The Naked Civil Servant, Aces High, and Goodnight, Mr Tom.

“He combined gritty subjects with a literate sensibility and drew heavily on his early training in short documentaries. One of his best-known films was the First World War flying drama Aces High (1976, starring Malcolm McDowell and Christopher Plummer), based on the R C Sherriff play Journey’s End. Gold brought the action out of the trenches and into the skies; the American critic Leonard Maltin commended the film’s “strong anti-war statement” as much as its “exciting aerial dogfights”. The production illustrated Gold’s fondness for high-class source material – he also brought works by Graham Greene, Thomas Hardy and PG Wodehouse to the screen – and stories that dealt with the sharp end of life. Perhaps his greatest achievement for television was his adaptation of Quentin Crisp’s memoirs The Naked Civil Servant (1975). The drama starred John Hurt as Crisp, the flamboyant homosexual writer and raconteur who was widely pilloried and lived out his winter years exiled in Manhattan, and made a star of Hurt. “One of the more extraordinary dramas ever created for television,” one critic noted. “The 78-minute film holds up wonderfully the second, or even third, time around.”
Telegraph obit

 12th August 2015 – Stephen Lewis, 88

Actor who was famous on TV for playing Blakey in On The Buses, and Smiler in Last of the Summer Wine.

“Lewis’s Blakey was a magnificently preposterous creation, hopping from foot to foot like an anguished crow, wild-eyed, seemingly on the verge of a heart attack or stroke, and with the jaw always set in that extraordinary grimace. In fact, the grimace became his stock-in-trade. It was there when he became a semi-regular in Last of the Summer Wine from 1988 to 2007, his Clem “Smiler” Hemingway being a sadder, more defeated version of the hapless bus inspector, and in Alexei Sayle’s Merry-Go-Round (1998) and Jim Davidson’s The Generation Game he was still Blakey – billed as such in the former and snarling “I ’ate you, Davidson” in the latter.”
Stephen Dixon, Guardian obit

 14th August 2015 – Jazz Summers, 71

Manager of Wham and Snow Patrol.

“His biggest coup, however, was finding Wham! The band had already had a couple of early hits and initially resisted his overtures to manage them, but Summers persisted, even joining forces with veteran manager Simon Napier Bell to give him more clout. Desperate to escape from a bad record deal, Wham! finally agreed and Summers’ reputation as one of the music industry’s most doggedly determined characters was forged as he worked energetically on behalf of his new charges. He fought a prolonged – and ultimately successful – battle to get them out of their existing contract, coming up with ingenious ways of raising funds to pay the legal fees. His gift for hyperbole and enthusiastic persistence in the face of apathy was also crucial in igniting interest in America as he sold the idea of “Wham!-mania” to executives. He took a big gamble by booking them to play in 50,000-seater stadiums and took part in a monumental tour and film about the band when they became the first western pop act to play in China.”
Telegraph obit

14th August 2015 – Bob Johnston, 83

Record producer who worked with Leonard Cohen and Johnny Cash.

15th August 2015 – Julian Bond, 75

Civil rights activist.

“Bond was one of the original leaders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee while he was a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta. He was the committee’s communications director for five years and deftly guided the national news media toward stories of violence and discrimination as the committee challenged legal segregation in the South’s public facilities. He gradually moved from the militancy of the student group to the leadership of the establishmentarian N.A.A.C.P.  Along the way, Mr. Bond was a writer, poet, television commentator, lecturer and college teacher, and persistent opponent of the stubborn remnants of white supremacy.”
Roy Reed, NY Times obit

16th August 2015 – George Merchant, 89

Scottish footballer who played for Dundee in the 1950s, and scored a winning goal for Falkirk in the 1957 Scottish Cup final.

16th August 2015 – Kitty McGeever, 48

Actress who appeared in Emmerdale as Lizzie Lakeley.

“Kitty McGeever became the first registered blind actress to have a starring role in a British soap when she joined the cast of Emmerdale in 2009, though her character Lizzie Lakely, a convicted criminal who wore an electronic tag, was not one to elicit much sympathy from viewers. Yet Kitty McGeever, who had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes aged 19 and who had gone completely blind in her 30s after developing diabetic retinopathy, revelled in her role as the unruly Lizzie who causes uproar among locals due to her remorseless bad behaviour, praising the show’s producers for challenging stereotypes of disabled people by not painting her as a saint. “She is very naughty; she’s a bit of a kleptomaniac, for survival really,” she explained. “It’s not like we’ve got in a disabled character and said: 'Oh isn’t she good? She’s such a lovely good, fun, kind person.’ She is fun, but she can be very self-serving as well.””
Telegraph obit

17th August 2015 – Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder, 82

Former President of VfB Stuttgart, and president of the German Football Association from 2000 to 2006.

17th August 2015 – Yvonne Craig, 78

Actress best known for her role in Batman as Batgirl.

20th August 2015 – Egon Bahr, 93

German journalist turned politician who held several Cabinet posts in the governments of Willy Brandt and Helmut Schmidt.

“Bahr, an architect of Ostpolitik, West Germany’s Cold War policy of rapprochement with Moscow and its client states, was active to the last in his efforts to reduce more recent East-West tensions. He visited Moscow last month to join the former Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev in a public plea for continued détente between Germany and Russia — the cause to which Mr. Bahr devoted much of his life. A divided Germany, and the divided city of Berlin in the heart of East Germany, became the front lines of the Cold War after World War II ended in 1945, but Mr. Bahr — a journalist and later a key aide to Chancellor Willy Brandt (and alter ego, some said) — never lost hope that his country would one day be whole again.”
David Binder, NY Times obit

“In 1963, Egon Bahr was the press spokesman for Willy Brandt, a world-renowned figure as mayor of West Berlin, the enclave that was both symbol and front line of the cold war between east and west. That year Bahr produced a paper with the unexciting title of Change Through Rapprochement. It was a statement of principle for what became known as Ostpolitik – eastern policy – and Bahr, who has died aged 93, went on to be a leading figure in its realisation. Ostpolitik was usually described as a programme of detente whereby West Germany sought reconciliation with the communist bloc in eastern Europe – the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies including East Germany. And so it was. But Bahr’s long-term objective was German reunification, to be achieved by a “policy of small steps”. The countries that had borne the brunt of Nazi German brutality had to be won over if that unlikely goal was ever to be reached. Brandt moved on to the larger stage of West German federal politics in 1965, when he stood as the Social Democrats’ candidate for chancellor. After the winning Christian Democrat/Liberal coalition fell apart a year later, Brandt’s party formed a grand coalition with the Christian Democrats. Brandt became deputy chancellor and foreign minister, and at once began to put Ostpolitik into practice, meeting communist leaders.”
Dan van der Vat, Guardian obit

21st August 2015 – Denise Marshall, 53

Civil rights campaigner, and former head of Eaves.

“Denise exhibited many of the qualities of the great leaders of the charity sector. She was a champion of the underrepresented. Director of Eaves since 2000, Denise set up the Poppy project, the country’s first refuge for women trafficked into sexual exploitation, and she helped bring their lives to the attention of government and the public. Eaves provides trafficked women with safety, advocacy and care for years until they are able to return to normality—no small task when their irregular immigration status means that these women are even less popular as a cause than victims of domestic or sexual violence.”
Angela Kail, Remembering Denise Marshall,

21st August 2015 – Gerry Steinberg, 70

Labour MP for City of Durham from 1987 to 2005.

22nd August 2015 – Charles Tomlinson, 88

Poet and translator.

“John Betjeman said: “I hold Charles Tomlinson’s poetry in high regard. His is closely wrought work, not a word wasted … ” For the American objectivist poet George Oppen, “it is [Tomlinson] and Basil Bunting who have spoken most vividly to American poets”. Tomlinson bridged the vast gulf between old and new world poetry, and was an heir equally of Dryden and Williams, Coleridge and Pound. His 16 collections of poetry, books of essays, translations and anthologies are a core resource for English writers and readers of the last half-century, yet he has been more honoured abroad than at home.”
Michael Schmidt, Guardian obit

23rd August 2015 – Joanna Strathdee, 60

SNP politician.

“Aberdeenshire Council co-leader and SNP group leader Richard Thomson led yesterday’s tributes, and described Mrs Strathdee as a “much loved friend and colleague”.Mrs Strathdee served as Aberdeenshire’s SNP group leader from 2007-2010, and also stood in the Westminster elections for Gordon in 2005 and Aberdeen North in 2010. Mr Thomson said: “Joanna was a wise head and a much loved friend and colleague who was respected right across the council chamber. Joanna battled bravely against her illness for many years but never allowed it to stop her carrying out her duties as a councillor or living her life to the full.””
Blair Dingwall, Press and Journal obit

24th August 2015 – Justin Wilson, 37

F1 driver.

25th August 2015 – Colin Fry, 53

Alleged “psychic” who was a colleague of Derek Acorahs and had frequent TV appearances.

26th August 2015 – Amelia Boynton Robinson, 104

Civil rights activist. She became active in the civil rights movement in America after 1934, when she decided to register to vote, as a young African-American, in Alabama.

“News coverage of Bloody Sunday — in which at least 17 demonstrators, including Mrs. Boynton Robinson, were hospitalized — was considered pivotal in winning wide popular support for the civil rights movement. After her release, Mrs. Boynton Robinson was a guest of honor at the White House on Aug. 6, 1965, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the federal Voting Rights Act into law, an event seen as a direct consequence of the marches. “She was as strong, as hopeful and as indomitable of spirit — as quintessentially American — as I’m sure she was that day 50 years ago,” President Obama said in a statement on Wednesday. “To honor the legacy of an American hero like Amelia Boynton requires only that we follow her example — that all of us fight to protect everyone’s right to vote.”Mrs. Boynton Robinson, who had worked to register Southern black voters since the 1930s and in 1964 ran unsuccessfully for Congress from Alabama, remained involved in civil rights advocacy to the end of her life. On March 7 of this year, as part of the 50th-anniversary commemoration of Bloody Sunday, Mrs. Boynton Robinson, using a wheelchair, held hands with Mr. Obama as they traversed the Edmund Pettus Bridge together.”
Margalit Fox, NY Times obit

27th August 2015 – Teresa Gorman, 83

Tory MP for Billericay from 1987 to 2001, who became famous as one of the Maastricht rebels during John Majors premiership.

“One of the nine Conservative MPs expelled from the party at the end of 1994 for repeatedly rebelling against John Major’s policies on Europe. Although the “Whipless Nine” were readmitted, their rebellion paved the way for John Redwood’s challenge for the leadership the following summer after Major issued his “put up or shut up” call to the party’s Eurosceptics.  The only woman among the Nine, Teresa Gorman would have been a match for the whips even without the invigorating effects of HRT. Declaring herself the “St Teresa of the menopause” she insisted: “If men’s testicles packed up at 60 you can bet your boots there’d be a treatment available”. Mrs Gorman brought to the Commons a belief in “the right of everyone to go to hell in their own way”. Enoch Powell was her hero, and she reckoned herself a close ally of Norman Tebbit. She bore with pride the accolade of “most Right-wing member of Parliament” bestowed by the Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee.  Stridently feminist, she personified her belief that women were “active, productive and seductive members of society”. She pressed for tax relief for working mothers’ child care costs, and her speech in April 1990 opposing David Alton’s bill to curb abortions – advocating a woman’s right to control her own body – was rated by some a parliamentary classic.”
Telegraph obit

29th August 2015 – Graham Leggat, 81

Scottish footballer who played for Aberdeen, Fulham, and the Scottish national team. He played in the 1958 World Cup.

“During his eight years with Fulham, the Scottish internationalist right-winger formed what would become a formidable triangle of football “talking heads”. His inside partner was Jimmy Hill, the man who single-handedly invented football punditry as we now know it, while behind them was Bobby Robson, who, as well as being a brilliant manager, was an entertaining and engaging football talking head. Leggat meanwhile, was for many years the voice of Canadian soccer, with CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and then host of the long-running Saturday Night Soccer Show. Hill, of course, was very much a journeyman player. Robson is remembered as a very good England midfielder and a great manager, but Leggat’s star has waned somewhat in his native land. This is unfortunate because his record is exceptional. He scored more than 200 goals in 400 senior games in British football – better than a goal every two games – the benchmark for an international class striker; he scored 13 hat-tricks in his career. But, Leggat was never an out-and-out striker, he was a winger.”
Matthew Vallance, Scotsman obit

30th August 2015 – Wes Craven, 76

Horror film director best known for A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream.

“He was this wonderful, erudite gentleman with knowledge across all kinds of worlds. He had this 14-year-old boy inside him. It was actually his sense of humor. They say really smart people can't resist a good pun. And Wes couldn’t resist a bad pun! Wes always had some bad jokes or bad puns.”
Robert Englund, Hollywood Reporter, to Jordan Riefe

“Craven reinvented the youth horror genre again in 1984 with the classic and very scary A Nightmare On Elm Street, which also introduced a then-unknown Johnny Depp. The movie spawned several sequels, none of them directed by Craven. He deconstructed the genre a decade after the original, writing and directing the audacious Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, which was nominated for Best Feature at the 1995 Independent Spirit Awards. In 1996 Craven experienced yet another rebirth in horror with the release of Scream, which he directed from a script by Kevin Williamson. Scream sparked multiple sequels and spoofs. One of the last projects Craven worked on was MTV’s series adaptation of Scream, on which he served as executive producer. The series was recently renewed for a second season. “Wes Craven was a tremendous visionary whose sensibility for scares has connected with generations of MTV fans,” MTV said in a statement. “We are honored to have worked with him and proud to carry on his legacy with Scream. Our hearts go out to his family and friends.” Craven took a breather from horror between Scream 2 and Scream 3, when he seized an opportunity to direct a non-genre film for Miramax, Music Of The Heart (1999), which earned star Meryl Streep an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. That same year he completed his first novel, The Fountain Society, published by Simon & Shuster.”
Kinsey Lowe, Deadline obit

30th August 2015 –Oliver Sacks, 82

Psychologist turned science writer, known for The Man Who Mistook  His Wife for a Hat, and the book Awakenings, later turned into a film.

“Sacks’s writing fascinated and inspired writers and film directors and showed how patients who are isolated by disease can still retain their dignity and humanity. Sacks’s subjects were people afflicted with fantastic perceptual and intellectual aberrations; people who had lost their memories and with them the greater part of their pasts; people unable to recognise common objects; Tourette’s syndrome sufferers stricken with violent tics and grimaces and unable to stop themselves shouting obscenities; sufferers from Asperger’s syndrome who cannot relate to other people but often possess uncanny artistic or mathematical talents.”
Telegraph obit

“I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death. I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers. Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”
Oliver Sacks, My Own Life, New York Times  19 Feb 2015

31st August 2015 – Lord Montagu, 88

Motor racing fanatic who opened the museum. In the 1950s, he was convicted of homosexual acts, in a famous trial which is alleged to have turned public opinion towards the decriminalisation. The police had tipped off the press about the arrest, hoping to make it a big news story. They did, but when Montagu and friends were charged in court, they left the court room to find a crowd of ordinary people cheering them! Lord Montagu remained shy about his role in the legalisation.

"I am slightly proud that the law has been changed to the benefit of so many people. I would like to think that I would get some credit for that. Maybe I'm being very boastful about it but I think because of the way we behaved and conducted our lives afterwards, because we didn't sell our stories, we just returned quietly to our lives, I think that had a big effect on public opinion."
Lord Montagu, Evening Standard, 2007