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Last Word


Radio 4's weekly obituary programme, telling the life stories of those who have died recently

Radio 4's weekly obituary programme, telling the life stories of those who have died recently


London, United Kingdom




Radio 4's weekly obituary programme, telling the life stories of those who have died recently




Betty Williams, Dr Fuad Nahdi, Sol Kerzner, Kenny Rogers

Picture Betty Williams Matthew Bannister on: Fuad Nahdi, the journalist, commentator and campaigner named as one of the world’s 500 most influential Muslims. Sol Kerzner, the South African businessman who made a fortune from hotels and casinos and built the controversial Sun City resort under apartheid. Betty Williams, the office receptionist from Belfast who teamed up with Mairead Corrigan to campaign for peace and won the Nobel Peace Prize. Kenny Rogers, one of America’s greatest country...


Michel Roux, Sammy McCarthy, Lilian Mohin, Roy Hudd

Pictured: Michel Roux Matthew Bannister on Michel Roux, the French chef who, with his brother Albert, transformed the British restaurant scene in the 1970s Sammy McCarthy, the British featherweight champion boxer who became an armed robber. Lilian Mohin, the lesbian feminist activist who co founded the OnlyWomen Press. Roy Hudd, the versatile entertainer whose career took him from the music hall stage to TV and radio stardom. Interviewed guest: William Sitwell Interviewed guest: John...


Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, Max von Sydow, Professor Hannah Steinberg, Charles Portis

Pictured: Javier Pérez de Cuéllar Matthew Bannister on The United Nations Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar. The Peruvian diplomat faced major challenges including the Iran-Iraq war and the Falklands War. Max von Sydow the Swedish-born actor whose film roles ranged from Ingmar Bergman to James Bond and, more recently, Game of Thrones. Professor Hannah Steinberg - a pioneer of psychopharmacology - the study of the effects of drugs on the human mind. Charles Portis, the American writer...


Katherine Johnson, Nexhmije Hoxha, Sir Michael Berridge, Diana Serra Cary (Baby Peggy)

Pictured: Katherine Johnson Matthew Bannister on Nexhmije Hoxha, the wife of the Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha. The couple ran a repressive Stalinist regime and she was known in the West as the Lady Macbeth of Albania. Katherine Johnson, the best known of a small group of African American mathematicians who carried out crucial calculations for the American space programme. Their story was told in the 2017 film "Hidden Figures". Sir Michael Berridge, whose pioneering research into the saliva...


Hosni Mubarak, Andrew Weatherall, Mary Higgins Clark, John Bevan

Matthew Bannister on Andrew Weatherall, a hugely influential figure in the dance music scene of the 1990s, who revolutionised what a DJ could be and produced many hit albums and remixes. Radio 1's Annie Nightingale explains how he changed her life. President Hosni Mubarak who ruled Egypt for thirty years before being ousted by mass protests. The best selling mystery writer Mary Higgins Clark. Her fellow writers Harlan Coben and Alafair S. Burke pay tribute. John Bevan, the record breaking...


Heather Couper CBE, Leonard Woodley QC, Joseph Shabalala

Pictured: Heather Couper Matthew Bannister on Heather Couper, the astronomer who used her engaging media appearances to enthuse a generation about space. We talk to her co-author and business partner Nigel Henbest. Leonard Woodley, the Trinidad-born barrister who played a leading role in many high profile race trials and became Britain's first Afro-Caribbean Queen's Counsel. Joseph Shabalala, the South African musician who founded the singing group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. They became global...


Daniel arap Moi, Feng Huiyan, Professor Donald West, Colonel ‘Mad Mike’ Hoare

Pictured: Daniel arap Moi Julian Worricker on: Daniel arap Moi, who led Kenya for 24 years, but did so amidst corruption scandals and the repression of political opponents... The teacher Feng Huiyan, who taught millions of Chinese people how to speak English via textbooks and broadcasting... The pioneering criminologist and clinical scientist Donald West, who wrote a ground-breaking study of homosexuality in the 1950s... And the mercenary leader, known as 'Mad Mike' Hoare, who inspired the...


Kirk Douglas, Terry Hands CBE, Hazel Murphy, Seamus Mallon

Pictured: Kirk Douglas Julian Worricker on: Terry Hands, long serving artistic director of the RSC, who co-founded the Liverpool Everyman theatre and revived the Clwyd theatre Cymru... The wine marketer, Hazel Murphy, who's credited with spearheading Australia's wine invasion of Europe.... The nationalist Northern Ireland politician, Seamus Mallon, whose negotiating skills helped secure the Good Friday Agreement... And the actor Kirk Douglas, whose career in film spanned seven decades, and...


Nicholas Parsons CBE, Mary Craig, Lord Maclennan of Rogart, Kobe Bryant

Pictured: Nicholas Parsons Matthew Bannister on The Just A Minute host, TV presenter and actor Nicholas Parsons. Sheila Hancock and Tony Hawks pay tribute - in just a minute! Mary Craig who wrote the best selling book "Blessings" after struggling to care for her severely disabled son. Lord Maclennan of Rogart, formerly the MP for Caithness and Sutherland, who negotiated the merger between the SDP and the Liberal Party. Kobe Bryant, the LA Lakers basketball star, who gave himself the nickname...


Tony Garnett, Joy Rainey, Professor Cuchlaine King, Terry Jones

Pictured: Terry Jones Matthew Bannister on Tony Garnett, the TV and film producer whose tragic childhood inspired him to make influential films like Up The Junction, Cathy Come Home and Kes. Joy Rainey, the racing driver whose restricted growth meant she needed specially adapted cars. Professor Cuchlaine King, the geomorphologist known for her studies of beaches, coasts and glaciers. Terry Jones, best known as a member of the Monty Python team, but also a medieval historian of distinction....


Sir Roger Scruton FBA, FRSL, Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman, Bobby Neame CBE, Elizabeth Sellars

Pictured: Sir Roger Scruton Matthew Bannister on Sir Roger Scruton, the leading conservative philosopher of his generation, known for his work on aesthetics. His outspoken views made him a controversial figure for some on the left. Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman who overthrew his father in a coup and transformed his country. Bobby Neame, the Chairman of Shepherd Neame - the country's oldest brewing company based in Kent. Elizabeth Sellars, the British actress who appeared alongside Humphrey...


General Qasem Soleimani, M.C. Beaton, George Laurer, Dr Sidney Holt

Pictured: General Qasem Soleimani Matthew Bannister on Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, who was killed by an American drone strike. We try to uncover the motivation of the man who spread Iran's military influence throughout the Middle East. M.C. Beaton who wrote more than 250 books which sold in their millions, including romantic fiction and murder mysteries featuring PC Hamish Macbeth and Agatha Raisin. George Laurer, the American engineer who played a pivotal role in the invention of the...


Neil Innes, Steve Sawyer, Sheila Mercier, Alasdair Gray

Pictured: Neil Innes Matthew Bannister on Neil Innes, the talented musician who was a member of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, worked with Monty Python and satirised the Beatles. Roger McGough and Michael Palin pay tribute. Steve Sawyer, the Greenpeace activist who helped to evacuate the Pacific Islanders of the Rongelap Atoll after they were affected by nuclear testing. Sheila Mercier, the actress best known for playing Annie Sugden in the TV soap Emmerdale. Alasdair Gray, the Scottish...


Andrew Graham-Yooll OBE, Andrea Newman, Peter Davis, Olly Croft OBE

Julian Worricker on: The journalist, Andrew Graham-Yooll OBE, who risked his life to tell the story of the so-called 'disappeared' in Argentina in the 1970s. The writer Andrea Newman, best known for 'Bouquet of Barbed Wire', the sexually charged family drama that pushed the boundaries of television. Ornithologist and conservationist, Peter Davis, who dedicated much of his working life to saving the red kite. And Olly Croft OBE who founded the British Darts Organisation, and is credited with...


Kenny Lynch OBE, Chris Moncrieff CBE, Kate Figes, Branko Lustig

Pictured: Kenny Lynch OBE Matthew Bannister on Chris Moncrieff, the journalist who covered parliament for the Press Association for more than 50 years. He even has a bar named after him in the House of Commons. Kate Figes, the writer who captured the nuances of human relationships in books like "Couples" and "Our Cheating Hearts". Branko Lustig, the holocaust survivor who won an Oscar as the producer of the film Schindler's List. Kenny Lynch, the singer from London's East End who described...


David Bellamy, Nell Gifford, Yasuhiro Nakasone, Mariss Jansons

Pictured: David Bellamy Matthew Bannister on David Bellamy, the botanist who became a household name through his popular TV programmes, but fell from prominence after describing man-made global warming as "poppycock". Nell Gifford, who founded and ran a circus company known for its retro styling and creativity. Yasuhiro Nakasone, the Japanese Prime Minister who formed a strong bond with US President Ronald Reagan and UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Mariss Jansons, the Latvian-born...


Bob Willis MBE, Gary Rhodes OBE, Dr Shuping Wang, Sir Stephen Cleobury CBE

Pictured: Bob Willis Matthew Bannister on Bob Willis, the former England cricket captain, who was seen as one of the finest fast bowlers of his generation. Gary Rhodes, the spiky-haired TV chef who won Michelin stars for his re-invention of classic British recipes. Shuping Wang, the Chinese doctor who lost her job and her marriage after blowing the whistle on a trade in blood products that was spreading HIV through Henan province. Sir Stephen Cleobury, the musical director of King's College...


Sir Jonathan Miller, Field Marshal Lord Bramall, Clive James AO, CBE

Pictured: Jonathan Miller Matthew Bannister on Sir Jonathan Miller, who hated the term polymath - but undoubtedly was one. He came to fame in the satirical revue Beyond the Fringe, was a celebrated opera and theatre director and sometimes regretted his decision not to concentrate on his first calling as a doctor. Field Marshal Lord Bramall, the Chief of the Defence Staff who saw action in the D Day landings, predicted the threat of terrorism and was wrongly accused of sexual abuse late in...


Vladimir Bukovsky, Alison Prince, Keith Schellenberg, Robert Ponsonby

Pictured: Vladimir Bukovsky Matthew Bannister on The Russian dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, a long term opponent of the Soviet regime who revealed the use of psychiatric hospitals as political prisons. Alison Prince, the children's writer who scripted Trumpton. Keith Schellenberg, the eccentric millionaire who was a bobsleigh champion and keen powerboat racer. He bought the Scottish Isle of Eigg - and was accused of treating his tenants badly. Robert Ponsonby, the BBC Controller of Music who...


Nik Powell OBE, James Le Mesurier OBE, Frank Dobson, Hazel Vincent Wallace OBE

Pictured: Nik Powell Matthew Bannister on James Le Mesurier, the former British Army Officer who set up the organisation that trained the White Helmet volunteers who rescue people from bomb sites in Syria. Nik Powell, the businessman who helped Richard Branson to start Virgin Records and went on to produce a string of acclaimed British films. Frank Dobson, the Labour M.P. who became Health Secretary under Tony Blair and embarked on an ambitious hospital building programme. Hazel Vincent...