Veteran broadcaster and radio actor dies in Durban at the age of 84 after suffering a stroke

Veteran broadcaster and radio actor John Simpson died in Durban this morning at the age of 84, after suffering a severe stroke
yesterday morning.

Born in 1924 in the North of England near Manchester, he served in the Royal Air Force as a bomber pilot. After the war he came
out to South Africa with his wife Beulah and they settled in Durban.

He ran a small but well-organised business called Simpson & Lawrence, selling answering machines and public address systems.
Many long-established businesses in Durban today could still be using equipment that he installed.

He started working for radio at least 55 years ago when the SABC studios were still situated in Aliwal Street, reading the news
and presenting programmes. As he was an excellent actor and had strong versatility skills, he was much in demand for radio
plays, serials such as the long-running “From Crystal, With Love” and series in which he played hundreds of different roles over
the years.

In the heyday of Springbok Radio, Durban was always acknowledged as the home of radio comedy with programmes produced
by Tom Meehan Productions and his son Barry of Sound Ideas. John was much in demand for many Springbok Radio comedies
but he will always be remembered best for his part as Roland Lennox-Brown (No.1), appearing with Roger Service as the
bungling duo from the General Assistance Department in the long-running series, “The Men from the Ministry”.

“It was my privilege to work alongside John Simpson on radio from the late 60's onwards, in the “The Men From The Ministry” and
“The Navy Lark”, to mention just two of the many productions in which John took leading roles,” says Barry Meehan. “He was one
of radio's true gentlemen, in that I never once saw him "lose it" in what was sometimes a pretty stressful entertainment medium.
His sharp wit and wonderful turn of phrase were his tools of the trade, along with the deep, rich voice so well known to millions of
listeners. He was also wonderfully adept at various accents and used to love playing characters, his favourite probably being
"Scrotum, the wrinkled retainer" in any number of plays, serials and the like.

“I believe that the secret to his longevity was his cast-iron stomach, as he used to love devouring a packet of chillies from Snappy
Snacks before a recording. He used to knock back a whole packet, shake himself, wipe his eyes, and be ready to record. I tried
half a chilli one day, and could barely talk for hours afterwards! John will be sorely missed, and as he joins so many others in that
great recording studio in the sky, his immortal “The Navy Lark” phrase rings true in a way that his passing has affected so many
of us .... "Everybody down!"”

John Simpson also presented a very popular gardening programme for many years titled “In Your Garden” and his last radio
series was titled “The Inner Ear”.

From years of scribbling on scripts in radio studios to while away the time between appearances, he had built up strong drawing
skills and while on holiday in the UK several years back, he was inspired by a television programme to take up watercolour
painting. Experimenting with the Japanese style of painting, he created a series of charming greeting cards and for a couple of
years was invited to work on his cards as artist in resident at the Bonisa Private Gallery in Kloof.

A highly articulate man who imposed high standards on himself, his professional attitude towards his work remains a shining
example to the new generation of radio actors in Durban.

John Simpson is survived by his three children, three grandchildren and one great grandchild.

- Article provided by Caroline Smart -
HENRY DIFFENTHAL RECALLS:
(Producer, Olympia Recording Studios)

I came to Durban in 1954 to open a recording studio for a company called Herrick Merrill Radio Productions. We started to
record radio drama programmes for Springbok Radio and that was when I first met John Simpson. He was a regular visitor and
actor to work with us on a regular basis.
I opened my own studio, Olympia Recording Studios, in 1956 and used John in many productions over the years until Springbok
Radio closed down in 1985. John was an excellent radio actor and could do any accent that the play called for. He was always
on time and very professional in his approach to radio acting.
I did not work with him on radio comedy shows that he did and he recorded many hundreds of them. Comedy is the toughest and
most difficult form of radio acting but John was excellent in any part or situation. He played in many morning housewives’ serials
as well as heavy dramatic plays. John was a very reliable person to work with and I enjoyed my productions with him.
When he retired, he displayed another very interesting talent of Oriental painting. And he did a lot of exhibitions and teachings
at various functions. I always spoke to him about painting and found him to be very knowledgeable about it. The last time I saw
John was at the Oyster Box Hotel about nine months ago. We went to meet an old acting friend of ours, Bob Holness, and we
had lunch together. What a lovely afternoon we had reminiscing about old and pleasant times in the recording studios.
The passing of yet another Springbok Radio great. Do enjoy with us this special audio tribute in memory of the late John Simpson.Through the
efforts of many, John's voice will always remain with us in the countless recordings that have survived and that forms part of the Springbok Radio
restoration project. On behalf of the Springbok Radio Preservation Society of S.A., our deepest sympathy to his family and all that knew him.
JOHN SIMPSON : IN MEMORIUM
             1924 - 2008
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John Simpson 1924 - 2008
Thank you to Frans Erasmus of the Springbok Radio Preservation Society for this page