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LAST WORD
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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 March 2009
(Rpt) Sunday 29th March 2009
Matthew Bannister
Matthew Bannister tells the life stories of people who have died recently: Gerard Morgan-Grenville, Betsy Blair, Dr Charles Lieber, Margaret Mellis and Bryan Martin.
Gerard Morgan Grenville
Environmental campaigner who has died aged 77.

Gerard Morgan Grenville founded the Centre for Alternative Technology in a quarry in Wales. He was educated at Eton and then did his national service in the army. He was a man of many interests, founding a successful glass and ceramics business with his brother and setting up a company that rented out luxury barges on the canals of continental Europe. But it was his lifelong interest in the environment that prompted him to establish his Centre in 1973. The aim was to invite visitors to see a community living a sustainable lifestyle and to offer education in how to follow their example. Today the centre has one hundred and fifty staff and 65,000 visitors a year.

Matthew Bannister talks to the Director of Forum for the Future, Jonathan Porritt and to the first Director of the Centre for Alternative Technology, Roderick James.

Gerard Morgan-Grenville was born March 26th 1931. He died March 2nd 2009.
Betsy Blair
Actress who has died aged 85

The Hollywood actress Betsy Blair was blacklisted for her left wing politics during the McCarthy witch hunts of the 1950s. But she was saved from the worst effects of the House Unamerican Activites Committee by the fact that she was married to Gene Kelly. The couple had met when she was an aspiring teenage dancer and he was a choreographer holding auditions for a show in New York. They arrived in Hollywood on the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. As Kelly’s film career grew, Betsy took small parts in movies and worked in the theatre. But it was in 1955 that her husband helped her to land the part in the film Marty which was to win her an Oscar nomination. When the couple split up, Betsy moved to Paris, appearing in a series of acclaimed European movies. In the early 1960s she moved to London where she married the film director Karel Reisz. Their household consisted of his three sons from a previous marriage and an extended family of friends, among them the actor and comedienne Arabella Weir.

Matthew Bannister talks to Arabella Weir.

Betsy Blair (Elizabeth Winifred Boger) who was born December 11th 1923. She died March 13th 2009.
Dr Charles Lieber
The first to show that alcohol is a toxin has died aged 78

The advice we get today about the safe limits for drinking alcohol can be traced directly back to the pioneering work of Dr. Charles S. Lieber. He was the first to show that alcohol is a toxin that can damage the liver and that alcoholism is a disease that can be treated. Charles Lieber was born in Antwerp in Belgium in 1931. When the Nazis occupied the country and his Jewish family faced persecution. 
 
Charles Lieber gained his medical degree at the University of Brussels and began to study the causes of ulcers. In 1958 he was given a fellowship to Harvard where he began to challenge the received wisdom by investigating the toxic effect of alcohol on the liver. 
 
Matthew Bannister talks to Dr Charles Lieber's wife Dr. Maria Leo-Lieber and to his friend and colleague Dr. Norman Pace.  

Dr Charles Lieber was born February 13th 1931. He died March 1st 2009.
Margaret Mellis
Artist who has died aged 95

The artist Margaret Mellis was linked to the important movements of twentieth century British art. She was part of the St Ives group which centred around Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth in Cornwall in the 1940s and went on to be acknowledged as an inspiration by Damien Hirst in the 1980s. The work she created later in life using driftwood gathered near her home in Suffolk is seen as perhaps her most significant. Margaret was born in China, the eldest daughter of a Presbyterian missionary who then settled in East Lothian. In 1933, she was given a scholarship which enabled her to study in Paris.

Matthew Bannister talks to her son, Telfer Stokes, and to the author and critic Adrian Stokes at Tate Britain.

Margaret Mellis was born January 22nd 1914. She died March 17th 2009.
Bryan Martin
Newsreader and announcer who has died aged 73

The newsreader and announcer Bryan Martin was one of the stalwart voices of Radio 4. Born in Cumbria, the son of a stockbroker, Bryan made his first appearance on BBC Radio as an eleven year old actor on Children’s Hour. After leaving school he trained as a medical photographer, but continued to work part time at the BBC. Eventually he joined the corporation full time as a studio manager. Following a spell as a relief announcer on the Overseas Service, Bryan was given a full time announcer’s job. 

His friend and fellow announcer Peter Donaldson admired Bryan’s skill.

Bryan Martin was born May 29th 1935. He died March 4th 2009.
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