Obituary:Sir Fitzroy Maclean

In 1967, as a Russian-speaking member of BBC television's Documentary Department, I was asked if I would work with Sir Fitzroy Maclean in making a film about the Soviet Union, writes Malcolm Brown [further to the obituary by Frank McLynn on 19 June]. It was basically Eastern Approaches revisited - to be shown on the 50th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. This would require two extensive journeys, one for reconnaissance, the second with a film team. It was to be one of the happiest and most enriching collaborations of my 26 years as a BBC staff producer.

Our friendship was barely 10 minutes old when he told me to drop the "Sir" and call him Fitzroy, Fitzy, or even Fitz; I settled for Fitzroy. He was a youthful enthusiast and the possessor of an almost schoolboyish sense of humour, and we were able to pun frequently and execrably in two languages. "Lux", or to transliterate more correctly, "Lyooks", was the top grade of travel offered in the Soviet Union by Intourist; the modest quip "If Lyooks could kill" had us both in laughter for hours.

He knew his Soviet Union well. One evening at the famous National Hotel opposite Red Square, he took me down a corridor to point out the corner room where Commander Courtney MP had been filmed in flagrante by the KGB.

Later, when about to fly from Tashkent to Baku over the Caspian Sea, I expressed pleasure that our Russian minders had put us first on board our Ilyushin-18. "You know what this means," he said, "we are going to fly over some important military installation, and so will be put in a place of honour opposite the wing where we can't see anything." He was right.

He also knew his Central Asia. Flying at 30,000 feet one magical evening and gazing through the aircraft window at a distant frieze of mountains, I felt a tap on the knee. "Those," said Fitzroy, "are the high Pamirs." It was rather like being shown the Empty Quarter by Wilfred Thesiger.

He spoke Russian with an effortless ease and a strong Etonian accent. Right-wing MP that he was, the Russians loved him and he returned their affection. He was splendid at getting to his feet at the kind of occasions when toasts in vodka were drunk to everything that anybody could think of and at contriving speeches which put everyone in high good-humour.

Our programme, transmitted under the title The Other Russians, collected a huge audience on BBC1; and was later shown to much acclaim in the series The World About Us on BBC2.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower