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Paul Nelson - The Memorial Service: Friends gather to say a fond farewell


Review by David Munro

ON SUNDAY, June 13, at his beloved Halfmoon Pub, in Putney, family , friends and former colleagues of Ted Rhodes (or Paul Nelson as this site knew him) gathered to pay their last respects and to celebrate his memory in a semi-performed tribute.

Hosted and created by Martin Cort , the actor, director and close friend, it summarised the highlights in his career, starting from his roots in Yorkshire, and then his entry into RADA, continuing through his acting career in theatre and films, to the television period, where he not only wrote the scripts for established programmes such as Z Cars, The Avengers and Dr Who, but was instrumental in creating the evergreen All Creatures Great and Small.

He also became largely responsible for ensuring his scripts were properly presented on air. Finally, the tribute was rounded off by affectionate memories of his newspaper career and his acclaimed ability as a critic.

Martin Cort’s personal memories and historical narrative were interspersed with personal reminiscences and performances by actresses Ted had admired.

First, Billie Stevens, of Putney’s Swanbank am-dram company, sang Noel Coward’s wickedly amusing The Spinning Song.

Gay Soper then sang a medley which included one of Ted's favourites, Stephen Sondheim’s Can that boy Foxtrot?.

Gay is an actress and cabaret artiste he greatly admired, and who became a good friend, sharing his love of music. Both singers were accompanied on the keyboard by Lawrence Payne.

Camilla Mathias acted a scene from Les Liaisons Dangereuse, which she had performed last year to Ted’s great critical applause at the Pentameters Theatre.

Then there were personal appreciations: Mr Patrick Letharby paid tribute to the support Ted had given to the Salvation Army in his column, interspersed with memories of a more bibulous nature.

Chris Borg and Steve Williams, his journalist colleagues from the Wandsworth Borough News, praised his expertise as a newspaper man, expressing appreciation of the help he had given them in their careers on the paper.

Actress, Mossy Smith, told how, when her career seemed to be in the doldrums, Ted had been horrified at her professional name, which was Marion Owen Smith, quipping that they must be the three worse actresses in theatre.

He then went on to suggest her present name; the adoption of which had greatly enhanced her career. She read ‘Symptom Recital’, by Dorothy Parker.

Peter Stenson, an actor well-known in fringe theatre, and whose performances Ted had reviewed and admired, opened and closed the interpolations, firstly by reading a verse from Ecclesiastes and lastly with a tribute to Ted as a critic.

The Elastic Band, the jazz group Ted adored for many years, and whom he praised from time to time in his column and reviews, then completed the afternoon with a session comprising many of Ted’s favourite tunes.

During the proceedings Ted's regular seat and table were poignantly left empty and, as a final tribute, the entire company raised a glass to toast his memory.

It was a well-conceived and beautifully executed tribute which I know Ted would have revelled in.

Although not a vain man, he liked being appreciated and the afternoon’s tribute showed how greatly he is and had been loved and respected, and how he always will be remembered as a true professional and a loyal friend.

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