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Last Word
Listen to the latest editionFriday   16:00-16:30
Sunday 20:30-21:00 (rpt)

Radio 4's weekly obituaries programme
We welcome your comments and suggestions contact us
This week
Friday 13th February 2009
(Rpt) Sunday 15th February 2009
Matthew Bannister
Matthew Bannister tells the life stories of people who have died recently: Sir George Godber, Bobby Butlin, The Reverend Roy Magee, Harold Blackham and Mansour Rahbani.
Sir George Godber
Former Chief Medical Officer who has died aged 100

Sir George Godber played an important part in the formation of the National Health Service. He studied medicine at New College Oxford and rowed twice in the university boat race crew. He joined the Ministry of Health in 1939 and became the government’s Chief Medical Officer in 1960. For thirteen years he had a powerful influence on health policy and launched public campaigns on the dangers of smoking and promiscuity.

Matthew Bannister talks to the current Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, former colleague Dr Geoffrey Rivett and to Dr Sally Sheard.

Sir George Godber was born 4 August 1908 and died 7 February 2009

Bobby Butlin
Chairman of Butlins Holiday Camp who has died aged 74

Bobby Butlin took over the family’s holiday camp business from his father Sir Billy Butlin in 1968. He made a number of changes to the Butlins camps, attempting to cast off the old fashioned image of knobbly knees contests and Radio Butlins. In 1972, Bobby oversaw the sale of Butlins to the Rank organisation for £43 million, although he stayed on as Chairman until 1984.

Matthew Bannister talks to Bobby Butlin’s cousin Sonia Meaden and to The Independent’s Travel Editor Simon Calder.

Bobby Butlin was born 30 April 1934 and died 31 December 2008

The Reverend Roy Magee
Presbyterian Minister and mediator who has died aged 79

The Reverend Roy Magee was a Presbyterian Minister who played a key role in the Northern Ireland peace process. He used his contacts with loyalist paramilitaries to persuade them to declare a ceasefire in 1994. Roy Magee was born in north Belfast, the son of a fitter in a textile mill. He left school at fourteen and took a number of different jobs before deciding to enter the ministry.

Matthew Bannister talks to former BBC Northern Ireland Security Correspondent Brian Rowan and to Davy Adams, one of the loyalist delegation that helped negotiate the Good Friday Agreement.

The Reverend Roy Magee was born 3 January 1930 and died 31 January 2009.

Harold Blackham
Founder of the British Humanist Association who has died aged 105

Harold Blackham was one of the leaders of the modern Humanist movement. He earned a living as a lecturer on philosophy and ethics and wrote many influential books on the subjects. He helped to found the International Humanist and Ethical Union and in 1963 brought together a number of groups to form the British Humanist Association, becoming its first director. Harold was a champion of moral education in schools- at a time when many social services were provided through churches. He was also involved in developing secular adoption, housing and counselling agencies.

Matthew Bannister talks to one of Harold Blackham’s successors at the British Humanist Association, David Pollock and to the Association’s Director of Education, Andrew Copson.

Harold Blackham was born 31 March 1903 and died 23 January 2009

Mansour Rahbani
Lebanese composer who has died aged 83

You can’t mention the name of the Lebanese composer Mansour Rahbani without talking about his late brother Assi and his sister in law – the legendary diva Fairouz. For thirty years, the trio dominated music in their native Lebanon and the wider Middle East. In the 1940s Arab music largely consisted of epic song poems in the Egyptian classical style often lasting for twenty minutes. The Rahbani brothers and their charismatic singer introduced shorter songs, with lyrics reflecting contemporary themes and a style which drew on both Eastern and Western influences.

Matthew Bannister talks to American academic Dr. Kenneth Habib his thesis and to the BBC’s Maha Barada in Beirut.

Mansour Rahbani was born March 17 1925 and died 13 January 2009.
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