The long goodbye

This is a book of celebration of the dead. It is also a small history of the British century. Look at those who died this year and find, among the great and feted, the weird and the overlooked, Thirties sportsmen still without equal, the dreamboat who made Fifties princesses and schoolgirls swoon, ferocious Sixties intellectuals and a teacher whose heroism became a parable for 1995
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Jean Muir by Jasper Conran

How shall I describe Jean Muir, my heroine? I never would ring her just for a chat. I don't think that I ever had lunch with her. I'm sure that I never had dinner with her tete-a-tete. "What's this?" you say, "you cannot have known her very well." Perhaps not on that level, the cloying need-to-be-in-your-pocket every day level. However, from the first day I met her 15 years ago, I was in love with her image, her persona and most of all what she stood for.

Her work as a designer reflected her roots and her beliefs. She designed for women she believed in. Subtle, pensive, articulate beings, whose attraction to the opposite sex would not be in prissy frills or sad vulgarity. The Jean Muir woman would waft into a room defined by the gentle tumble of a perfectly cut navy jersey dress or the immaculate swing of a precise cashmere coat. Fashion was without doubt not her abiding interest. However, she quietly redefined the way women dressed as far back as the Sixties, freeing them from their trussed up, stodgy, post-War suits. I believe that what appealed to her about her trade was the craftsmanship she brought to it and continually honed. It also offered her the freedom to express herself and her views (especially on women) in a medium which she had mastered - cloth.

I think that she was, in fact, many things: an architect, a politician, a businesswoman, a feminist, a craftsman and a dressmaker. To me she was an inspiration. She showed that beautiful clothing could indeed be made in this country, clothing that has a simple perfection and international renown (giving lie to the concept that British design can't make it). She demonstrated that it was all completely possible, providing that you worked bloody hard, had an iron will and a total belief in your work. It is a tribute to the strength of her design ethic that her company is able to thrive in her absence.

Jean's work never did look back, not even on itself. She was always a dedicated modernist, not one iota interested in the past, only in the present. Her clothes are never flashy, and certainly never dull.

Jean expected much of herself and no less of others (this is the only way to achieve perfection) and in that she could be daunting. I saw her reduce grown men to quivering wrecks just with a look and a slight purse of the mouth. However, she could be fun, a lot of fun. When Jean was on form there was nobody more irreverent or witty. She was never loud, more an under-the-breath poke at some piece of pomposity that would have one spluttering Chablis, gasping for breath and diving for cover. Oh yes, Jean knew how to choose her moment.

We used to meet mostly accidentally, quite often in airport lounges or on long-haul flights to Japan or America. This is where we did our chatting and I always left those planes feeling refreshed and elevated, not tired and wrung out; but, you see, I had been with someone very, very special.

I had the oddest dream the other night. I dreamt Jean beckoned me in a conspiratorial fashion towards a chest of drawers in another room. Slowly she opened a drawer to show me her guilty secret. Stacks and stacks of pale blue denim jeans. Now Jean Muir hated denim jeans with a passion. She thought of them as scruffy and sloppy. It must have irritated the hell out of her that they bore her name.

I have been trying hard to interpret the meaning of this dream, from the depths, but I think that I'll give up. The thing I know for sure is that Jean Muir did not possess a chestful of stonewashed denim, more a chestful of navy jersey, navy suede, navy wool crepe, in fact any colour as long as it was navy.

There is a story of Jean and her house model, Jenny Garrigues, having a customary glass of champagne at the bar in the Carlisle Hotel in New York. The two of them were dressed head to toe in navy jersey. Across the bar two men started staring and obviously discussing the two women. Finally, one of them plucked up the courage to come over. "Excuse me," he said, "but do you two ladies belong to some religious order?" "Yes," said Jean, quick as a flash, "a very closed order."

We were up in Scotland some years ago for a grand affair (helicopters, chauffeurs, grand house, lots of people in big dresses, you know the sort of thing) and the highlight of the night was the beating of the retreat. Now, Jean loved a band and band music, and as the band started to retreat she grabbed my arm and insisted that we dance behind them. You did not argue with Jean, so we followed the band arm in arm, her doing a little jig, tapping her navy blue shoes in time to the music. After we had gone a couple of hundred yards, I looked back over my shoulder to see five hundred people staring at us agog. I whispered to Jean, "Don't look now, but we're alone here, they've all stayed rooted to the spot." "Ah well," she said, giving me a knowing look "that makes just the two of us," and her feet didn't miss a beat as she carried on dragging me behind the retreating band.

She was a friend and above all a mentor and I miss her terribly.

I'll bet the angels have traded in their white robes and taken to navy jersey.

Jean Elizabeth Muir, dressmaker. Born London, 17 July, 1928; died London, 28 May Harold Wilson by Roy Hattersley

Although he helped to make the Gannex raincoat famous, Harold Wilson was essentially the prime minister in the technician's white overall. He was the first British party leader to understand and exploit the second industrial revolution and his enthusiasm for the new world of satellites and computers was absolutely genuine. In the autumn of 1968, he presided over the inaugural meeting of the Cabinet's statistical policy committee - an occasion which I initially assumed had been specially arranged to divert attention from bad news about the balance of payments. As I sat cynical and impatient, I gradually realised that I had misjudged him. Harold Wilson was a believer.

It was the time when valves were just giving way to transistors and the full potential of information technology was still unknown. Wilson invited his colleagues to marvel that, within their lifetime, it would be possible for British Airways to press a button and reveal on screen the name of every passenger on every one of their aeroplanes, anywhere in the world. That was not the sort of revelation which made my heart pound. But I had no doubt that the President of the Royal Statistical Society was thrilled by the prospect of the cybernetic future into which he would lead his country.

Lord Wilson's reputation as a "moderniser" - a term which, in those days, was not thought to describe a political philosophy - was helped by the spirit of the age. Western democracies had grown tired of government by ancients - Adenauer in Germany, De Gaulle in France, Eisenhower in America and Macmillan in Britain. It seemed that the time had come for young men to take over the world. The torch - which President Kennedy had passed to a new generation - was grasped in the United Kingdom by a man who, when he become prime minister at the age of 48, seemed to personify the meritocracy. He represented the triumph for the Boy Scout and scholarship boy, the outsider who had chosen to be married in his graduate's gown, who loved and never lost his Yorkshire accent, the brilliant student and industrious don who had become a Cabinet minister at the age of 31. He looked and sounded like the man to lead his country into the era of social mobility.

The image - which was a genuine if slightly distorted reflection of the reality - was assiduously cultivated, especially during the interregnum between Wilson and Harold Macmillan which was honourably, but anachronistically, filled by Alec Douglas-Home. The speech which typified the gulf which divided the two men, is best remembered for the promise to harness "the white heat of the technological revolution". But the passage which equally defines the Wilson years, set out the hopes of building a more mobile society. His critique of the then still class-riddled Tory Party was expressed in an elegant joke about the " emergence" of the 14th Earl Home as their leader. "At a time when even the MCC has decided to abolish the distinction between amateurs and professionals, the Conservatives have chosen to be led by a gentleman rather than a player." Bliss was it in that dawn to possess a slide rule - and to realise that it would soon become obsolete was very heaven.

Although 1964 marked only the infancy of political media manipulation, Harold Wilson worked hard to build his reputation as Man of the Moment. The Beatles were feted. On the day that England won the World Cup, the prime minister joined the victorious players on their hotel balcony with a disregard for his status and dignity which was in every way consistent with the ethos of the Swinging Sixties. There were consistent complaints about the "13 wasted years" of Tory rule and the promise to "reinvigorate" industry through the work of a new Ministry of Technology which would "pick winners" and help them prolong and extend their victories. The new view of industry looks rather old-fashioned now. But the social policies of the late Sixties still sound radical. The first Wilson administration was the most libertarian government this century. The laws concerning abortion, homosexuality and divorce were reformed. Capital punishment was abolished. Most significant of all, the Open University - its very name a glorious manifestation of the open society - proved that in Wilson's Britain, everybody had the chance to succeed.

Unfortunately, in matters of major policy, Harold Wilson was neither an innovator nor a revolutionary. He believed in Pax Britannica and although he was far too clever to doubt that his country's future lay in the Common Market, his heart was in the Commonwealth. His crucial mistake - which prejudiced his first six years in office - was not to devalue sterling before a change in the exchange rate was thrust upon him. That was, in part, the product of his fiscal conservatism as well as his fear of Labour becoming characterised as "the devaluation party". But he was also concerned about its effect on the Commonwealth. "Do you", he asked a group of dissident back benchers "expect me to tell India that we've knocked ten per cent off their sterling balances?" His concern was not counterfeit. Intellectually he was a radical, but emotionally he remained part of old England. His natural habitat was the Fabian seminar.

At the time of his ascendancy - ten years in which, in government and opposition, he dominated the House of Commons - he seemed to embody the beginnings of a classless society. It was more than the election of Edward Heath, another party leader from a very similar background, which made Harold Wilson seem less like the solitary pathfinder for a modern Britain. During the years of his supremacy, political ideas changed more quickly than during any time since the War. The old notion of consensus died and was replaced by a belief in competition and confrontation. Harold Wilson was left as the prime minister who gave tea and sandwiches to trade unionists in Downing Street and believed that he could plan Britain's way out of economic stagnation.

In fact, he was a crucial bridging passage between two periods of British history - a technocrat at the dawn of technology and a Fabian at the time when Fabianism was going out of fashion. History will eventually mark him out as a good prime minister. One of his greatest pleasures (and proudest achievements) was "keeping several balls in the air at the same time". In his inimitable way, he juggled with the past and future. It was all part of the fascinating complexity of the man who made the Gannex raincoat famous.

James Harold Wilson, politician. Born Huddersfield, 11 March 1916; died London, 24 May Kingsley Amis by Blake Morrison

These are polite times for writers. The days of Dylan Thomas - reading your work aloud to audiences while drunk, stealing money from your friends or sleeping with their partners - have long gone. Nowadays, writers are expected to smile sweetly from their dust jackets and to be bad only surrogately, through their characters.

Kingsley Amis, who hated Dylan Thomas, would have approved of this. His novels and Memoirs are as relentless as any book of etiquette in their suggestions of How (and How Not) to Behave. Good chaps pay for their rounds, enjoy jazz, aren't "pissy" or pretentious. Nice women are large-breasted, supportive and above all quiet. The great aim for both sexes is to be "decent".

Yet "decent" was rarely a word used about Amis himself. When he made his debut, Somerset Maugham accused him of ushering in a new age of boorishness. By the end, his politics, and sexual politics, were denounced as dangerously reactionary. In his own way, he was as difficult as any Dylan Thomas.

I saw myself how rude he could be in 1984, when Donald Trelford, then editor of the Observer, arranged a dinner to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Amis's novel Lucky Jim. Friends and admirers of Amis, including his son Martin, were invited along. At the end of a large and convivial meal, Trelford made a generous speech and we toasted the man whom some of us regarded as the British novelist of the post-War years. Then Amis stood up. He thanked Trelford for the compliment, but wanted it to be known that he disliked the Observer, especially its recent coverage of Israel. There was more lefty-baiting before he sat down again. An awkward minute or so followed. Then the dinner broke up and most of us pointedly went off to play snooker. Hours later, I passed Amis alone at the bar. I felt a bit sorry for him.

It's often said he did this kind of thing as a wind-up. But that's not to say he didn't also mean it. Going Too Far, he discovered, could be an effective means of getting your point across, but the point itself mattered. Nor will the adjective "curmudgeonly" quite fit: he was too funny, and too good a mimic.

Yes, Kingsley Amis was rude. But it didn't stop him being (may even have helped him to be) one of our funniest writers. And it doesn't stop me missing his provoking company.

Kingsley Amis, writer. Born London, 16 April, 1922; died London, 22 October Marguerite Kelsey

Marguerite Kelsey, artists' model. Born London, 11 January, 1909; died High Wycombe, 5 March GROUP-CAPTAIN PETER TOWNSEND, died 19 June 1995.By ANGELA LAMBERT

What Robbie of Take That is to today's teenage girls, Group-Captain (nobody ever dreamed of omitting his rank) Townsend was to the English boarding school girls of the Fifties. Immaculate in his slate-blue RAF uniform, standing observant yet deferential a pace or two behind the King and Queen and their docile, be-hatted, peep-toe-shoed daughters Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret Rose, he epitomised everything that the Forties and Fifties stood for.

He was ineffably dashing and brave. He was unobtrusively upper-=middle class. He was - oh, palpitate, palpitate! - good-looking in that keen- eyed, lean-jawed way. He was honourable, loyal, courteous, discreet. He was everything that (at a guess) Robbie of Take That might despise.

And then, in 1953, Coronation Year, a year of national melodrama and communal hysteria, a year in which every red-blooded Brit was besotted with the serious, doe-eyed young Queen ... in such a year as this, we learned that Group Captain Townsend and Princess Margaret were in love. Not - God forbid! - that they were lovers:: the vulgar excesses of Panorama were undreamed-of then. The equerry and the Princess were in love, but there was an insuperable obstacle: he was divorced. No matter that he was the innocent party; the idea that the sister to the Defender of the Faith might marry a divorced man was not to be borne.

For two and a half years they wrestled with their love and their conscience. In the end, of course, she renounced him. A happy ending to this tragic love story was never on the cards - not then; not in the Fifties. That was the decade when we all obeyed those set in authority over us ... yes, even the hoydenish and glittering younger sister of our radiant new Queen.

So she turned him down, and he retired with infinite dignity to a lifelong exile in France. Eventually he married someone else - and everyone said how much she resembled the Princess. Princess Margaret married someone else, too, but that didn't work out: how could it? We all knew Group-Captain Townsend was the love of her life, and while we were wrong about nearly everything else it looks as though we may have been right about that.

He died, as tactfully and honourably as he had lived, in France, on 19 June 1995, and many a former boarding school girl, now middle-aged, remembered wistfully the parfit gentil knight he had been. Charles Montgomery Monteith, publisher. Born Lisburn, County Antrim, 9 February, 1921; died, where?, 9 May, 1995

He called Auden Wystan and Eliot Tom but Yeats he called Yeats. And he had stories about them all. How he had worn a black tie to school on the morning when he heard about Yeats's death in January 1939. How he'd heard what one Sligo county councillor said to another when Yeats's remains were being reburied in Drumcliff Churchyard eight or nine years later. (First Councillor: Tell us this: did you ever read a line he wrote? Second Councillor: To tell you the truth, I never did. But I'm told it was very high class stuff.) And then there was the one about how he, Charles, had confined himself to ordering a sherry before dinner on the occasion of his first meeting with Eliot, only to find the great Tom going for a large dry martini cocktail with very little vermouth.

Perhaps it was his memory of that younger, shyer self that made Charles Monteith such a kindly presence when he in turn became an eminence at Faber's. At any rate, from the very beginning of my friendship with him, he always insisted that the preprandial whisky I would order - in my own young, shy way - should be a large one. And this was typical of the largesse and indulgent social authority that characterised Charles's behaviour at all times. He was big in every way. One of my abiding images of him is of a looming figure in a pinstripe suit and well-cut overcoat, rolled umbrella urgently aloft, hailing a taxi like a cavalry officer at the head of a charge. But another image will be him gravely inclined, demurely attentive yet slightly glum-looking face in the audience during a poetry reading, for he had a superlative loyalty to the writers on his list and his pride in their achievement was both fortifying and touching. His reports on the latest seaside postcard he'd got from Philip Larkin or the latest manuscript he'd got from Ted Hughes had a kind of parental joy about them: this was not literary gossip but the vindication of some totally celebratory part of his being.

Long before he became chairman of the firm, Charles enjoyed flying the Faber flag in places such as Belfast and Dublin, and he had every right to do so, having been so important in the recognition of the talents of two generations of Irish writers. People such as John McGahern, Richard Murphy, Tom Kilroy, Paul Muldoon, Tom Paulin, to name but a few, will be forever grateful for having caught his editorial eye; then, in the field of theatre, there was Samuel Beckett and Brian Friel; and, needless to say, I myself had always a special sense of relationship and gratitude to him, since I was the first poet he took on to the Faber list after the death of Eliot. At that stage, I hardly thought of 24 Russell Square as an earthly address and so, as I have said elsewhere, getting a letter from the chief poetry editor of the place was like getting mail from the Almighty God.

Charles was a discoverer and an encourager. He will always be famous as the editor who recognised the genius of William Golding and by a combination of intuition and application ensured that Golding's first book, The Lord of the Flies, would be such an extraordinary debut. But then, the man whose passion for language was such that he insisted on stopping his jeep and getting out of it while his regiment was retreating under fire from the town of Proom in Burma - just so that he could always say that he was the man who piddled while Proom burned - that man was surely bound to distinguish himself sooner or later in the arts of peace. All of the writers whom he took on and saw through the press will be able to bear witness to his unique gifts as an editor. I remember, for example, the typical good sense he displayed when I was toying with the word which is spelled p-o-l-d-e-r as the title for one of my books. I was, however, just a little uncertain about how to announce this to Charles. Did it rhyme with alder or shoulder? "I always feel," Charles replied, "that it is a mistake to call a book by a name that people aren't quite sure how to pronounce."

Discoverer, encourager, adviser, but also custodian. A living link to an earlier literary period, somebody on speaking terms with figures who had attained mythic status in their own lifetime. Charles was not only a confidant of TS Eliot, he was also - culturally if not chronologically - the contemporary of WH Auden and Stephen Spender and Louis MacNeice. Devotion to these poets qua poets and then friendship with them, and with Auden in particular, was part of the geology of his sensibility. He had read their work and internalised it as a young man, long before he met them; and he would eventually acclimatise himself to their world, first as an undergraduate at Oxford and subsequently as a fellow of All Souls; and then (on the Eliot trail, this time) as a familiar figure in London clubland. Yet for all his ease and accomplishment in that world, Charles remained wonderfully amphibious, maintaining, on the one hand, his cheerfully unsinkable social manner, fulfilling in grand style his role as raconteur and avuncular Establishment senior; and yet managing, on the other hand, to keep faith with that younger, more poetically intense side of his nature, the shyer, more emotional part that came out in his smile, in his protectiveness towards his writers, young and old, in his need to keep returning to visit his family on their home ground, and in the fleeting intimation of something tender and solitary that would reveal itslef every now and again in a certain wistfulness or far-awayness in his gaze.

Frederick John Perry, tennis player, broadcaster. Born Stockport, 18 May, 1909; died Melbourne, Australia, 2 February, 1995

Edward Joseph Drake, footballer and cricketer. Born Southampton, 16 August, 1912; died 30 May, 1995

Fred Perry won Wimbledon three years running, 1934,5,6, in the face of incredible snobbery and disdain from the tennis establishment. His achievement might have been a beacon to the tennis players of the nation. Instead it has hung over us like a cloud. No British man has reached the singles final since.

BFootball has no such individual absolutes and , if it did, Ted Drake would not quite fill the bill. He played five times for England, a crashing dashing rumbustious centre-forward in what was the Arsenal Thirties mould. But on a December afternoon in 1935 at Villa Park he did something extraordinary, scoring all Arsenal's goals in a 7-1 League win. He had only nine attempts in the whole game, scored with the first six of them, had another shot saved and hit the underside of the bar with yet another. When Drake claimed the ball had crossed the line, the referee asked him if he wasn't satisfied already

As a boy in the North, Perry played table tennis and went on to win the world table-tennis titles in 1928 and 1929. He was persuaded to take up lawn tennis on moving south when his father, a trade unionist, became an MP. The people who ran Wimbledon would have preferred a more socially elevated champion. In one of his winning years, he heard a committe man telling his beaten opponent that he wished he had won. But he was not to be denied. At the end of the Thirties he turned professional.

Drake's first love seems to have been cricket. He talked of it endlessly, not least about the dread day when, as a young Hampshire batsman, he found himself playing against Nottinghamshire with the fearsome attack of Harold Larwood, another who died this year, and Bill Voce. Having survived three balls from Larwood, he found himself facing Voce. "How's he bowling today ?" he asked the wicket keeper. "Too good for you," was the reply. Drake was bowled next ball. But as a footballer he never surrendered. In 1936, with a huge bandage round his damaged knee he scored the goal that beat Sheffied United and won the Cup Final for Arsenal.

Later he managed Reading, then Chelsea where his humour disappeared under a pinstripe suit, though to general amazement he did lead them to their only League Championship in 1955

Perry of course was another story. He became one of the icons of tennis, they finally put up statue of him at Wimbledon and the shirt with a laurel symbol - a 'Fred Perry' - made him a byword.

Brian Glanville is sports columnist of The People

Nigel Lucius Graeme Finch, television director, film-maker. Born Tenterden, Kent, 1 August, 1949; died London, 14 February

Generous though he was, Nigel threatened to sue me on a number of occasions when the credit for The Ford Cortina and My Way routinely came my way. They were his films through and through. One part of a legacy which has made a truly original and indelible mark on the history of documentary film-making.

He was a gloriously incongruous figure, when I first met him in the BBC in the Seventies, flying in like a bird of passage to his nest in Shepherd's Bush. He was not so much dressed as upholstered in black leather jeans and that startling green jacket with an owl emblazoned on the back. (He had a pet owl as a child.) Spreadeagled in the chair, or in the trim bin, he was a sensational adornment to the cutting room. And the gifts he bore were no less exotic than himself - images for the editors, to delight, to perplex, to infuriate them.

Hehad a brilliant eye, a transforming eye, which could land in surprising places. And wherever he looked he found a new perspective. It may not always have been the right one, but the point was it was never the obvious one.

Nigel had trained as an art historian but he had a passion for the contemporary world and a genuine, unpatronising love of popular culture. Each film for him was a celebration of differences. And he endowed each one with wit, curiosity and humanity. In the early days he specialised in miniatures, short, exquisite films usually about painters. Then he got bolder, and the canvas got bigger. The subjects got wilder.

On 28 February - Mardi Gras day - seven years ago, Nigel and Anthony Wall decided to try their hands at outside broadcasts, offering me, the new Controller of BBC2, a live five-hour event. Full of confidence and optimism, I went along for the ride. It was Nigel and Anthony's excellent adventure. It was also a complete fiasco. You see, Nigel succumbed to the adventure of life not just willingly or even wholeheartedly but often quite recklessly. Hunter S Thompson, Robert Mapplethorpe, My Way, The Ford Cortina - no venture was taboo.

The pleasure of Nigel was often in the paradoxes. Yes he was sociable, but he could also be solitary. He was a hedonist but he was also a monk - that dashing zippered leather suit was his habit. There was a lot of the puritan in Nigel. He was wedded to the work ethic. If you called him at 9.00 in the morning he'd have been up for three hours. And the studied frugality of his meals - grapes and hot water for long, substantial periods wasn't affectation or novelty, it made him feel good.

It was said of Huw Wheldon that he was a big game hunter who bagged his prey. Nigel had a different technique. He was a monstrous flirt. Among his conquests were William Burroughs, Kurt Vonnegut and Graham Greene - he would discuss love and sex over tea at the Ritz.

Alan Yentob

PEGGY PUREY-CUST by John Betjeman

from Summoned By Bells

O Peggy Purey-Cust, how pure you were:

My first and purest love, Miss Purey-Cust!

Satchel on back I hurried up West Hill

To catch you on your morning walk to school,

Your nanny with you and your golden hair

Streaming like sunlight. Strict deportment made

You hold yourself erect and every step

Bounced up and down as though you walked on springs.

Your ice-blue eyes, your lashes long and light,

Your sweetly freckled face and turned-up nose

So haunted me that all my loves since then

Have had a look of Peggy Purey-Cust

Vivian Stanshall, musician: born Shillingford, Oxfordshire 21 March 1943; twice married (one son, one daughter); died London 5 March The Central School of Art, London: early Sixties. There I am, working on a drawing of Enrico Caruso, when suddenly - "My dear boy, you're a real artiste, the first one I've encountered in this scrotum-scratching cesspit. Where did you get that shirt?" Looking over my shoulder is a tall, plump, gingery bloke wearing Rupert Bear trousers (yellow and red), a purple velvet Victorian smoking jacket and pince nez. Vivian Stanshall. As far as I am concerned, that initial encounter contained all the elements of our subsequent messy and protracted friendship. I was struck immediately by Viv's recognition of Caruso - and then the next minute he'd burst into "Di Quella Pira" from Il Trovatore. I was a Rocker from South Wales who relished classical opera, and here was a seeming lout, dressed as a Victorian Music Hall comedian, who not only knew operatic arias as well as I did, but was nothing loth to sing them.

I remember one Christmas, while we were still students, finding an expensive German magazine at the newsagents at Holborn Underground, and discovering that they'd printed some drawings of mine (almost the first I'd had published). Viv was with me at the time, but neither of us could scrape up the money to buy it. Then Viv had a brainwave: I was dispatched to the gents for hard lavatory paper, and then, with my tentative, embarrassed, paper-and- comb accompaniment, he went out into Holborn Kingsway and burst forth with patriotic songs such as "The White Cliffs of Dover". I can't imagine that anyone else could have acted like this and got away with it. Our age, demeanour, the fact that we emphatically weren't old soldiers, should have made the whole thing ridiculous. All I can say is that Holborn was temporarily engulfed in good humour and merriment and money showered forth. Viv had a knack of conveying a kind of complex affection even in his most outrageous moments of acting up. The magazine was purchased (he kept it).

A year or two later came the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, set up by Viv in conjunction with some other art students; this band provided a perfect outlet at the time for his manically varied musical and comic genius. It has also had a tremendous effect on the whole field of English humour, pointing the way forward to Monty Python and others. The Bonzo's only real hit single was "The Urban Spaceman" (though many marvellous songs were included in the albums). However, it seems to me that Viv was at his most characteristic once he was free of the band, lunging from one crazy project to another and occasionally bringing off some miraculous impersonation - we remember Sir Henry Rawlinson, for example, the film of Sir Henry at Rawlinson End, and the extraordinary musical Stinkfoot which Viv put on near the end of his life. Even the beer advertisements he did for Ruddles were small masterpieces.

Ever since I'd known Viv, I'd been thinking about doing a portrait of him - I did a poster for the Bonzos' "Mr Apollo" when they went on tour of America, and I had various drawings of him; however, around this time there occurred a period when he was acting like a crazed professional eccentric, or going on prolonged drinking binges with Lennon, Moon etc. By the mid-Eighties, letters were coming from a clinic in the West Country containing impossible demands. Last winter, I finally made up my mind to get down to the portrait - Viv was back in Muswell Hill, an ageing heterosexual Oscar Wilde, surrounded by musical instruments and unfinished paintings and his father's false teeth.

One morning, in the throes of 'flu, I switched on the eight o'clock news and heard Viv and the Bonzos' "The Intro and the Outro". I was convinced I'd got the wrong station, was thinking I had not heard that song for years, and how alive and inventive it sounded, when an announcement came that Vivian Stanshall had died.

Dear Viv - a crazy complicated genius who tried to do too many things, but left in his records, films and with his friends, an abiding sense of hilarity.

Jeffrey Morgan Brigid Antonia Brophy, writer. Born 12 June, 1929; died Louth, Lincolnshire, 7 August, 1995

After developing multiple sclerosis in 1984, Brigid Brophy wrote, more presciently than she knew, "All that has happened to me is that I have in part died in advance of the total event." She was the author of several outstanding volumes of biography and criticism and seven of the most stylish and intelligent novels of the post-War period; not one of these books was in print at her death. The voice she had once raised so invigoratingly against the idiocies of the age had been gradually stilled. In February l988, she put her name to a full-page advertisement in this newspaper protesting about the notorious Clause 28 of the Local Government Bill forbidding the "promotion" of homosexuality by local authorities; in better health she might well have written one of those witty, cogent and devastating articles that for many years acted as a goad to the complacent English, usefully rousing us from our native torpor.

Brophy had once been a familiar figure, both in the press and on radio and television, called upon to discuss contentious issues in what she described as her "Irishly rational tone of voice": The Rights of Animals, The Immorality of Marriage, The Menace of Nature, The British Museum and Solitary Vice. "I entered journalism," she recalled, "not only as a 'controversialist', as it is called by people who dislike making up their minds, but as a critic. And, yes, when I think a book a bad work of art I say so to the best of my expository prose. Having discovered that art really exists and is a serious and important part of life and real civilisation, I entertain far too much respect for art to be a 'respecter of persons' - a curious phrase whose meaning has nothing to do with respecting people and everything to do with kowtowing to or fearing powers and influences." This lack of respect occasionally led to her being muzzled: a talk commissioned by BBC radio at the time of the Profumo Affair was so scathing about British hypocrisy in sexual matters that the corporation declined to broadcast it.

One by one, sacred cows were marched into her abbatoir to be neatly despatched. This is not, of course, an image she would have appreciated, since she was a strict and proselytising vegetarian. Furthermore, although she delivered knock-out blows to (amongst others) "The British Sense of Humour", Ernest Hemingway, and the Handbook of Non-Sexist Writing, she was also (which is far more difficult) a persuasive champion of people and causes, particularly of fellow writers who did not always get their due: Elizabeth Taylor, John Horne Burns and - in a magisterial "defence of fiction" that should be required reading for anyone who questions the "value" of the arts - Ronald Firbank.

Like Gore Vidal, who, in spite of considerable differences of background and temperament, is perhaps her nearest living equivalent, Brophy recognised the value of shock tactics. She would pronounce the most heterodox opinions as if they were universal truths, unaware, it seemed, that anyone might take issue with her. "The three greatest novels of the 20th century are The Golden Bowl, A la Recherche du Temps Perdu and Concerning the Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli," she famously wrote in pre-Wolfenden [how many o's in wolfenden - ed] 1962. "It is possible that all three are by homosexuals." This was particularly provocative at a time when the newspapers were filled with details of the Vassall spy case, which meant that homosexuality was principally identified in the public mind with blackmail and treason. It was also a serious critical-biographical. Unlike many cultural commentators, however, Brophy never made the mistake of confusing seriousness with solemnity, and this is why her work is so enjoyable to read - even when one disagrees with what she is so eloquently (but, wait a minute, surely wrong-headedly?) pronouncing. Not that one does disagree often, for she was a skilled advocate. "She has always had the gift of a most stirring sort of firmness," Edward Blishen noted. "It is not the tone of a knowall, it is not remotely bossy; it is, I suppose, basically, the sound that logic makes."

"People (even those who do not mean to be rude) often ask me whether my journalism interferes with my serious writing," Brophy once complained. "As a matter of fact, my journalism is serious writing." This is not something that can be said of her unworthy heirs, the low-wattage pundits whose columns of "opinion" now clutter the pages of every national newspaper. Part of the reason that Brophy's three volumes of "views and reviews" still impress is that they are not simply rag-bag miscellanies of old clippings, but have an interior coherence, as does her entire oeuvre. While each new book might seem radically different from its predecessors, a number of bright threads run through her work, binding it into a satisfying whole: Mozart and the baroque; Wilde, Beardsley and the 1890s; the triumvirate of Freud, Firbank and George Bernard Shaw, the protection and rights of animals, writers and other threatened groups. "All critical insight", reflects a character in one of her novels, "is autobiography by the critic." This was certainly true of Brophy herself, whose own books, both fiction and non-fiction, interlock and refract, so that even if one had never met her, she left the firm imprint of her personality on one's mind. John Bayley once remarked that her essays "constitute one of the strongest proofs of personal identity I have ever come across." It would be hard to formulate a better definition of what it is to be a writer.

Peter Parker

Spencer Boney, musician. Born London, 23 December, 1972; died Brescia, Italy, 4 September, 1995

The name Spencer Boney appears in the statistics of road deaths for 1995, a young life abruptly ended when a car in which he was a passenger collided with a lorry. He was on holiday in Italy. What vanished in that instant was not only a prodigious musical talent, but a young person of rare, almost charismatic gifts, of which he was largely unaware. At the Guildhall School of Music, where he studied piano, I watched him over four years grow from a well-mannered, quiet, but unusually self-assured teenager into a snappily dressed young man who radiated strength and inner confidence. His optimism was boundless and self doubt non-existent. Perhaps in those happy months before he died, when he seemed to be maturing visibly day by day, he was learning that the world was not quite the straightforward place he had imagined, nor his place in it pre-ordained. He was finding his adult wings and finally leaving the child prodigy's cocoon.

One of the remarkable qualities of Spencer as a pianist was that he delighted in being on stage. Whether revelling in the heights of virtuosity or the immediacy of a beautiful tune, whether in a recital room, or among friends in the practice studio, his urge to perform was wholly compelling - and never egotistical.

Afterwards he would bare his teeth in a smile of astonishing openness and happiness, which managed to combine a sense of his own exultation with an apology for any mistakes.

But it is not just a burgeoning artist that we mourn. Spencer was known and loved by a huge circle - or more accurately by innumerable circles within circles. Only gradually have his friends, contemporaries and teachers become aware of quite how many of us there were. He commanded affection and admiration wherever his myriad musical activities took him. The loss of Spencer Boney is a tragedy beyond the musical sphere. In 1995, his presence in the world was beginning to have wider consequences for the greater good.

Paul Roberts John Yudkin, nutritionist. Born London, 8 August, 1910; died London, 12 July, 1995

John Yudkin, the nutritionist, will be best remembered for his claim that eating sugar may damage your health. He fought a 20-year war of attrition with the sugar industry. The result is that the consumer may have a better informed view but most still choose to consume around some two pounds a head a week (not in our coffee so much as in biscuits, cakes, puddings, chocolates, confectionery, soft drinks).

On the other hand, Dr Yudkin played a devastating role in routing the shams and spurious claims of the slimming industry in the Sixties when anyone could make a fortune promoting quick weight-loss diets.

In The Slimming Myth he exploded a myriad of myths about the business. "A Melon and Muffins diet," he said, "or a Grape and Gumdrops Diet, can produce instant weight loss, but they are grossly deficient in essential nutrients." Asked about the merits of the Grapefruit Diet (mischievously claimed to dissolve fat), he said it was the best diet for those who grow grapefruit.

Dr Yudkin was one of the first to spell out to a mass market the very simple truth that you only lose weight by consuming fewer calories. Asked how he could explain cellulite, he said:''Cellulite is, in my opinion, a mythical condition invented by the French. Cellulite is French for fat."

But his main energies were devoted to putting down refined sugar, which he pointed out contained empty calories and no nutritonal value. He burst the bubble of sugar's claim to provide "energy". "Not the stuff that makes Johnny run faster," he said. "The stuff that, when you consume it to excess, converts to body fat."

But it wasn't obesity which concerned Dr Yudkin, but other illnesses prompted by excessive sugar consumption: heart disease, diabetes, dental caries. This was the subject of his famous book, Pure, White and Deadly, which provoked the multi-million pound sugar industry to predictable wrath. Dr Yudkin claimed that although they made every attempt was to discredit and marginalise him, they found it impossible to dismiss him as a crank.

Seven years after the book was published the Bulletin of the World Sugar Research Organisation had a go at his book, under the headline, For Your Dustbin: "Readers of science fiction will no doubt be distressed to learn that according to the publishers the above work is out of print and no longer obtainable." Yudkin sued, and won an apology four years later. He went on to republish it two years later, with an extra chapter detailing his fight with the sugar industry.

John Yudkin was born of Russian Jewish immigrant parents in the East End, one of five children brought up by his mother in poor circumstances when his father died. His remarkable intelligence enabled him to win scholarships to school and university and a string of qualifications followed; MA, PhD, MD, FRCP, FRIC, FIBiol. He worked in West Africa as a nutritionist and then, at a youthful 34, he was appointed Professor of Physiology at Queen Elizabeth College, University of London. He persuaded the university to set up the country's first BSc and MSc courses in nutrition. Until then, you could become a nutritionist only after qualifying as a doctor. This was an important contribution to building up the status of nutrition as an academic science. To this end he raised over pounds 500,000 in the Sixties from the food industry.

He saw no conflict of interests in accepting consultancies from various food companies, including the butter industry, and at a time when other nutritionists were condemning saturated fats, such as butter, as contributing to heart disease. Dr Yudkin didn't accept this, choosing to argue that saturated fats contained no more calories than unsaturated fats.

Was it a measure of his even-handedness or naivety that he accepted a consultancy with the food giant, Nestle, major users of sugar? Dr Yudkin told the story that, lunching one day in their Croydon HQ in the 12th floor dining room, he was led to the window by one of the directors. "It would be very easy to push you out, John."

Michael Bateman Alison Hargreaves, mountaineer. Born 17 February, 1962; died K2, Karakoram, 13 August, 1995

I first met Alison in July 1986, at Chamonix, where she was attending a Rassemblement de Femmes Alpinistes. She seemed impatient with the hearty, jolly-hockey-sticks feminism, disappointed by the limited aspirations of her fellow women climbers. Just a few weeks earlier, in Nepal, she had triumphed on a spectacular first ascent with three of America's finest Himalayan climbers, all of them men, and, where mountains were concerned, she considered herself the equal of any man.

The following winter I climbed with Alison on Ben Nevis - three exhilarating days of glittering frost and clear blue light, with the Ben's northern cliffs sheathed in gleaming ice. I was quite fit then, but Alison never lagged behind on the long daily trudge up from Fort William. On the cliffs she took her share of the leading, clearly happiest when she was out in front, on the sharp end of the rope, revelling in the whole intricate, absorbing, physical business of climbing, thrilled by the widening view to the Western Isles.

A few weeks later, in Switzerland, skiing beneath the North Wall of the Eiger, she kept stopping to stare up at that most coveted alpine climb - the essential tick on every aspiring mountaineer's CV. She wanted that climb very much, and would have loved to do it that winter. But the weather was not stable, and we settled for a moderately ambitious glacier ski tour, which she tackled with calm competence, unfazed by overloaded rucksacks, whiteouts, lumpy snow and a hideous night in a collapsing snowcave.

I was deputy leader of a large expedition to Tibet that year and suggested that Alison should join the team, but the others were sceptical, wary of her intense ambition and apparent lack of humour. Away from the mountains, in a restaurant or pub, or at a meeting with other climbers, she could seem tense and brittle, defensive of her position in what was still an almost exclusively male domain. There was a feeling that she took herself too seriously and she was not invited on the Tibet expedition. However, in 1988, she had her Eiger climb, achieving a remarkable "first" by climbing the 5,000-foot high wall while she was five months pregnant.

Success on the Eiger, followed by the new excitement of motherhood, seemed to quell the demon ambition for a while. Later, of course, Alison returned to high standard mountaineering, setting her own new agenda of hard solo climbs. Like most people I was thrilled by her brilliant success on Everest last May and devastated by the news of the freak storm which snatched her so cruelly from the summit of K2 three months later. For those who wanted to criticise, the accident provided perfect fuel, reinforcing the notion that she allowed herself to be ruled by self-centred ambition. I would dispute that assessment and I stick with my memory of the last time I climbed with Alison, on 22 November, 1990.

I can place the date precisely, because it was the day Margaret Thatcher resigned. The high drama at Westminster seemed irrelevant in Derbyshire, where the sun shone and Alison was at home, playing in the kitchen with her son Tom - a picture of contented domesticity. She made it quite clear that any climbing would have to fit around Tom's schedule, and only after he was safely settled in his regular nursery could we set off for the limestone ramparts of High Tor. She also insisted that, as she was now several months pregnant with Kate, I should do the leading. I failed, jibbering incompetently as the cold shadow of a winter afternoon advanced across the cliff, freezing the rock. After about two hours of numb-fingered dithering it became obvious that I would never complete the climb before dark, so I had to admit defeat and descend. Throughout this lamentable performance Alison sat patiently, shivering in stoic silence, never once complaining at her leader's incompetence. It was that patience, underlying the hard ambition, which explained her success in the mountains - that and a serene confidence which inspired everyone around her. Far from going to her head, success seemed to make her a gentler person, cheerfully at ease with the world.

Stephen Venables Albert Hardy, photographer. Born London 19 May, 1913; died Oxted, Surrey, 3 July 1995

Bert Hardy shot up like a rocket out of a background of poverty and the rough-and-tumble of Thirties press photography. Having learned to take pictures the hard way, with the large unwieldy plate camera of the time, directly he got his hands on the small 35mm Contax, he took off and soared over every other Fleet Street photographer. He was suddenly doing, by sheer instinct, the thing he was clearly born to do, and it was a great stroke of luck, as Bert acknowledged, that Tom Hopkinson, the editor of Picture Post, immediately recognised his exceptional abilities, and put them to spectacular use in the magazine. He was dauntingly productive, and today the files of the Hulton Deutsch Collection are bulging with whole picture stories which were never published because there simply was not enough room in the magazine.

Bert always blessed his luck, which throughout his adventurous life held to the end. Long before he became famous for the second time, as an inspired lecturer and raconteur, he told me about a bizarre episode in his hazardous East End boyhood. Caught pilfering blocks of wood from a builders yard, he dashed down into the underground with a bobby in hot pursuit. Scrambling into a waiting train he thought he was safe, but the law just managed to get into another carriage, and as Bert put it: "I thought my chips were up!" But by chance the only other occupant of the carriage was an old lady who, realising Bert was in trouble, raised her ample skirts and told him to get underneath. "And that, love," Bert said with a wicked grin, "was my very first bit of luck."

He believed implicitly in the spur of commercial pressure, and thrived on demolishing difficulties put in his way. When the big test of this belief suddenly presented itself, in the heat of battle during the Korean war, Bert was more than equal to it. At the Inchon landings he triumphed over all the American photographers assembled for the event. Pitting his miniature camera against a whole battery of Speed Graphics, which were to prove useless in the near darkness, Bert got his pictures by the light of gun flashes, and Life magazine had to buy the historic images from Picture Post!

Bert was the most completely happy man I have ever known, and radiated good humour and enthusiasm for whatever he was sent to do. No wonder his subjects responded so wholeheartedly, and would do things for this laughing whirlwind that they wouldn't have done for other photographers. Bert's laugh, echoing down the corridors of Picture Post, was an inspiration in itself, for the very tone of it seemed to say, we're in this exciting life together, and isn't it wonderful.

Grace Robertson oseph Needham by Neil McKendrick

When Joseph Needham died, in his 95th year, the Economist compared him as an historian with Gibbon, the New York Times compared his work with that of Darwin as well as Gibbon. The Independent went further, saying that he had produced "the greatest work of scholarship by one person since Aristotle." These eulogies were in recognition of Needham's work as an historian of science. As if this was not enough, his earlier work as an embriologist was said by the Telegraph to have anticipated the discovery of DNA by two decades.

He was certainly a humiliating man to try to know. He humbled one by his achievements - the author of a hundred substantial works of scholarship; a Fellow of the Royal Society and of the British Academy, who together with Dorothy Needham, his first wife, became the first husband and wife team to be Fellows of the Royal Society since Victoria and Albert; the Master of one of Cambridge's most distinguished colleges; the man who is credited with putting the S (for Science) into Unesco; and the holder of the highest honour which China can bestow on any one other than a head of state. It is an almost mythic record.

Here was a man who embraced Morris dancing with as much enthusiasm as Church ritual. Here was a man who once admired Stalin and Mao with uncritical fervour, who accused the United States of waging germ warfare in Korea, who (although he privately deplored the Cultural Revolution) continued to act as an apologist for China to the end of his life. Yet he attracted enormous non-partisan affection. He was a man of great warmth and humanity. His large ungainly figure looked, as one unkind colleague put it, "like an unmade bed".

With age, his remarkable abilities came more and more to be appreciated. As volume after volume of his great work on Science and Civilisation in China were published by the Cambridge Univerity Press, the range of skills involved became clearer and clearer. His mastery of eight ancient and modern languages and his knowledge of a huge range of different scientific disciplines became unmistakeable. The characteristic Needham ritual of trundling the completed typescript of each huge volume on a trolley pushed by all of those who had worked on it from Caius to the Press became more and more a source of collegiate and university pride.

He amazed one with his vitality - I once found him driving a bright yellow, open-top sports-car belonging to a young fellow some 60 years his junior. He was whizzing in an out of the college garage for the sheer fun of it. "Just could not resist having a go," he confessed shamefacedly. The shamefacedness was well merited. He was by far the worst driver I ever drove with. He astonished one with his continuing zest for life - marrying Dr Lu Gwei- Djen, his beautiful Chinese collaborator, when she was 85 and he was 89, and, as if this was not enough, proposing after Gwei-Djen's death to a potential third wife in his mid-nineties.

He chastened one with his stamina and concentration. He worked a 16-hour day for year after year and, in spite of the catholicity of his interests, he allowed few distractions to keep him from his research. He wrote himself (under the psedonym Henry Holorenshaw) the appreciation of his life and works as an introduction to his own festschrift, he wrote and delivered the eulogy at his first wife's memorial service, he planned the precise details of the music and readings at his own memorial service.

He put one to shame with his rude good health. When asked in his late eighties if he had ever been ill, he replied crisply "No - what's it like?".

He used to say that the purpose of his life and work was to reconcile discordant worlds - East and West, Science and the Humanities, Anglicanism and Catholicism, Communism and capitalism, religious faith and rationalism. Many people, of course, were maddened by his ability to embrace apparently contradictory positions and beliefs. Perhaps this (along with the inevitable jealousy and understandable political exasperation) explains why in spite of his international acclaim and his undoubted achievements, he was sometimes less than promptly (and sometimes never adequately) honoured in his own world. He was allowed to play no part in the Faculties of History or Oriental Studies or even the Department of the History and Philosophy of Science in Cambridge. He never held a chair in his own university not even a personal professorship was offered to him. He had to wait until he was over 70 to become a Fellow of the British Academy. And when I asked him why he had never accepted any English honours, he said simply "Because I have never been offered any." I understand that this is not strictly true and that he turned down a modest honour because it included the letters which stood for the British Empire. Perhaps he did not count this as an honour. For all his humility he did not lack a realisation of his own worth. When he finally became a Companion of Honour in his nineties, he said wryly, "I suppose this means I am a failed OM."

What no one can ever doubt or take away from him is his massive 16-volume History of Science and Civilisation in China - any one volume of which would be a fitting achievement for a scholarly career. Many will regard them as books of record and synthesis more than explanation and analysis but they will serve as a majestic work of pioneering scholarship for ever.

Noel Joseph Terence Montgomery Needham, biochemist, historian, Sinologist. Born London, 9 December, 1900; died, Cambridge, 24 March

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