Dr. Murray remembers
By Eve McAdam
TOMORROW, Saturday, July 13, is the hundredth birthday of one of the great and gallant people of our time, Dr. Margaret Murray, the celebrated archaeologist. The flavour of her personality, full of wry good humour, is evident in the title she has chosen for the book she publishes on her birthday, "My First Hundred Years".
BBC Radio—do they ever miss a good story?—seem to be the only channel to celebrate the centenary of this truly remarkable woman.
In "I remember" (July 7) Leonard Cottrell's recordings over three years provided listeners with a face lift and a heart lift: for here was a wise and witty woman who loved people, who had not only thoroughly enjoyed her long life but at a hundred was full of plans for her future.
There was not one grumble, and only when pressed would she offer advice. "My recipe for happiness? Never look backwards: look forwards. If you're on the shelf, don't stay there. Get off it. There's plenty of work in the world for everyone."
This advice was given with a chuckle in a voice still firm and vital. Here are a few of the astonishing facts listeners learned about this grand old lady. Without receiving any formal education whatsoever, she won her doctorate, became a Fellow of several illustrious institutions, is regarded as one of the world's foremost Egyptologists. She has written 26 books, and the only one she did not enjoy writing, according to hcr, is her last one (written last year) because "It is all I-I-I • . . " These books, incidentally, she types out herself. At the age of 100 she is starting off on a new venture, research for a book on the genesis of religion in different countries.
What also impressed me about this sparkling broadcast was Leonard Cottrell's part in it. He says of his subject, "Dr. Murray is just about the most fascinating human being I have met." How many are there like Cottrell who go out of their way to talk to old people and so discover how much they have to give?
Brevity may or may not be the soul of wit, but it is the essential of a TV discussion programme: this, however, seems to be a secret kept from the producers of these programmes.
That admirable idea for the ATV new discussion programme, "Great Expectations?" (Sundays) is not fulfilling its promise. The intention here was to have a quick look-see at the new nations and to find out how each was getting on.
The second programme of the series, on Uganda and Nigeria, must have been bewildering to any one not expert in the affairs of these nations. Diffuse, meandering off against imperial powers and tribalism, it got nowhere and did not leave audiences, as it might have done, with a clear idea about one main achievement or one main problem ot each nation.
Prolixity reached such proportions in "Sin!" (The Sunday Break) that opinions, definitions, thcorizings mounted up, layer on layer in a veritable cornucopia of words. Four young mandarins had been invited to give the public their view of Sin, and this they did for half-an-hour, non-stop, and non-think.
But, let's be fair. When a discussion programme fails it is rarely the fault of the speakers, but of the Chairman.
In "Great Expectations?" the speakers were excellent. Mr. A. B. Adimola of Uganda and Mr. Oye Sanya of Nigeria gave concise and lucid answers. In "Sin!" the four young things seemed highly intelligent despite their verbosity. But in both these programmes the blame lies, I'm afraid, with the ringmasters who did not crack their whips.
As for —the Sunday Break" piece, what happened to Barry Westwood who was supposed to be chairing it? Did he go off for a cup of tea? At all events his four young people were left to their own devices. Discussion programmes need tactful but ruthless discipline.
Which brings one to Derek Jewell of ITV, a blue-print of all the virtues needed in a Chairman.
Consider how he handled "Boycott" ("About Religion", ATV). '1 his was a discussion about South Africa, but not about its racial policy but the morality and methods of punishing those who subscribe to it. With a less alert Chairman the discussion would inevitably have revolved round racialism, and, in fact each speaker tried this, but Jewell brought him hack.