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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
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This week
Friday 15th August 2008
(Rpt) Sunday 17th August
Jane Little
Jane Little tells the life stories of people who have died recently: Sir Bill Cotton, Mahmoud Darwish, Harold Rosen and PC John Johnson.
Sir Bill Cotton
BBC executive who has died aged 80

Sir Bill Cotton launched dozens of glittering careers - the cast of Monty Python, The Two Ronnies, Bruce Forsyth and Michael Parkinson to name but a few.

He was born in London in 1928 with show business in his blood. His father was band leader Billy Cotton whose shows on the BBC in the 1950s were a huge success. His son, Bill, turned down a place at Cambridge and went to work in music publishing – that was the first sign that he would not fit the then elitist mould of the BBC hierarchy. His father recruited him to produce his shows and from the outset of his career at the BBC he was a populist; he would help revolutionise tastes in living rooms up and down the country.

Jane Little talks to Michael Grade, Executive Chairman of ITV, who used to work for Bill Cotton and to Sir Paul Fox, who was controller of BBC One when Bill was Head of Light Entertainment.

William Frederick "Bill" Cotton was born April 23rd 1928. He died August 11th 2008.
Mahmoud Darwish
Poet who has died aged 67

Mahmoud Darwish's funeral in Ramallah in the West Bank on Wednesday drew thousands of mourners, and was televised throughout the Arab world. It was the first funeral of its scale in the Palestinian Territories in the four years since the death of Yasser Arafat, whose speeches were either written by Mahmoud Darwish or drew heavily on his poetry with its themes of exile, alienation and loss.

Mahmoud Darwish rose to fame in the 1960s with a series of poems critical of the Israeli occupation. He was jailed several times and went on to write the Palestinian Declaration of Independence.

BBC’s correspondent in Ramallah, Aleem Maqbool, reported from the funeral and talked to mourners including Darwish’s friend, the Palestinian legislator, Dr Hanan Ashrawi.

Mahmoud Darwish was born March 13th 1942. He died August 9th 2008.
Harold Rosen
Educationalist who has died aged 89

Harold Rosen held passionate views on many subjects. He was a Jew, a communist and a leading educationalist whose views on the teaching of English helped create a new understanding of the subject, and set him on a collision course with successive governments.

Harold was born in Brockton Massachusetts in 1919. At the age of two he came to London with his mother, who was an active communist, and settled in the East End. In 1935 he joined the Young Communist League, where he met his future wife Connie, and together they joined the hundreds of thousands of residents of the East End who blocked the planned march of fascist leader Oswald Mosley and his Blackshirts in what became known as The Battle of Cable Street.

Harold went on to become the head of English at the pilot comprehensive school in Walworth and then the London Institute of Education which he helped put on the international map for the education of English Teachers.

Jane Little talks to Harold Rosen's sons Michael and Brian Rosen.

Harold Rosen was born June 25th 1919. He died July 31st 2008.
PC John Johnson
Twice voted one of the best policemen in London who has died aged 52

It’s not every man who would be as happy riding his bike on patrol in south London as rubbing shoulders with judges and chief constables in The Reform Club. But PC John Johnson – known as JJ or Jonny to his friends – straddled the two worlds with apparent ease. He was twice voted Metropolitan Community Policeman of the Year, and he remained a bobby on the beat for twenty five years. He was also the force behind the Battersea Police Ball, the Rotary Club Christmas Dinner which entertains hundreds of pensioners in Battersea Park on Christmas Day, and the Battersea Summer Scheme which occupies hundreds of young people during the summer holidays.

John Johnson was born to a British mother and South African father and brought up in Vienna. He went to Oxford for a year but left to join the police.

Given his personality and long commitment to the community, his friends and family are still struggling to come to terms with the shock of Jonny Johnson’s death. He took his own life by jumping from Battersea Bridge.

Jane Little talks to John Johnson's colleague at the Lavender Hill Police Station, PC Al Bottomley, his brother, David Johnson and friends Tony Kennett and Dennis Doble.
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