On losing so many heroines and heroes in 2016 – and telegraph poles

First of all, I would like to express my deep sympathy to everyone who has lost close ones this year. Particularly at this festive period, I am conscious of the hell of grief many people are going through.

I’m not saying anything new here. But we seem to have lost one heck of a lot of famous icons, heroines and heroes in 2016.

The Mirror has a theory on why this is:

Between 1946 and 1964, there was a massive growth in population.
This means people in their 50s, 60s and 70s now make up a much larger percentage of the population than they did four or five decades ago.
And as a result, more of them are famous, the BBC notes.
These people, dubbed ‘baby boomers’, are reaching an age where they are more likely to develop life-threatening conditions such as cancer and heart disease.

What has been particularly moving is that it seems so many of my heroines and heroes, who have been part of my life and growing up, have left us.

I suspect others have a similar feeling, perhaps related to a different list of those who have deceased in 2016. The names that occur to me are: Terry Wogan. He was just such an integral part of my life on Radio 2, that I regarded him as part of “me”! David Bowie – my hero growing up. Jean Alexander – Hilda Ogden was rarely off our screens when I was young. Rick Parfitt – Status Quo have been my favourite band for yonks. Ronnie Corbett. George Michael. Andrew Sachs – Fawlty Towers was another thing that I regarded as part of “me”. Robert Vaughan – “Man from U.N.C.L.E” was a real passion of mine when I was young. Carla Lane – We were always glued to Liver Birds and Butterflies. Muhammed Ali. Caroline Aherne. Victoria Wood – another person whose humour was so warm and familiar that we regarded her as part of “us”. Frank Kelly – another loss from the “Father Ted” cast.

There’s a fuller list here. I am sorry I have missed out some notable names but that is simply because the names above struck a particular personal chord with me – as I say others will have a different list.

Perhaps this is all because I am at that age where famous people I have known growing up are increasingly getting to the age where they pass on? Is it just my perception – or has 2016 been an extraordinary year for losing much-loved public figures?

I don’t want to minimise the pain of grief and loss brought to those who have lost close ones in 2016. I have lost two really close and loved ones this year. And I express my deepest sympathy to the nearest and dearest of all those famous people who have passed. Me losing a “hero” such as David Bowie is not on the same level, or in the same ball park, as someone losing a loved one or indeed as David Bowie’s own family’s grief at this time. But somehow, the loss of these loved famous people chips away at one’s own sense of identity.

Never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.

John Donne. Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, “Meditation XVII”.

The subject of perception based on age brings me to a theory I have considered recently and which relates to memory, including to our memory of famous much-loved stars.

It seems like only yesterday that I was buying “Rebel Rebel” in its orange RCA sleeve with its orange label and its orange adapter in the middle. It seems like only yesterday that I was listening to Terry Wogan for the first time on the Radio 1 and 2 drivetime show, when he was fresh from Ireland.

We often say that “only yesterday” sort of thing and, indeed, think it. Memories can be so vivid. But I wonder if recalling memories is a bit like a row of telegraph poles. When you look back on a line of telegraph poles and choose the 25th one back, without seeing the space in between the poles, it seems quite near. That’s what we are tending to do when we recall an incident many years ago without, in that same instant, considering all the things which have happened, or not happened, between when that incident occurred and now. It is only when we look at the line of telegraph poles side on, and consider all the space between the individual poles that we realise how far the 25th pole is back. When you try to remember all the endless days which have gone by since the incident in question, it starts to feel a long time ago.

I raise a glass to all the great people – famous and not famous – that we have lost in 2016. Let us hope that 2017 is a good year and may it bring you and yours health and happiness!

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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One Comment

  • What a brilliant use of telegraph poles to explain a phenom, phono, phena … something that happens to us all!

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