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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 27th February 2009
(Rpt) Sunday 1st March 2009
Matthew Bannister
Matthew Bannister tells the life stories of people who have died recently: Lord Dearing, Wendy Richard, Sir Ernest Harrison, Christopher Nolan and Nancy Tait.
Lord Dearing
Civil Servant who has died aged 78

Lord Dearing had at least three careers. He was a consummate civil servant, equally admired by successive governments. He was Chairman of the Post Office at a troubled time in its history. He also produced a series of influential reports on education – in particular recommending the introduction of tuition fees to solve the university funding crisis. He was born in Hull, his father was a clerk in the docks who was killed while fire-watching during the war. Leaving school at 16, Dearing started work as a clerk in the local Labour Exchange but immediately began studying at night school so that he could take the Civil Service Exams. He went on to work at the Ministry of Power, the Treasury and then at the Department of Trade and Industry.

Matthew Bannister talks to Lord Baker and The Rt Hon. David Blunkett.

Lord Dearing was born July 27 1930 and died February 19 2009.

Wendy Richard
Actress who has died aged 65

From the very first episode of “EastEnders” in 1985, millions of viewers followed the ups and downs of Wendy Richard’s character Pauline Fowler as she endured infidelity, violence and her children going off the rails.

Wendy was born Wendy Emerton in Middlesborough, where her parents ran a pub. During her childhood they moved several times, before ending up in London. She attended the Italia Conti stage school and broke into television through parts in “Dixon of Dock Green” and “No Hiding Place”. But her first iconic role was as the sexy shop assistant Miss Brahms in the sitcom “Are You Being Served”.

Matthew Bannister talks to the actors Trevor Bannister and Bill Treacher and former EastEnders Executive Producer John Yorke.

Wendy Richard was born July 20 1943 and died February 26 2009.

Sir Ernest Harrison
Entrepreneur who has died aged 82

Sir Ernest Harrison was a highly successful entrepreneur. He led the electronics group Racal which gave birth to the mobile phone giant Vodafone. He also owned a string of racehorses, ran his business from a permanent suite in The Dorchester Hotel and expected his executives to be able to play a mean hand of poker. Ernest Harrison was born in Hackney in East London. His father was a docker and his mother made ties in a garment factory. He was educated at Trinity Grammar School and then trained as an accountant. In 1951, he became the thirteenth employee at Racal and stayed with the company for fifty years.

Matthew Bannister talks to former Chief Executive of Vodafone, Sir Christopher Gent and BBC Technology Correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones.

Sir Ernest Harrison was born May 11 1926 and died February 16 2009.
Christopher Nolan
Writer who has died aged 43

Christopher Nolan suffered from cerebral palsy and couldn’t walk, speak or use his arms. Inside Christopher’s head a torrent of words was waiting to burst out. Helped by a rod strapped to his forehead and supported by his mother, Christopher painstakingly tapped out poems, a Whitbread Prize winning autobiography and an acclaimed novel.

He was born in County Westmeath in the Irish Republic, though his parents later moved to Dublin. Christopher’s first book “Dam-Burst of Dreams” was published when he was just fifteen.

Matthew talks to Fintan O’Toole of The Irish Times.

Christopher Nolan was born September 6 1965 and died February 20 2009.

Nancy Tait
Campaigner who has died aged 89

For more than thirty years, Nancy Tait campaigned to raise awareness of the dangers of exposure to asbestos. Her husband Bill was a telecommunications engineer who died of the cancer mesothelioma in 1968. At that time the link between the disease and asbestos had only just been established and Bill had not worked directly with asbestos, although he’d been exposed to it.

Nancy campaigned on behalf of thousands of victims of asbestos-related illness. She set up the Society for the Prevention of Asbestosis and Industrial Diseases – or SPAID – which later became the Occupational and Environmental Diseases Association – OEDA.

Matthew Bannister talks to John McClean, the GMB Union’s National Health and Safety Officer and former Chair of OEDA.

Nancy Tait was born February 12 1920 and died February 13 2009.

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