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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 28th December 2007
(Rpt) Sunday 30th December
Matthew Bannister
Matthew Bannister tells the life stories of people who have died this year: Joseph Brooks, Hedley Thurtle, George Melly, Sheila Black and Arty G.
Joseph Brooks
Market trader, salesman, legal clerk and soldier who has died aged 82.

Joseph Brooks was born into a Jewish family in the East End of London. His mother died when he was six years old and his father – unable to cope with bringing up a young child alone - sent him to an orphanage where Joseph became a talented schoolboy boxer.

In 1940 - at the age of fifteen - he lied about his age and joined the Merchant Navy. He later helped to train the fledgling Israeli navy and was involved in fighting with the Jordanian Arab Legion. His most traumatic experience was the discovery of the mutilated body of his friend and fellow Altalena veteran Nat Cashman on a hill outside Jerusalem. On his return to the UK, Joseph started work in the rag trade.

Matthew Bannister talks to Martin Sugarman of Ajex, The Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women and to Ruth Rothenberg, Obituaries Editor of the Jewish Chronicle.

Joseph Brooks was born May 28th 1925. He died in September 2007.
Hedley Thurtle
Oldest working farmer who has died aged 102

Hedley Thurtle started farming long before tractors were invented. He worked through the depression of the 1930s, World War Two and food rationing on his 120-acre farm at Bodham, Norfolk. He took part in 97 consecutive harvests.

Matthew Bannister talks to Michael Pollitt, Obituaries Editor of the Eastern Daily Press.
George Melly
Jazz Singer, critic and author who has died aged 80

A life which stood out for Matthew Bannister this year was that of George Melly. The jazz singer was an expert on surrealist art, a film and tv critic and keen fly fisherman.

Matthew Bannister spoke to one of his many lovers – the art critic Louisa Buck – and to his wife Diana Melly with whom he famously enjoyed an open marriage for 46 years. On the day of his death, Diana invited Matthew to the home she shared with George in West London. The ecologically sound cardboard coffin stood on trestles in the living room. As Matthew waited, the undertakers came to collect George’s body – and then Diana took Matthew upstairs to record the interview in the room where her husband spent his final hours. 
George Melly was born August 17th 1926. He died July 5th 2007.
Sheila Black
First woman on the Financial Times

Sheila Black was the first woman to work as a journalist on the pink paper. She was given a job at the Financial Times in 1959 and started the How to Spend It  page which is now a successful magazine.

Sheila Black was educated at RADA in Switzerland. She gave up acting when she became pregnant and worked in advertising before going into journalism.  She left the Financial Times in 1972 and went to The Times.  She later became chairman of the National Gas Consumers' Council and sat on the National Consumer Council.  

Matthew Bannister talks to the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Lawson who was Features Editor at the Financial Times between 1956 and 1960 and to Sue Cameron the obituary editor of the Financial Times. 
Shiela Black was born May 6th 1920. She died in September 2007.
Arty G
Busker who has died aged 59

Arty G and his dog Gizmo were something of an institution in the town of Omagh in County Tyrone, where they had a regular pitch outside the Northern Bank.

After his death, a neighbour tied a guitar to the railings outside his flat, It was rapidly covered with written tributes, and surrounded by wreaths.Within days, more than 1,300 had registered as fans on the Arty G RIP internet site. A week later, dozens of young musicians held a Busk-a-Thon to raise funds.

Matthew Bannister talks to Peter Murtagh from the Irish Times, Marion Crozier the manager of the Omagh branch of the Northern Bank and Arty G’s friend the singer Brian Coll.

Arthur MeGonigle was born July 6th 1948. He died November 3rd 2007.

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