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30 minutes
First broadcast:
Friday 06 August 2010

Jane Little presents Radio 4's obituary programme, analysing and reflecting on the lives of people who have recently died.

On Last Word this week:
Financier turned royal courtier Sir John Riddell, who as private secretary to both the Prince and Princess of Wales remained on good terms with both. Lolita Lebron who led a gun attack on the US House of Representatives to make the case for Puerto Rican independence. Screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz who revived the fortunes of James Bond and saved Superman. Donald Shiley, whose artificial heart valve was credited with prolonging thousands of lives. And Eric Tindill who until his death held the distinction of being the oldest surviving Test cricketer in the world and an All Blacks Rugby player.

Producer: Neil George.

  • Sir John Riddell

    Financier and former private secretary to the Prince and Princess of Wales, who has died at 76.

    Sir John Riddell was a director of Credit Suisse First Boston and on the board of Northern Rock when he was head hunted to become the Private Secretary and Treasurer to the Prince and Princess of Wales. This was at a time of growing tension within their marriage which was beginning to publically unravel, and Sir John found himself in an unfamiliar media glare. But he regarded this role as a public duty. John Charles Buchanan Riddell was born in 1934 and at only six months old, he inherited the Riddell Baronetcy after his father died in a riding accident. He was raised at the family home of Hepple near Morpeth in Northumberland. But the family fortunes, along with the house, were in a poor state so he trained as an accountant in the hope of restoring both.

    We spoke to Magnus Linklater, former editor of The Times, and to Matt Ridley former chairman at Northern Rock.

    John Riddell was born 3 January 1934 and died 24 July 2010.

  • Tom Mankiewicz

    Hollywood screenwriter and director who has died at 68.

    Tom Mankiewicz was a screenwriter, director and producer best known for reviving the fortunes of James Bond, and for saving Superman. He was born into the film business, his father was Joseph Mankiewicz who won four Oscars in two years for writing and directing, and his mother was actress Rose Stradner. He studied at Yale Drama School in the early sixties and had intended to follow in his mother’s footsteps, but his talents as a writer, with his sharp ear for witty dialogue, led him in another direction.

    Jane spoke to writer and film maker Matthew Field and to the Bond film producer, Michael Wilson.

    Tom Mankiewicz was born 1 June 1942 and died 31 July 2010.

  • Donald Shiley

    Co-inventor of the Bjork-Shiley heart valve and philanthropist who has died aged 90.

    It could be said that Donald Shiley achieved the American Dream. He was born in 1920 on a farm in Washington State, went into the Navy, which funded his engineering studies, and his invention of the heart valve not only made him a fortune, but is credited with changing the face of heart surgery in the 1970’s and saving up to half a million lives.

    We spoke to Dr Mary Lyons, President of the University of San Diego.

    Donald Shiley was born in1920 and died 31 July 2010.

  • Lolita Lebron

    Puerto Rican nationalist who has died aged 90.

    Lolita Lebron did not expect to live beyond March 1st 1954. That was the day she led a gun attack on the US House of Representatives which wounded several congressman and saw her jailed for the next 25 years. The former beauty queen from the island of Puerto Rico soon became the poster woman for the nationalist struggle to gain independence from the US and she is often now compared to the revolutionaries Che Guevara and Pancho Villa.

    Jane spoke to one of her co-activists who took part in the attack in 1954, Rafael Miranda, and to Angelo Falcon of the National Institute for Latino Policy.

    Dolores "Lolita" Lebrón was born 19 November 1919 and died 1 August 2010.

  • Eric Tindill

    International cricketer and rugby player who has died aged 99.

    Eric Tindill almost scored the ultimate century. He died earlier this week aged 99, and so ended the life of a New Zealander who had not only been the oldest surviving Test cricketer in the world but also the oldest All Blacks Player. Eric Tindill was born at Nelson in Tasman Bay. His youth was spent on the sports field, and he nearly met an untimely death on the rugby pitch in 1929 when he was knocked unconscious for four days. He went on to excel in several amateur sports, including table tennis, and for forty years he worked in the government audit office as an accountant.

    Jane spoke to Graeme Wright, friend and former editor of Wisden, and to cricket expert, David Rayvern-Allen.

    Eric Tindill was born 18 December 1910 and died 1 August 2010.



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    Last Word

    Radio 4’s obituary programme, marking the lives of significant figures who have died recently,…

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