Richard Last, 1927-2024

Richard Last at the 2014 Broadcasting Press Guild Awards, with Torin Douglas

We were very sad to report the death in May of Richard Last, one of the founders of the BPG and its lynchpin for many years – as chair for two years (1984-5) and membership secretary, lunch secretary, awards secretary and treasurer for many more. He was 96 and our treasurer Torin Douglas spoke to him on the phone on the eve of our memorable 50th BPG Awards lunch which he was sorry to miss.

 

Torin attended Richard’s funeral on Thursday May 30th in Woking, with longstanding BPG members Maggie Forwood and Steve Clark, and also Marilyn Lee, Harvey Lee’s wife – who became a close friend of Richard and Pauline Last through the BPG. It took place at St. Dunstan’s Catholic Church, Woking, and Pauline requested that no one should wear black attire. All five of Richard’s daughters – Jane, Elizabeth, Amanda, Charlotte and Victoria – give tributes to their Dad. In them, and after the service, they made clear how much the BPG – and its Awards lunches – had meant to them as a family. The funeral was followed by a celebration of Richard’s life at The Cricketers Pub, Horsell, Woking, where a light buffet was served.  

Following the funeral, Marilyn wrote:
“You could see how popular Richard and his family are by how many people attended the funeral.  His daughters are delightful and delivered funny and poignant eulogies. I have known Richard a very long time, back to the days of The BPG Awards downstairs at The Cheshire Cheese pub, when Harvey first joined the committee. Harvey really looked up to Richard who was so supportive – he adored and respected him – and Richard, Pauline and the girls were so kind to my family. We stayed in one of the holiday houses that the Lasts recommended near Santiago de Compostela, and had 2 fabulous and memorable holidays there. Famous for its frog that lived in a black plastic bin bag!  By the way plenty of water there – I had no idea Richard was a fierce supporter of water being available for everyone in the world and how privileged he felt being able to freely have a shower whenever he wanted. 

“The wake was a very lovely, relaxed, and gentle affair. I got to know some of his family, a nephew who had worked in defence, very interesting and also Richard’s  sister-in-law. I then joined Steve Clarke and Robin Stringer ex-Daily Telegraph , who Harvey used to mention to me and spoke about the DT days. I enjoyed meeting him and hearing the tales.  The food was scrummy and his daughter Jane – who trades as Jane’s Cakes – pointed out she did not provide the food this time, as the wake had been catered by someone else. I was so pleased I went and was able to pay my respects to a most delightful man.”

Steve Clark wrote:
“The wake was very jolly. Pauline gave a lovely speech, the food was fab and in certain quarters quite a lot of drink was taken! Richard would have approved. I’ve never been to such a joyous funeral!”

Maggie Forwood wrote:
“Splendid funeral and sterling performances by the family. It’s strange when you learn something new about someone you’ve known for so long – at their funeral! After the girls’ fascinating tales of Richard’s excessive love of water, washing and bathing, I shall think of him now as the Water King of Woking.”

We have received some very warm messages and memories from our members.
Graham Keal: “It is indeed very sad news. Richard was a lovely man and a talented journalist, as well as a great supporter and indeed leader of the BPG. He will be greatly missed, and I’ve missed his presence at recent awards lunches.”
Maggie Brown: “
I am sorry to hear of the passing of Richard Last who was for so long a key member of and contributor to the BPG’s success. He was a very nice charming person who loved the TV industry and wrote about it with authority. I think he is the last of a generation of national broadsheet dedicated writers and critics who saw television as an art form.”
Țara Conlan: “Richard was so kind and welcoming to  me when I first joined the BPG; a really lovely man who did so much for the guild x.”
Ben Dowell: “Very sorry to hear. What a lovely, lively, kindly, clever and affable man he was.”

Rosalie Horner, who worked closely with Richard in bringing the BPG Awards to national prominence (seen here with Sir Alec Guinness), wrote this tribute:

Richard Last was one of Fleet Street’s acclaimed television critics along with such great names as his fellow Daily Telegraph scribes Sylvia Clayton and Sean Day Lewis, and Nancy Banks Smith of The Guardian. But if Richard spent most of his working life staring at the screen in darkened projection rooms around Soho or Tottenham Court Road, visiting Thames TV in Euston Road, London Weekend on the Southbank or trudging out to White City to view BBC content, there was another side to his devotion to ‘the box in the corner’ as television is no longer referred to.  He was a founder of the Broadcasting Press Guild fifty years ago, that group of journalists who earned their daily bread writing about what was shown on British television screens.

When I became a Daily Express television writer in 1976 Richard and fellow devotees, Martin Jackson and Stewart Lane encouraged me to become part of the Guild and my association remains to this day as a Life Member. Richard always brought harmony and good sense to the Guild and in the early days he helped make our illustrious stars of television and theatre, people like Dame Peggy Ashcroft, Sir Alec Guinness, Sir David Attenborough and John Pilger, welcome to our unpretentious venue under the arches at Blackfriars.

At one stage the BPG Awards were first announced on television on BBC’s Pebble Mill at One and Richard and I would travel up to Birmingham, hoping we would cope with the same tenacity in front of the camera we gave to its scrutiny in our day jobs. Alan Titchmarsh was kind and we managed to avoid obvious traps like mixing metaphors unlike one unfortunate interviewee whose name I’ve forgotten who said an actress really got into her role ‘grabbing it with both teeth’.

Richard loved and believed in television and was proud to be writing about it. For most of the last fifty years of the BPG, Richard’s wisdom and knowledge have been a guiding force behind the Guild’s reputation for acknowledging the very best of British television. He will be much missed but his legacy remains.

You can also read Richard’s own, highly entertaining “History of the BPG – the first 21 years”.
You can still make a donation to his favourite charity WaterAid.