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Thursday, April 7, 2011


An old picture of a live “Friends and Neighbours” recording in SABC Durban’s M1 Studio. L-R: Tom Meehan, David Horner, Gillian Lomberg, a somewhat hidden Reg Richards and Frank Graham)

Sad news has been received of the death of Gillian Lomberg, well-known former Durban stage and radio actress, married to Paddy Berry. She died on April 4 in Perth, Australia, after a long and brave battle with motor neurone disease.

“Our two sons, Oliver and Matthew, and I are still shattered, despite the fact that Gill had been terminally ill for so long,” says Paddy Berry. “The first signs that all was not well appeared in 2004, when she started having problems with her right foot and had several incidents of tripping and falling. After a neurological problem was suspected, she went through a series of quite unpleasant (and as it turned out, unnecessary) treatments, such as plasma replacement, to eliminate some of the possible auto-immune diseases. She was finally diagnosed with MND in 2007.

“After a year on sick-leave from the ABC she retired in 2008. The disease progressed slowly, but for the last 18 months she was quadriplegic and reliant on a ventilator to breath. Her ability to speak and swallow thankfully were the last functions to go. She remained remarkably cheerful and amazingly brave to the end. Her greatest regret was that she could not continue her writing, and thus accomplish many of the projects she had in mind.”

Fans of Springbok Radio and English Service radio drama will remember Gillian Lomberg for the numerous roles she played as well as the stage productions in which she appeared.

Brian Squires who, together with his father Tom Meehan, handled most of the radio drama – and particularly comedy programmes - that originated from Durban has this to say in her memory:

“Gillian Lomberg – what can I say? The world is a lesser place without her infectiously deep laugh and her melodious voice. Gillian was one of the true “ladies” of Springbok Radio – always beautifully spoken and immaculately dressed and coiffed.

Springbok Radio fans will always remember her as Phyllis Loader in Friends and Neighbours. Devoted to her husband Gerald (David Horner), Phyllis had a totally innocent “thing” going with next-door neighbour Percy Snodgrass (Frank Graham). As a scriptwriter, it was a pleasure writing half a page of:

Phyllis: Hello, Percy. / Percy: Hello, Phyllis. / Phyllis: Hello, Percy. / Percy: Hello, Phyllis. / Phyllis: Hello, Percy. / Percy: Hello, Phyllis. / Phyllis: Hello, Percy. / Percy: Hello, Phyllis. / Phyllis: Hello, Percy. / Percy: Hello, Phyllis. / Phyllis: Hello, Percy. / Percy: Hello, Phyllis …

… knowing that these two consummate actors could keep an audience in stitches with just the slightest inflection change in each line. A comedic masterpiece.

Gillian took part in literally hundreds – if not thousands - of radio comedies, plays and serials. She was always up for a challenging role and, as a director, you knew that you would get the best performance that Gillian could give – often remarkable, never average. With Gillian, you always got more than you were expecting.

One of the roles in which Gillian excelled was as the heroine in the daily serial The Romantic World of Barbara Cartland. Her voice had exactly the right tone for any number of historical heroines and when she was the heroine, we sailed through the recordings without the slightest rehearsal. Ok, so we had to stop recording every now and then when Gilly dissolved into laughter during the steamier sections when the heroine and hero finally got together after 25 episodes, but listening to Gilly laugh was one of the perks of my job.

Gilly might be gone, but I guarantee she will never be forgotten. My heartfelt condolences to her “rock”, Paddy, and her two sons.” Brian Squires