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Tuesday, December 22, 1998 Published at 16:55 GMT


The year 1997 was dominated by the death of Princess Diana, but the past 12 months have not seen the departure of someone of that stature.

Review of the Year
The British royal family did not remain untouched by tragedy, however, as Susan Barrantes, the mother of the Duchess of York, died in a car crash in Argentina in September.

The world of entertainment seemed particularly hard-hit as many actors, singers, directors and composers took their final bow in 1998.

Top of the bill in that respect was Ol' Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra, who died in May at the age of 82. Despite lingering reports of his links with the mafia Sinatra's passing was marked by presidents and performers as well as by many, many ordinary fans.

Frank Sinatra's life and music
The BBC's Richard Anthony Baker remembers Frank Sinatra

Riding into the sunlight

[ image: Linda McCartney became a renowned photographer and animal rights activist]
Linda McCartney became a renowned photographer and animal rights activist
The death of Linda McCartney also received widespread coverage and the tributes were warm and unstinting in praise of her courage in the face of the cancer which killed her at 56.

Her husband, former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney, memorably described how - in her final moments - he told her to imagine the two of them riding on horseback through sunlit bluebell woods.

If Lady Linda became best known through her husband, then the reverse was true of Sonny Bono, who died in a skiing accident in January, bringing to an end a career which started in music with his wife Cher and ended in politics, in the US Congress.

Almost up with Ol' Blue Eyes in legendary status was the 'First Lady of Country', Tammy Wynette, who died after a long history of health problems at the age of 55.

Silver screen now dulled

If the title 'First Lady of the Jungle' had been available in the 1930s, then there was no doubt that it would have belonged to Maureen O'Sullivan, who played Jane to Johnny Weissmuller's Tarzan - the role for which she will always be remembered despite starring in films as diverse as Anna Karenina and A Day At The Races.

[ image: The King of the Cowboys rode off into the sunset]
The King of the Cowboys rode off into the sunset
Among other film greats to pass away in 1998 were King of the Cowboys Roy Rogers and the Singing Cowboy, Gene Autry.

On the other side of the camera, film enthusiasts all over the world mourned Japan's Akira Kurosawa.

He was the director responsible for masterpieces such as Rashomon, the Seven Samurai - the model for the Magnificent Seven - Ran and Kagemusha.

The man who created Batman and worked as a consultant on the recent films, Bob Kane, died aged 83 in November.

Final chords

As well as Frank Sinatra and Sonny Bono, the world of music lost names such as jazz musician Benny Green and classical composers Alfred Schnittke and Sir Michael Tippett.

The last-named was one of the finest musicians in the United Kingdom and 1998 seemed to hit hard the ranks of entertainers from the British Isles.

Widely differing in their music but also among those who played their final tunes were popular singer Dorothy Squires, aged 83, and rock drummer Cozy Powell, whose death in a car crash was unfortunately heard by his girlfriend as he spoke to her on her mobile phone.

Comic talent

Among those no longer with us are the very English comedians, satirists and all-round wits Frank Muir, a veteran of TV's Call My Bluff, and John Wells, the writer of Private Eye's "Dear Bill" letters - supposedly from Mrs Thatcher's husband, Denis.

British comedy also lost writer Johnny Speight who created the TV series Till Death Us Do Part and its notoriously bigoted main character, Alf Garnett. One of the programme's actresses, comedy veteran Patricia Hayes, also parted company with the world, as did comedienne Betty Marsden, star of radio's Round the Horne.

[ image: 'Father Ted' Dermot Morgan died suddenly at 45]
'Father Ted' Dermot Morgan died suddenly at 45
Well-loved in the UK although from the Irish Republic was Father Ted star Dermot Morgan who died in March aged 45, at the peak of his career.

Remembering Dermot Morgan
The BBC's Leo Enright on the untimely death of the 'Father Ted' star

More serious members of the British acting profession to make their final exit in 1998 included post-war screen and stage idol Michael Denison; Joan Hickson, TV's quintessential Miss Marple, Agatha Christie's elderly female detective; and playwright Francis Durbridge, creator of detectives such as Paul Temple.

And if all the above could have been gathered together for a single show, then there is no doubt who would have been the producer - Lord Grade, the TV, film and theatrical impresario who died in November at the age of 91.

A poetic legacy

In the field of literature, the name of Ted Hughes stands out. The Poet Laureate died at the end of October, aged 68, and went to his grave to the sound of his own poems read by Nobel literature prize-winner Seamus Heaney.

The poetic legacy of Ted Hughes
The BBC's Nick Higham on the death of poet laureate Ted Hughes

Less acclaimed by the critics, perhaps, but not by the adoring general reading public was Catherine Cookson, famous for her romantic novels set in her native north-east England. Coming from the type of humble beginnings characteristic of many of her heroines, she sold more than 100 million books.

[ image: Shepard was the first American in space]
Shepard was the first American in space
Another who achieved the highest status in their chosen profession was astronaut Alan Shepard.

He was the first American in space and the fifth man to walk on the moon.

Newspaper legends

British newspapers lost three giants of their industry in 1998.

In May, the Mirror Group's Hugh Cudlipp, described as "the greatest exponent of the tabloid art", died aged 84. He had set the standard with the left-wing Sunday and Daily Mirror in the 1950s and 1960s.

The following month saw the death of Associated Newspapers' Sir David English, who turned the Daily Mail into the top middle-class, centre-right paper of recent years. Known as a perfectionist, he was a legend to those who worked for him.

Less than three months later, Sir David was followed by his long-time proprietor, Lord Rothermere, one of the last great British press barons.

One of the BBC's own radio pioneers, Frank Gillard, a veteran war correspondent and later senior executive, died in October.

A brief, bright star

[ image: Florence Griffith-Joyner's death came as a shock to the athletic world]
Florence Griffith-Joyner's death came as a shock to the athletic world
Among those on the roll from the world of sport who died in 1998, the name of Florence Griffith-Joyner reigns supreme.

A triple gold-medal winner at the 1988 Olympics, Flo-Jo as she was known, was as famous for her vivid racing outfits and fluorescent fingernails as for her speed.

Rumours of drug-taking, fuelled by her sudden retirement after Seoul, resurfaced at her death - though this was found to have been caused by an epileptic seizure and subsequent suffocation.

As dominant in her own sport in her own time was Helen Wills Moody, a winner of eight Wimbledon titles as well as seven in the US and four in France in the 1920s and 30s.

Sportsmen who would no longer grace their art included former Yorkshire and England wicket-keeper David Bairstow and Justin Fashanu, the first professional football player in the UK to admit being a homosexual. Both committed suicide - Fashanu because he believed he faced prosecution in the US on charges of sexually assaulting a teenage boy.

Few tears shed

Away from the spheres of entertainment, media and sport, a number of important politicians and business people breathed their last.

[ image: Held by his own troops, Pol Pot died in a jungle camp]
Held by his own troops, Pol Pot died in a jungle camp
Of these, the name of Pol Pot ranks alone in infamy. He will be remembered as the man who turned Cambodia into the killing fields, a dictator responsible for the deaths of millions of his countrymen and unrepentant to the end.

Another leader of his country who will not be remembered with universal fondness is Nigeria's General Sani Abacha, who died unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of 54. His death led to hopes that Nigeria would return to democratic rule.

'A nation in agony'
The BBC's Hilary Andersson on Nigeria after the death of Moshood Abiola

One consequence of this would have been the release of the jailed opposition leader, Chief Moshood Abiola, but a heart attack one day before his freedom would have been realised put an end to that prospect. His funeral sparked chaotic scenes but fears that the death was not natural proved unfounded.

Other former leaders of their countries to pass away included Constantine Karamanlis, who was president as Greece restored democracy in 1974, and Todor Zhivkov, who ruled communist Bulgaria for 35 years until 1989.

One potential future leader was Russia's Galina Starovoitova, murdered for her reformist views. She was much-mourned by people who had pinned their hopes on her determination to stamp out the courruption endemic in their country.

Controversial figures

The US saw the deaths of several historically important political figures. One was James Earl Ray, jailed for killing black civil rights leader Martin Luther King in 1968. He died still protesting his innocence and with a number of questions still hanging over his conviction.

[ image: Wallace stood for segregation - but changed his stance late in life]
Wallace stood for segregation - but changed his stance late in life
Inextricably linked to the issue of civil rights in America was George Wallace, who declared on becoming Democrat governor of Alabama in 1963: "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."

He was shot in 1972 and failed in several attempts to run for office. He later recanted and apologised to blacks for his earlier policies.

A segregationist who turned to racial harmony
The BBC's Rageh Omaar reports on Governor George Wallace

The Republican side lost Barry Goldwater, who was seen as the father of modern American conservatism. Although trounced by Lyndon Johnson in the 1963 presidential campaign, his views were widely believed to have paved the way for the Reagan years in the 1980s.

Rivers of blood

[ image: Powell provoked outrage, but was a key figure on the Tory right]
Powell provoked outrage, but was a key figure on the Tory right
The UK too lost a similarly controversial figure from the right, who is also best known for his views on race. Enoch Powell died, aged 85, in February.

His "Rivers of Blood" speech on immigration in 1968 led to his sacking from the shadow cabinet and ultimately to his resignation from the Conservative Party.

But his influence never evaporated completely and Baroness Thatcher was one of many politicians to pay tribute on Mr Powell's death, describing his speeches as "an unforgettable experience".

Other British politicians who died in 1998 included the country's first minister for sport, Labour's Denis Howell, long-time Labour MP and former minister Joan Lestor and the party's veteran peer and radical Methodist campaigner Lord Soper.

From the other side of the political divide, Tory euro-sceptic Nicholas Budgen passed away.

The British business community is no longer the domain of Tiny Rowland, a buccaneer who made his millions in the mines of Africa. Also connected with mining was Sir Ian MacGregor, the chairman of the UK National Coal Board during the miners' strike of 1984-85.

More stylishly, 1998 saw the last trip of Ferdinand Porsche, creator of the famous marque.

A lasting influence

[ image: McDonald's fast-food restaurant chain spread globally]
McDonald's fast-food restaurant chain spread globally
But if you look among the ranks of those who died in 1998 for the person who had the most influence on the 20th century and for a name that will live on, perhaps you should look no further than an American man who died in July, aged 89.

Along with his late brother Maurice, Richard McDonald founded the ubiquitous fast-food restaurants which carry their name all over the world and will continue to do so into the next millennium.

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