Friday, 13 July 2012

'Great Lives' studio day

Yesterday I was in Bristol for the day, to participate as 'expert' on a BBC Radio 4 Great Lives programme featuring my father's life and career (the two being entirely separate things, to my mind, but joined for the purposes of discussion). 

The programme is presented by Matthew Parris, who was not familiar with Pa's work or life, but he seemed to relish hearing the voice (a number of archive clips) and seeing photos from some of Pa's theatre, TV and film appearances.

The 'proposer' or nominator of Leonard Maguire as a 'Great Life' was actor Bill Paterson. Bill worked with him on several occasions, including in Panto one year, (Cinderella at Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum in the '70s) when Pa played Baron Hardup and Bill was 'his lovely daughter Snowdrop' - one of the ugly Sisters (the other was John Bett, who wrote - and has read for the programme - a wonderful poem about my father.)

I won't pre-empt the programme's revelations (I hope it's good; we talked for nearly 2 hours but it will all be edited down to 30 minutes, and frankly I never remember much about my own contribution to a thing other than too-late anxiety about fluffs or getting dates or details wrong), but what struck me most, when Bill talked about my father, was the impression of affectionate regard in which he was held, not only by Bill himself but by others of his generation of Scottish actors - the ones whose names are known now - and that was very touching.

During his lifetime I don't think Pa could have imagined he'd be the subject of any sort of tribute or memorial (he'd more likely have pondered the accounting he'd be obliged to give on arrival at the Pearly Gates, and whether he could smuggle his baccy & roll-up papers past St Peter). However, in a rare newspaper interview he did in the mid-70s, this quote stands out clearly: 
"Every performance is your last will and testament. Even in the matinees there may be one boy back in the gods who will be fired by what you are doing and do something great in 20 years because of it." 
He would be modestly gratified to know that, on the basis of this programme at least, others were 'fired' and indeed inspired, by his work - and by him.

(pic: from appearance in the title role, Edinburgh International Festival production of Macbeth,1965)

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