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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 29th December 2006
Matthew Bannister
Matthew Bannister tells the life stories of people who have died this year: Maurice W Graham, Major Roy Farran, Naushad Ali, Merlyn Rees, Hugh Thompson and Birgit Nilsson.
Maurice W Graham "Steam Train"
Grand Patriarch of America’s Hobos who has died aged 89.

Maurice W. Graham was known to thousands of itinerant people across the States by his hobo name: “Steam Train”. He started sneaking free rides on freight trains in the 1930s when he was fourteen. Like millions of other unemployed people during the depression, Steam Train rode the rails in search of work. He became a legendary figure in the Hobo community, setting up the Hobo Foundation and was crowned King of the Hobos five times.

Matthew Bannister talks to fellow King of the Hobos Todd Waters “Ad Man” and to Obituary Editor of the New York Times, Bill McDonald.

Maurice W Graham was born June 3rd 1917. He died November 18th 2006.
Major Roy Farran
Soldier, farmer and writer who has died aged 85.

Major Roy Farran was a tank and SAS officer who won a DSO and three MCs. He will be remembered in Canada, where he settled, as a farmer, journalist and politician. He was briefly a household name in Britain when he was tried for murder in Palestine and then aquitted but he will be remembered chiefly for his extraordinary wartime fighting record.

Matthew Bannister talks to the Telegraph’s obituary editor, Andrew Mckie.

Major Roy Farran was born January 2nd 1921. He died June 2nd 2006.
Naushad Ali
Bollywood Composer who has died aged 86.

Naushad Ali went from earning a meagre living repairing harmoniums – and sometimes being so poor he had to sleep on the street – to become one of the most influential musical directors of Indian Cinema. Naushad was born in Lucknow and studied under some of the grandmasters of Indian classical music. During a Bollywood career that ran from the1940s to 2005, Naushad Ali composed the music for 66 films – many of them huge hits -- and constantly developed the way music was used on screen.

Matthew Bannister talks to Asjad Nazir – entertainments editor of the Eastern Eye.

Naushad Ali was born December 25th 1919. He died May 5th 2006.
Merlyn Rees
Politician who has died aged 85.

Merlyn Rees spent much of his thirty years in parliament as a cabinet member or front bench spokesman. The Labour Northern Ireland secretary and Home Secretary was MP for Leeds South. He was born in the Welsh valleys, although his father left for London in search of a job when Merlyn was still a young boy. On his retirement from the House of Commons, he continued to play an active role in parliament as Lord Merlyn-Rees.

Matthew Bannister talks to Paul Rowland of The Western Mail.

Merlyn Rees was born December 18th 1920. He died January 5th 2006.
Hugh Thompson
American helicopter pilot who has died aged 62.

On March 16th 1968 a 25 year old American helicopter pilot called Hugh Thompson stumbled upon what came to be known as the My Lai massacre. Thompson tried to stop a platoon of US soldiers killing as many as 500 innocent civilians – old men, women and children. At one point he even threatened to shoot his fellow American servicemen. He went on to blow the whistle on the events at My Lai – but was rewarded with demands for his own court martial and a campaign of vilification within the army. It wasn’t until 1998 that the courage of Hugh Thompson and his two man crew was recognised with the award of the Soldier’s Medal.

Matthew Bannister talks to gunner Lawrence Colburn who was flying with Thompson on board his H-23 scout helicopter on the day of the massacre.

Hugh Thompson was born April 15th 1943. He died January 6th 2006.
Birgit Nilsson
Soprano who has died aged 87.

Birgit Nilsson sings the moment in Strauss’s opera Elektra where she melts after the shock of recognising the brother she thought was dead.

Birgit Nilsson was born May 1917. She died December 25th 2005.
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