Lives Remembered: Ranald Graham
Monday 20 September 2010
My friend Ranald Graham, who wrote and produced for film, television and theatre, has died from Motor Neurone Disease at the age of 69.
His early life was as dramatic as some of his scripts. He was born on 3 January 1941 to Scottish parents in Sandokan, North Borneo, where his father was a prominent businessman. Ranald had just celebrated his first birthday when the Japanese army arrived on their triumphant sweep across the Pacific. His next four years were spent in a Japanese POW camp in Kuching, where he was interned with his parents and elder sister, Sheena, along with 32 other children and 80 women. In the several other camp compounds were thousands of British, Indian and Australian troops, Dutch priests and nuns and the civilian staff of the administration.
Despite the thousands of deaths at this camp, his mother and the other incredible women kept all the children alive and after liberation by Australian troops on 11 September, Ranald returned to Scotland in 1945. He frequently pointed out that that infamous date had been important in his life for a lot longer than for most people.
His parents eventually returned to Sandokan after the war and Ranald spent a lonely childhood at Gordonstoun School before he went up to Trinity College, Dublin, in 1961.
After he had completed postgraduate work at Birmingham, he began writing for television and film. There were scripts for the Children's Film and Television Foundation, Hammer Films and the film Shanks (1974), which starred Marcel Marceau.
He directed a documentary for London Weekend Television about his university friend, the squash champion Jonah Barrington. But his lasting legacy will be several episodes of The Sweeney, and the 1977 film of that name. It established him as a leading light in television crime-writing. He worked in Australia and Hollywood and went on to write for The Professionals and Dempsey and Makepeace. He also produced the Yorkshire Television series Yellowthread Street, which was filmed on location in Hong Kong.
Ranald was a proud Highlander and climbed the mountains every year. His was a full life and his Burns Nights were memorable. Despite the ravages of a most excruciating disease, he waited until the end of the final Test match of the season before he slipped away on 29 August.
He married twice, first to Judy Monahan, with whom he had a son, Seorais, and second to Carolyn Trayler, with whom he had his daughters, Skye and Georgia. They all survive him.
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