300 episodes

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

Last Word BBC

    • Society & Culture

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

    Stephen Sondheim (pictured), Sir Frank Williams, Jo-Carroll Dennison

    Stephen Sondheim (pictured), Sir Frank Williams, Jo-Carroll Dennison

    Matthew Bannister on

    Stephen Sondheim, the acclaimed composer and lyricist who revolutionised the stage musical. We have a tribute from Imelda Staunton who gave award-winning performances in some of his finest roles.

    Sir Frank Williams, the Formula One motor racing team owner who continued to enjoy great success after breaking his neck in a car crash that left him quadriplegic. His close friend and colleague Sir Patrick Head recalls their long working relationship.

    Jo-Carroll Dennison, the oldest surviving winner of the Miss America beauty contest and one of the first to object to the swim suit round.

    Producer: Neil George

    Interviewed guest: David Benedict and to actor
    Interviewed guest: Imelda Staunton
    Interviewed guest: Simon Taylor.
    Interviewed guest: Jenny Kirchner
    Interviewed guest: Evan Mills

    Archive clips used: BBC TV, The Late Show: Face to Face - Stephen Sondheim 09/10/1995; BBC Radio 4, Desert Island Discs - Stephen Sondheim 31/12/2000; BBC Sound Archive, Frank Williams Interview 12/07/1980; BBC One, News 29/11/2021; BBC Radio 1Xtra, Newsbeat 29/11/2021; Watershed Pictures/Formula One Constructors Association, Mansell & Williams 1992; BBC 5Live, News 29/11/2021; BBC Radio 4, Sport On Four 20/09/1986; YouTube, Crash Aftermath - F1 1994 San Marino; BBC One, Six o' Clock News 29/10/1997; BBC Radio 4, Today programme 29/11/2021; Justin Johnson/YouTube Channel, Delta Blues on the Weissenborn Lap Slide Guitar 20/08/2021; British Pathé, Miss America 1940; Miss America Organization/Evan Mills, Jo-Carroll Dennison 100th Anniversary Gala Speech 07/09/2021; Kenco Productions/CBS Television Network, The Phil Silvers Show 1955; Columbia Pictures, Trailer for the Jolson Story 1946; Alliance Productions, Trailer for Prehistoric Women 1950; Television Corporation of America, Abbott and Costello Show S1 E24 The Actors' Home 1953.

    • 28 min
    Ian Wallace, Rossana Banti, Ivy Nicholson (pictured), Cedric Robinson MBE

    Ian Wallace, Rossana Banti, Ivy Nicholson (pictured), Cedric Robinson MBE

    Matthew Bannister on

    Ian Wallace, one of the most influential figures in British ornithology. At one time he had seen a wider variety of species of birds than anyone else in Britain.

    Rossana Banti, the Italian partisan who risked her life acting as a courier for the Resistance.

    Ivy Nicholson, the model who was once a muse for Andy Warhol but fell on hard times and ended up sleeping on the streets.

    Cedric Robinson MBE, who guided people across the treacherous sands of Morecambe Bay for more than 50 years.


    Producer: Neil George

    Interviewed guest: Stephen Moss
    Interviewed guest: Roderick Bailey
    Interviewed guest: Bill Bewley
    Interviewed guest: Taryn Gould
    Interviewed guest: Sean Bolger

    Archive clips used: BBC Radio 4, 100 Years of British Birds 07/05/2007; The Sound Approach Podcast, Interview With Ian Wallace 2019; Progettazione Multimediale, Noi Partigiani - Interview With Rossana Banti 2021; Taryn Gould / Vimeo, As Is, As Was teaser 2014; Planet Group Entertainment, Factory People 2008; YouTube, Valarie Solanas on Shooting Andy Warhol 1968; BBC Radio 4, Midweek 09/12/2009; BBC Radio 4 Extra, Crossing the Bay 19/04/2019; BBC Radio 4, Saturday Live 16/07/2016.

    • 28 min
    Aaron Beck, Joan Carlyle (pictured), Etel Adnan, Anne Bradford

    Aaron Beck, Joan Carlyle (pictured), Etel Adnan, Anne Bradford

    Kirsty Lang on Aaron Beck the Eminent psychiatrist who developed cognitive behavioural therapy into the world’s most popular treatment for depression and anxiety.

    Joan Carlyle the principal soprano at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden for almost 20 years.

    Etel Adnan one of the Arab world's most important writers, and author of one of the most important War Novels ever written and

    Anne Bradford Compiler of the bestselling crossword solver’s dictionary who could complete the Times puzzle in six minutes.


    Producer: Neil George

    Interviewed guest: Dr Judith Beck
    Interviewed guest: Catriona Gallo
    Interviewed guest: Peggy Reynolds
    Interviewed guest: Dr Elizabeth Marcus
    Interviewed guest: Gillian Beauchamp

    Archive clips used: BBC Radio 4, All In The Mind 26/03/2003; BBC TWO, Living Hell: Depression 03/03/1999; BBC TWO, Music On Two: I Think It Should Go Like This 31/01/1973; Serpentine Galleries, Etel Adnan Reading From The Arab Apocalypse 07/10/2015; HENI Talks, Hans Ulrich Obrist Visits Etel Adnan 24/02/2020; BBC Radio 4, The Reference Library 21/11/2000.

    • 28 min
    Sir Archie Lamb (pictured), John Boyden, Ida Nudel, Abolhassan Banisadr

    Sir Archie Lamb (pictured), John Boyden, Ida Nudel, Abolhassan Banisadr

    Matthew Bannister on

    Sir Archie Lamb who rose from Foreign Office filing clerk to become one of the UK’s most distinguished ambassadors.

    John Boyden, the record producer who founded the Classics For Pleasure label to bring classical music to a wide audience at affordable prices.

    Ida Nudel, whose campaigns on behalf of Jewish people refused permission to emigrate to Israel from the Soviet Union led to her being sent to Siberia.

    Abolhassan Banisadr, the first President of Iran after the Islamic Revolution.


    Produced by Neil George

    Interviewed guest: Robin Lamb
    Interviewed guest: Tony Faulkner
    Interviewed guest: Norman Lebrecht
    Interviewed guest: Jane Biran
    Interviewed guest: Hossein Bastani

    Archive clips used: Churchill College Archives Centre - Cambridge, Interview with Sir Archie Lamb 21/06/2000; BBC Panorama 18/07/1977; AP Archive, Anti-Soviet Demonstration Over Jews' Treatment 04/10/1987; YouTube, Songs of Islamic Revolution in Iran 02/02/2020; AP Archive, Ayatollah Komeini Returns in Triumph to Iran 01/02/1974; ABC News, Iran Hostage Crisis 1979 11/11/1979; BBC Radio 4, The World Tonight 03/08/2009; AP Archive, Iran - Fall of President Bani-Sadr 26/06/1981.

    • 28 min
    Sir Michael Rutter (pictured), Christopher Wenner, Sister Megan Rice, Jeanette Altwegg

    Sir Michael Rutter (pictured), Christopher Wenner, Sister Megan Rice, Jeanette Altwegg

    Matthew Bannister on

    Sir Michael Rutter who was known as the 'father of child psychiatry'. He pioneered research into many aspects of child development.

    Christopher Wenner - also known as Max Stahl - who changed career from Blue Peter TV presenter to intrepid documentary film maker.

    Sister Megan Rice, the American nun who campaigned against nuclear weapons. She was arrested and sent to prison for breaking into a uranium processing plant.

    Jeanette Altwegg, the last British woman to win the individual Olympic Gold Medal for figure skating back in 1952.



    Producer: Neil George

    Interviewed guest: Edmund Sonuga-Barke
    Interviewed guest: Stephen Scott
    Interviewed guest: Martin Wenner
    Interviewed guest: David Butcher
    Interviewed guest: Carole Sargent
    Interviewed guest: Peter Mason
    Interviewed guest: Susan D Russell

    Archive clips used: BBC Radio 4, The Life Scientific - Sir Michael Rutter 03/06/2014; BBC TV, Blue Peter 18/06/1979; JOURNEYMAN TV, REF 4701 Dili Massacre 12/07/1994; ABC Australia, British journalist and television presenter passes away 28/10/2021; MSNBC, Nun Prisoned For Anti-Nuclear Protest Released 21/05/2015; British Pathé, Atomic Tests in Nevada 1955; Washington Post, The Nun Who Broke Into a US Nuclear... 30/04/2013; War Register's International, Sister Megan Rice Talk In London 08/02/2016; British Pathé, British Amateur Figure Skating 1947; British Movietone, British Women in Winter Olympics 25/02/1952; BBC Sound Archive, Olympic Games Skating 02/02/1952; AP /Movietone, Jeannette Altwegg wins European Figure Skating 08/02/1951.

    • 27 min
    Bernard Haitink (pictured), Victor Gregg, Ruthie Tompson, Paddy Moloney

    Bernard Haitink (pictured), Victor Gregg, Ruthie Tompson, Paddy Moloney

    Matthew Bannister on

    Bernard Haitink, one of the greatest orchestral conductors of his generation, known for his interpretations of Mahler, Bruckner and Wagner.

    Victor Gregg, the British soldier who was caught up in the Dresden bombing raids, suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and later went undercover for MI6.

    Ruthie Tompson, one of Walt Disney’s longest serving animators, she worked on classic films like 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' and 'Fantasia'.

    Paddy Moloney, the Irish pipe player who founded and led the influential band the Chieftains.


    Producer: Neil George

    Interviewed guest: Norman Lebretch
    Interviewed guest: Nick Kenyon
    Interviewed guest: Rick Stroud
    Interviewed guest: Brian Sibley
    Interviewed guest: Louise Mulcahy
    Interviewed guest: Aedín Moloney

    Archive clips used: BBC, Proms 2005/2008/2019; BBC Radio 3, Music Matters 20/11/2017; BBC Radio 2, Victor - Read by John Hurt 12/11/2011; MPTF YouTube channel, Spotlight on Ruthie Tompson 06/03/2012; King Features Syndicate, Popeye The Sailor Man ep52 1960; Walt Disney Productions, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 1937/Pinocchio 1940/Mary Poppins 1964; BBC, Omnibus 29/01/1976; BBC, Profile 15/11/1976; BBC FOUR, Legends - The Chieftains 15/03/2008; BBC, The Old Grey Whistle Test 06/04/1976.

    • 28 min

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