Wednesday, 2 December 2015

In Memoriam: February 2015

1st February 2015 – Beryl Platt, 91

Mathematician, one of the first female aeronautics expert, and Conservative peer, Baroness Platt of Writtle.

“She was only 20, and a new Cambridge graduate, when in 1943 she joined Hawker Aircraft in its experimental flight test department at Langley, Berkshire, in top-secret work on fighter aircraft: the Hurricane, Typhoon, Tempest and Fury. She was present when the Last of the Many, the final Hawker Hurricane – an aircraft that had shot down more enemy aircraft in the Battle of Britain than the rest of UK air and ground defences combined – rolled off the production line in July 1944.”
Tom Corby, Guardian obit

“A fervent advocate of equality in education and at work, she reportedly always carried a copy of the Sex Discrimination Act and a screwdriver in her handbag, explaining: “It’s the symbol of my trade, and it is also jolly useful when the lights fail.” Despite being described by her father as a bookworm, cack-handed and “bloody pig-headed”, Platt’s smile and bubbly nature belied her steely determination to succeed in areas deemed “unladylike”. On completion of an engineering degree, she embarked upon a career at Hawkers Experimental Flight Test Division at Langley, Berkshire, in top secret work on fighter aircraft, where she was the only engineer of three women working alongside more than 50 men; she refused to learn to type so as to avoid any risk of secretarial work. Platt worked 65-70-hour weeks on the testing and production of the RAF’s outstanding fighter planes of the era: the Hurricane, Typhoon, Fury and Tempest V, the latter being the first conventional aircraft to counter the German V-1 pilotless rockets.”
Martin Childs, Scotsman obit

“In 1980, it was rare to find a female engineer in the UK. While many women were employed by engineering firms, 94% worked as clerical staff, telephone operators and in unskilled trades. University statistics revealed a similar story: the number of full-time UK engineering and technology undergraduates totalled nearly 30,000 but only 7% were women. Meanwhile, nearly 68% of the 31,609 language and literature undergraduates, were female. As the Engineering Council said at the time: “Statistics, observation and research indicate that many girls drift into the arts because they are regarded as ‘girls’ subjects’, and it is this drift which [we] plan to affect.” With this in mind, in 1984 the Engineering Council collaborated with the Equal Opportunities Commission to launch the Women into Science and Engineering (WISE) year. Spearheaded by Baroness Beryl Platt, Chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission at the time, the initiative intended to highlight the career opportunities for girls and women in science and engineering professions” Terry Marsh, Engaging Girls in Engineering, Ingenia Issue 42 March 2010

2nd February 2015 – Stewart Stern, 92

Oscar nominated screenwriter who wrote Rebel Without a Cause.

2nd February 2015 – Frank Borghi, 89

American footballer who played in the 1950 World Cup and was part of the team who beat England 1-0, one of the great World Cup shocks.

3rd February 2015 – Sir Martin Gilbert, 78

“Brown had asked Gilbert during one private meeting whether he knew any historians who might be suitable members of the inquiry and he said he would go home and think about it. As he was led out of the room, the private secretary said to him gently: “I think the prime minister did not make himself quite clear. He wanted you to join the inquiry.” The government’s archives on the Iraq war were opened for Gilbert and for three years he worked on them as once he worked on those of Churchill.”
Richard Gott, Guardian obit

British historian and biographer, and a long time colleague of my mum. He wrote the final six books of Winston Churchill’s biography after the death of Randolph Churchill, who had written the first two. There was around a dozen other books focusing on various parts of Churchill’s war, which provided a good chunk of the reading material for Higher History when yours truly sat it. Towards the end of his life, he sat on the Chilcott Inquiry, despite heart problems.

“Whoever made the decision to make Martin Gilbert Churchill's biographer deserves a vote of thanks from the nation. Nothing less would suffice." Michael Foot, 1971

“Gilbert saw himself as a chronicler, carving a historical narrative from the documents and the archives, and allowing readers to make their own judgments. He was a master of detail but his particular genius, at first with Churchill and later with the Holocaust, was to bring into his books as many ordinary people as he could. He used to say that Churchill was such an impossibly large figure that his biography needed to be leavened with the presence of all the lesser mortals surrounding him. Gilbert made it his job to locate every surviving secretary and chauffeur, every pilot and gardener, who had ever worked for the great man. He maintained a huge correspondence with the totally unknown as well as the great and the good, and was endlessly generous to other researchers.” Richard Gott, Guardian obit

“Ordinarily one would be given an assignment on Thursday and be required to submit an essay on the following Thursday. This gave you the weekend to read a vast number of books and articles, and then the night before tutorial you could write your essay. Now there were two ways to do this. You could skim the readings and-knowing the views of your tutor beforehand-write a plausible essay reflecting the tutor's or the standard view. Or you could try to read the materials thoroughly, try really to master the subject for yourself, and write an essay on this understanding. Well, this second approach was virtually impossible because of the vast amount of material and the short amount of time. But I decided that this was the approach to take if anyone really wanted to learn something, to understand what had happened, and not merely be able to say something plausible or fashionable about it. In general, one was expected to be too clever by half, and I decided to try to be accurate and tell the basic story. It was surprising how often the basic story, the real story as it emerges from the documentary record, would be lost even in the supposedly authoritative works.”
Martin Gilbert, Claremont interview 2014

5th February 2015 – Jeffrey Segal, 94

Old character actor who appeared in, among others, Rentaghost, Fawlty Towers and Yes Minister. He had a late role in an excellent episode of Jonathan Creek, The Tailor’s Dummy, as a blind murder victim.

5th February 2015 – Val Fitch, 91

Nuclear physicist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1964.

9th February 2015 – Ed Sabol, 98

Founder of NFL films.

9th February 2015 – Drew McDonald, 59

The Highlander from Hell. Scottish pro-wrestler who went from the World of Sport days to the modern British indy scene, had a hand in the development of many young British wrestlers and won the FWA Tag team championship with Ulf Herman. An attempt to become King of England (in wrestling terms, not a coup) was ended in the semifinals of a televised 2002 tournament by Jody Fliesch.

"Very sorry to hear of the passing of Drew McDonald. Drew was a great unselfish Pro. A wonderful rogue who lived life to the fullest. I've known and been friends with Drew since 1984 and have travelled and wrestled with him all over Europe." William Regal

12th January 2015 – Steve Strange,55

Lead singer of Visage.

12th February 2015 – Sam Andrew, 73

Guitarist who had a long collaboration with Janis Joplin as part of Big Brother and the Holding Company.

13th February 2015 – Hugh Walters, 75

Familiar TV actor who was Vic Thatcher in the original series of Terry Nations’s Survivors, Sykes in Heartbeat, and Mr Little in Chance in a Million. He also had three roles in Doctor Who, in three decades: as William Shakespeare in The Chase, commentator Runcible in The Deadly Assassin, and as Vogel in Revelation of the Daleks, the latter of which he got a truly OTT send off, complete with champagne, extermination by the Daleks, and looking mournfully into the eyes of Eleanor Bron.

14th February 2015 – Louis Jourdan, 93

French actor. One of the most suave Bond villains to appear on the screen. His Kamal Khan in Octopussy oozes sophistication and quite danger, as best shown in the scene where Bond beats him at the casino table, only for Jourdan to quietly tell to “spend the money quickly, Mr Bond”. His quiet menace allows Steven Berkoff to chew the scenery as a deranged Soviet commander, and for Kabir Bedi to silently growl as Gobinda, and the three compliment each other as a trio of villains. Jourdan also played Dracula in the big budget BBC adaption of the Bram Stoker novel. He also appeared in Gigi (for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe), Madame Bouvary, and, randomly, Swamp Thing. Not a bad career for someone who had had to make a break to unoccupied France when the Nazis invaded.

“His father was arrested by the Gestapo, and Louis and his two brothers were active members of the resistance, whose work for the underground meant that he had to stay away from the studios. But it also resulted in his becoming a favourite of the resurgent French postwar film industry. At a time when many had worked on films that had served to help Marshal P├ętain’s propaganda campaign – and stars such as Chevalier were being accused of collaboration – it was easy to promote a star who had actively worked against the Nazis.” Michael Freedland, Guardian obit

14th February 2015 – Alan Howard, 77

Long running RSC actor who made appearances in The Return of Sherlock Holmes, David Copperfield and A Perfect Spy.

“Howard had played almost every Shakespearean king (and Coriolanus) for theRoyal Shakespeare Company over 16 years from 1966... His clarion voice, the most distinctive (with Ian Richardson’s) of his generation, would reverberate to the rafters, his myopic demeanour – his face was studded, it seemed, with eyes like currants either side of a banana nose – seeking refuge in an audience’s sympathy. Solitude was his mindset, grand spiritual debauchery his inclination Alongside Ian McKellen, Howard was the leading heroic actor of his generation, someone whose voice, even in a misfired 1993 National Theatre Macbeth (known as the “gas-ring” Macbeth on account of some circular ground level lighting of blue flames), thrillingly encompassed, said the critic Irving Wardle, a sardonic croak, a lyrical caress, a one-man brass section and a whinnying cry of horror. His Hamlet was a model of melancholic introspection without a jot of sentiment or self-pity, his Benedick (opposite Janet Suzman as Beatrice) in Much Ado a genuinely funny and self-deluded popinjay, his Achilles in a famous Troilus and Cressida the most sensual and riveting in RSC history.” Michael Coveney, Guardian obit

14th February 2015 – Michele Ferrero, 89

Italian chocolate manufacturer, who owned Ferrero SpA, and unleashed upon the world Ferrero Rocher, Nutella and Kinder Chocolate.

“That man deserves a state funeral.”

“Ferrero, who has died aged 89, was an entrepreneur of a kind Italy throws up from time to time, inspired more by the social doctrines of the Roman Catholic church than by any belief in the merits of the free market. Over more than half a century, he turned his family firm into a giant multinational, with a turnover in 2014 of €8.4bn (£6.2bn), and made himself Italy’s richest individual, with a personal fortune that Bloomberg last year put at $26.7bn (£17.4bn). Yet he never deviated from the benign, paternalistic spirit of that first declaration. And he never felt satisfied: he would work all day on Sunday, or through the night, with his closest associates, experimenting and tasting to find new formulas and products. Over the years, there were many of them, including Kinder bars and eggs, Tic Tac mints and Ferrero Rocher pralines. But at the origin of his company’s success was the thick brown spread that remains at the heart of it – Nutella, a blend of chocolate, nut paste and other ingredients, the recipe for which is a secret as closely guarded as that of Coca-Cola. Secrecy was a personal Ferrero hallmark, too. He never gave a newspaper interview, refused to accept honorary degrees and, according to a report in the daily Corriere della Sera, scrutinised prospective employees from behind a two-way mirror. Because of an eye affliction, he took to wearing dark glasses that made him seem even more remote during his rare public appearances.” John Hooper, Guardian obit

14th February 2015 – Pamela Cundell, 95

Actress who was Mrs Fox in Dad’s Army, and one of the last surviving actors from the show.

“David Croft noticed her playing a cheeky fortune teller, opposite Ian Carmichael, on a live television show. She appeared in 13 episodes of Dad’s Army, between 1969 and 1977, and played Mrs Fox for the stage show in the West End. However, she lost out to Mollie Sugden for the radio series – “Not flirtatious enough,” observed Pamela. While Pamela Cundell also took dramatic roles, comedy remained her strong suit. She worked with Benny Hill and Frankie Howerd, and again with Clive Dunn in his series Grandad (1979-80). Another collaborator was Bill Fraser, with whom she worked on the sitcom Bootsie and Snudge. They married in 1981. Her television career touched on many British favourites, with appearances in Bread (1987), Boon (1988), and A Touch of Frost (1994). She had a short tenure in EastEnders and guest-starred in the daytime soap Doctors, playing three separate characters between 2001 and 2009.” Telegraph obit

16th February 2015 – Lesley Gore, 68

Singer who had a hit in the 1960s with “It’s My Party”.

17th February 2015 – George Mackie, 95

Scottish WW2 RAF pilot, who was briefly Liberal MP for Caithness and Sutherland in 1964 to 1966, before losing to Robert Maclennan (later to become a member of the SDP). He was given a life peerage in 1971.

“His life had been coloured by the war and and like many other participants in that terrible conflict, the experience made him a passionate believer in European unity. Much of his political life was devoted to that idealistic concept, including membership of the Council of Europe and a brief spell in the European parliament before it became a directly elected body. He spent many years on House of Lords committees charged with examining EU legislation.”
Ian Aitken, Guardian obit

18th February 2015 – John Crocker, 89

Character actor who was the Army Doctor in The Naked Civil Servant, and had later roles in Bergerac, Poirot and Waiting for God.

21st February 2015 – Christopher Price, 83

Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Bar from 1966 to 1970, and Lewisham West from 1974 to 1983.

“Christopher Price, who has died aged 83, was one of Labour’s leading educational thinkers, and a staunch defender of civil liberties. A highly rated MP for Birmingham Perry Barr and Lewisham West, he went on to chair the New Statesman, be principal of Leeds Metropolitan University and campaign for the return of the Elgin Marbles to Greece. Price never fitted into any of Labour’s ideological factions, congenially building contacts across the political and educational spectrum. He did not see comprehensive schools as an end in themselves, but as the most civilised way of educating children, with the school the focus of the wider community. As deputy chairman of Sheffield education committee, he played a role in implementing the city’s shift to comprehensives. As an MP, he strongly supported Anthony Crosland’s Circular 10/65, which empowered local education authorities to make the change in their own way, then proposed forcing recalcitrant councils to go comprehensive in an influential pamphlet New Challenges In Education (1967). Price cautioned Labour that the public schools could not be abolished at a stroke, but urged withdrawal of their charitable status. He caused laughter in the House by noting that Eton had been established to benefit the “poor and needy”.” Telegraph obit

24th February 2015 – Irving Kahn, 109

Financier and investor, who had made money from the Wall Street Crash in 1929 by shorting stocks, and been viewed as a sage of the markets from that point on.

“A studious, patient investor from a family whose durability drew the attention of scientists, Kahn was co-founder and chairman of Kahn Brothers Group Inc., a broker-dealer and investment adviser with about $1 billion under management. Last year, at 108, he was still working three days a week, commuting one mile from his Upper East Side apartment to the firm’s midtown office. There, he shared his thoughts on investment positions with his son, Thomas Kahn, the firm’s president, and grandson Andrew, vice president and research analyst. The cold New York City winter kept Kahn away from the office the past several months, his grandson said. “I prefer to be slow and steady,” Kahn said in a 2014 interview with the U.K. Telegraph. “I study companies and think about what they might return over, say, four or five years. If a stock goes down, I have time to weather the storm, maybe buy more at the lower price. If my arguments for the investment haven’t changed, then I should like the stock even more when it goes down.” Laurence Arnold, Bloomberg obit

25th February 2015 – Barry Newbery, 88

Production designer who worked on several BBC shows, including Doomwatch, but is best known for his 62 episodes of Doctor Who, including three from the first ever story.

“Barry Newbery joined the BBC in the late 1950's after working as a freelance designer in London, overseeing window displays and designing exhibitions. Early work for the Corporation included Comedy Playhouse and The Last Man Out, a 1962 period drama starring Barry Letts. In 1963 he found himself attached to the new science fiction programme, planned by the BBC, Doctor Who. He was one of two designers drafted in to replace original designer Peter Brachacki, who had left the series following disagreements with the series producer Verity Lambert. Brachacki had designed the sets for the original pilot, but had left the show by the time the first episode was reshot, leaving Newbery to recreate the original Junkyard and School set, which had been destroyed following completion of the pilot. For the majority of Doctor Who's first two years Newbery would share the design work with Raymond Cusick, with Cusick taking the Science fiction stories, while Newbery worked on the historical adventures. After creating a stone age settlement for An Unearthly Child, he was tasked with creating the court of Kubla Khan in Marco Polo, the city of Tenochtitlan in The Aztecs, the cities and deserts around Jaffa in The Crusade and Saxon England in The Time Meddler.” Marcus Hilton, Doctor Who News obit

“Doctor Who was done in Lime Grove D in those days which is a very small studio and it only gave me twelve feet to make the desert set. The height of the camera lens is the horizon level, which was usually about four feet, six inches. If you built your horizon too high, it would look wrong, if it was too low it would look at though it were sloping down a hill.” Barry Newbery, interviewed in Doctor Who Magazine issue 152

25th February 2015 – Chris Rainbow, 68

Scottish singer who performed with The Alan Parsons Project, and went on to produce albums for Runrig.

25th February 2015 – Harve Bennett, 84

American producer who went from The Mod Squad and The Six Million Dollar Man, to being a pivotal force in the revival of Star Trek in the 1980s movie franchise.

“Bennett, of course, produced and co-wrote the story for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which was a hit financially, critically and with Trek fans and is widely credited with saving the franchise, as Paramount Pictures had serious doubts about Star Trek as a viable entity following the costly Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Bennett subsequently produced and co-wrote the stories for The Search for Spock, The Voyage Home and The Final Frontier. Bennett also made a memorable cameo appearance in The Final Frontier, playing Starfleet Chief of Staff Admiral Robert Bennett. Bennett turned down the opportunity to produce Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country because he favored a prequel script he'd written called Star Trek: The Academy Years. He "had an eye on" John Cusack for Spock and thought Ethan Hawke could have been Kirk, and there would have been roles for all the Original Series actors as well. "All the possibilities were open, the script was beautiful, and the love story was haunting," Bennett told in 2010. "But it didn't happen.", in our 2010 interview with Bennett, asked him what he thought his most significant contributions to the franchise were. He replied candidly and in detail, saying. "I resurrected the franchise (at the time). That would be my contribution. There might not have been another Star Trek and certainly there would not have been spin had not Star Trek II been such a very viable hit.” Star Trek. Com obituary

27th February 2015 –Richard Bakalyan, 84

Actor who appeared in Chinatown, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, and was the voice of Dinky in The Fox and the Hound.