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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 22nd February 2008
(Rpt) Sunday 24th February
Matthew Bannister
Matthew Bannister tells the life stories of people who have died recently: Ralph Bradshaw White, Professor Bryan Jennett, Edward Wilson, Alaine Robbe-Grillet and Emily Perry.
Ralph Bradshaw White
Cameraman and Adventurer, who has died aged 66

The real life cameraman who shot the first footage of the wreck of the Titanic was Ralph Bradshaw White. He returned to the site 30 times and boasted that he’d spent more time on the Titanic than its captain. Ralph’s images appeared in the Hollywood movie and in the 1993 IMAX documentary “Titanica”. Ralph Bradshaw White was born in San Bernadino, California and grew up in Hawaii. He attended a military school and served in the US Marines, where he learned to parachute. After his discharge in 1966 he opened a parachuting school, became a member of the United States parachuting team and a free-fall cameraman for the TV show “Ripcord”. His skill as a cameraman gained him a contract with National Geographic, who sent him on the search for the Loch Ness monster and to film wild horses, whales and sharks.

Matthew Bannister speaks to Emory Kristof, Ralph’s long time associate and friend.

Ralph Bradshaw White was born 28th August 1941 and died 4th February 2008.
Bryan Jennett
Professor of Neurosurgery who has died aged 81

Professor Bryan Jennett was a neurosurgeon who revolutionised the care of people with head injuries. Through his meticulous research, Professor Jennett made important contributions to the understanding of brain swelling, late deterioration, impaired consciousness and brain death.

Bryan Jennett, known to his colleagues as “B.J.”, studied at Liverpool University Medical School and Oxford. After a spell as a Rockerfeller Fellow at UCLA in Los Angeles, he was appointed as a consultant neurosurgeon in Glasgow and then became Professor of Neurosurgery at the city’s university.

Matthew Bannister speaks to Sir Graham Teasdale, who worked with Professor Jennett for many years.

Professor Bryan Jennett was born 1st March 1926 and died 26th January 2008.
Edward Wilson
Former Director of the National Youth Theatre who has died aged 60

For nearly twenty years, Edward Wilson was the director of the National Youth Theatre – inspiring and supporting many actors who have gone on to be household names on stage and screen. Wilson was the son of a miner from South Shields. In 1965 the grammar school boy became a member of the National Youth Theatre, alongside the young Helen Mirren, Michael York and Derek Jacobi. Wilson began a career as an actor, appearing on TV in “The Likely Lads”, “Rockliffe’s Babies” and most notably as Billy Seaton in “When the Boat Comes In”. At the same time he was developing skills as a director, especially of ambitious productions with large casts. When his mentor, the NYT founder Michael Croft died, Ed Wilson was a natural choice to succeed him.

Matthew Bannister speaks to actor Rafe Spall, who was inspired by Ed Wilson and the director Bryan Forbes was National Youth Theatre President when he was appointed to lead the company.

Edward Wilson was born 13th July 1947 and he died 2nd February 2008.
Alain Robbe-Grillet
French Novelist and film maker who has died aged 85.

The French writer and film maker Alain Robbe-Grillet was acknowledged as the master of the nouveau roman – or the new novel. He wanted to cast aside the traditions of novel writing, arguing that the days of character, plot and narrative were over. He also made a number of art house films, often focussing on erotic and sadistic themes which some found shocking. Critics are divided over the significance of his work with some believing it to be powerful and revolutionary and others dismissing it as a joke. In France he gained respect, being elected to the Academie Francaise in 2004.

Matthew Bannister speaks to writer and critic Muriel Zagha.

Alain Robbe-Grillet was born 18th August 1922 and died 18th February 2008.
Emily Perry
Former bridesmaid of Dame Edna Everage, who has died aged 100.

Fame came late to Emily Perry. At the age of eighty she was suddenly catapulted to international stardom in the unlikely role of Madge Allsop – the grim faced former bridesmaid of the housewife superstar Dame Edna Everage. Madge would come on to the stage, set up a folding chair, place her handbag firmly beside it and then sit there silent and expressionless as she was roundly abused by Dame Edna.

Emily Perry was born Patricia Perry in Torquay in 1907. She began her stage career at the age of four at the Theatre Royal in Birmingham and went on to act, sing and dance in musicals and pantomimes. During the war she was a member of the forces’ entertainment unit ENSA. Then she gave up show-business to look after her ailing mother, paying the bills by running the Patricia Perry Academy of Dancing in a south London church hall. When she returned to acting in the 1980s, she discovered that another Patricia Perry was registered with Equity, so started to use her middle name Emily.

Matthew Bannister speaks to Barry Humphrie creator of Dame Edna Everage.

Emily Perry was born 28tth June 1907 and died 19th February 2008.
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