Thursday, 14 September 2017

Nancy Spain

Centenaries are coming thick and fast. Yesterday's was that of Nancy Spain, who I used to enjoy listening to on BBC Radio's "My Word!", where she and E Arnot Robertson partnered Denis Norden and Frank Muir respectively in a panel game which not only entertained but also challenged the intellect. Sadly, such shows are a thing of the past, even on Radio 4.

Robertson's suicide in 1961 was surprise enough, but the dramatic end of Spain at the start of Aintree week 1964 was a real shock. There followed the revelation that she was in a relationship with Joan Werner Laurie, who died with her in the plane crash. Ironically, it seems that the partnership was under strain and that if they had survived, the two women may have split up. I recall a radio portrait by Natalie Wheen which marvelled at Spain's ability to seduce a procession of women, including some surprisingly starry names (which Wheen did not specify, unsurprisingly). That radio programme also made clear that there was no doubt that Thomas, brought up as Laurie's son, was actually Spain's. Thomas was interviewed for the programme and described the brutal manner in which his true parentage was revealed to him.

Noel Coward wrote in his diaries: 'It is cruel that all that gaiety, intelligence and vitality should be snuffed out when so many bores and horrors are left living'. Nancy Spain had so much more to give both as journalist and broadcaster.

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