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30 minutes
First broadcast:
Friday 24 July 2009

Matthew Bannister presents the obituary series, analysing and celebrating the life stories of people who have recently died. The programme reflects on people of distinction and interest from many walks of life, some famous and some less well known.

  • Jill Balcon

    Actress who has died aged 84

    Jill Balcon was the daughter of the film producer Sir Michael Balcon who ran Ealing studios. She made her film debut in the studio’s adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby in 1947. The following year she met the poet Cecil Day-Lewis. She was 23 – he was in his 40’s, married and also carrying on a long term affair, but the couple fell in love and eventually married in 1951. Jill carried on performing, but concentrated more on radio and poetry readings, where she often appeared alongside her husband. Together they had two children- the food writer Tamasin Day-Lewis and actor Daniel-Day Lewis. After Cecil’s death, Jill continued to work in radio, stage and television, and made a return to films in the 1990s with cameos in Derek Jarman’s “Edward the second” and “Wittgenstein.”

    Matthew Bannister talks to the biographer of Cecil Day-Lewis, Peter Stanford, Jill’s friend Natasha Spender and to former BBC Radio drama producer Enyd Williams.

    Jill Balcon was born 3 January 1925 and died 18 July 2009.

  • Ronald Pitts Crick

    Ophthalmologist who has died aged 92

    Ronald Pitts Crick developed the use of the operating microscope in eye surgery and established the International Glaucoma Association to promote research and screening - helping thousands of sufferers. Ronald was born in Canada and educated in London. He graduated from King’s College Medical School in 1939 and served as a surgeon lieutenant on the aircraft carrier Illustrious during the war. In 1950 he became a consultant surgeon back at King’s as well as at the Belgrave Hospital for Children and the Royal Eye hospital.

    Matthew Bannister spoke to the presenter of BBC Radio 4’s “In Touch” programme, Peter White and to Ronald’s former secretary Betsy Wright.

    Ronald Pitts Crick was born 5 February 1917 and died 10th June 2009.

  • Jimmy Forsyth

    Photographer who has died aged 95

    When Jimmy Forsyth lost his job as a fitter at the ICI plant on Tyneside in 1946, he moved to the Scotswood Road area of Newcastle. The working class district was full of back to back housing and dominated by the Vickers Armstrong works. By the early 1950’s, plans were afoot to demolish much of the housing and disperse the community to different parts of the city. Jimmy – who’d lost the sight of one eye in an accident at work – decided to capture scenes of the threatened community with his second hand camera. This began a project which ended up with thousands of images, all collected in distinctive tartan albums. In the 1980s, Jimmy’s work came to wider public attention with an acclaimed exhibition and the publication of a book of his photos. He became something of a local celebrity, being interviewed on the TV music show The Tube, and taking a cameo role in a movie.

    Matthew Bannister talks to Jimmy Forsyth’s friend Tony Flowers.

    Jimmy Forsyth was born 13 August 1913 and died 11 July 2009.

  • Gordon Burn

    Writer who has died aged 61

    Gordon Burn was a writer and journalist who wrote about sport, murder and celebrity. His book about the Yorkshire Ripper – “Somebody’s Husband, Somebody’s Son” - was acclaimed and followed by his novel imagining the life of the singer Alma Cogan, which won the Whitbread First novel award in 1992.

    His last major work – written in six weeks – was called “Born Yesterday” – and subtitled “The News as a Novel”. It took the events of the summer of 2007 and turned them into a narrative. Gordon was born in Newcastle, where his mother worked in the Binns department store and his father was a paint sprayer.

    Matthew Bannister talks to American writer Richard Ford.

    Gordon Burn was born 16 January 1948 and died 17 July 2009.



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