Michael Palin on “Inspirational Eccentricity”

 

By Michael Palin

This weekend two people who I admired very much died. Jan Morris and Hamish MacInnes. Both were in their 90’s, both had lived quite extraordinary lives, and I was fortunate enough to spend some time with both of them. Jan Morris was the author of Venice, one of the best travel books I ever read. It made me want to go to Venice and when I went there, with Helen, in 1967, it made being there even better.

Before she underwent gender reassignment (or ‘changed sex’ as Jan always called it) she was James Morris, the reporter for the Times on the Everest expedition of 1953, and it was he who not only broke the story of Hillary and Tensing’s success, but made sure the news got through on the day of the Queen’s coronation. Continue reading

Obituary: Jan Morris, a poet of time, place and self

She was an award-winning journalist and author with more than 40 books under her belt.

Jan Morris, who has died at the age of 94, was one the finest writers the UK has produced in the post-war era.

Her life story was crammed with romance, discovery and adventure. She was a soldier, an award-winning journalist, a novelist and – as a travel writer – became a poet of time and place.

She was also known as a pioneer in her personal life, as one of the first high-profile figures to change gender. Continue reading

Obituary: John Hume

As SDLP leader, John Hume played a major role in bringing about Northern Ireland’s peace process.

When the IRA called a ceasefire in August 1994, it was greeted with jubilation and relief across Northern Ireland.

Despite enormous criticism, Hume always defended his decision to talk to Sinn Féin in order to build that peace process.

While many people were involved, the SDLP leader’s role was crucial.

“Politics,” he once said, “is the alternative to war.”

John Hume’s involvement in the cauldron of Northern Ireland politics began on the streets of his home city, Londonderry, where he was born in 1937.

Post-war education reforms enabled him to win a scholarship to the local grammar school and he trained briefly for the priesthood, before returning to work as a teacher.

John Hume in DerryJohn Hume on the streets during the earliest confrontations in Derry

 

Drawn into public life, Hume began to campaign on issues such as housing and helped set up a credit union in his native city. But more traumatic times lay ahead. Continue reading

Alan Parker, Versatile Film Director, Is Dead at 76

“Midnight Express” and “Mississippi Burning” brought him Oscar nominations, and many of his other films, including “Fame” and “The Commitments,” were acclaimed.

Alan Parker, who was nominated for the best-director Oscar for the 1978 film “Midnight Express” and again 10 years later for “Mississippi Burning,” died on Friday in South London. He was 76.

His death followed a long, unspecified illness, a spokeswoman for the British Film Institute said.

Read full story at NY TIMES: Alan Parker, Versatile Film Director, Is Dead at 76

Fairport Convention singer Judy Dyble dies aged 71

Folk singer, who also had a solo career, had a long-term illness

The Fairport Convention singer Judy Dyble has died aged 71. The folk artist, who also had a solo career, had been suffering from a long-term illness.

Dyble rose to prominence during the 1960s and performed on Fairport Convention songs including Time Will Show the Wiser.

A statement from her agent said: “It is with great sadness that we announce that English singer-songwriter Judy Dyble passed away on 12 July following a long illness borne with great courage. Judy Dyble was one of the pioneers of the English folk rock scene in the 1960s, most notably as a founding member of Fairport Convention and vocalist with cult band Trader Horne.

“We wish to express our deepest sympathies to Judy’s family, friends and many associates from her musical career at this time.” Continue reading