Alistair Cooke 1908-2004

cooke.jpgI'm guessing most people who read this won't know who Alistair Cooke is. That said, you may remember him as the host of Masterpiece Theatre or perhaps for his long running radio broadcast "Letter from America." Incredibly he retired only three weeks ago - and only because he was forced too. He was 95 years old. His radio program, a weekly 15 minute reflection on American life. Cooke was warned by the producer that this would last no longer than 26 weeks: in the event, as "Letter from America", it lasted for 58 years, becoming the world's longest-running speech radio programme. Cooke made in total 2869 broadcasts, mostly from his 15th-floor apartment on Fifth Avenue overlooking Central Park. It became a staple of the BBC's domestic and international radio broadcasts. Where there were the hourly "pips", there was Alistair Cooke as well. Although very, very English in every way, he became an American citizen in 1941 and spent most of his later life living in New York. He was given an honorary Knighthood in 1973 and adressed the 200th sitting of Congress the following year. His stories were always engaging, his urbane style kept listeners transfixed. I tried to listen to "Letter from America" on XM whenever I could. Even the other night, I arrived home with about 10 minutes of his broadcast remaining...I sat in my car outside my house until he finished. He also wrote several fantastic books which I urge you to read. Among them is the legendary "Alistair Cooke's America" The BBC has an excellent selection of some of his best broadcasts. Have a listen... I thought his final broadcast would be a fitting tribute: "I have had much enjoyment in doing these talks and hope that some of it has passed over to the listeners, to all of whom I now say thank you for your loyalty and goodbye."