Tom Fleming (actor)

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Thomas Kelman Fleming, CVO OBE FRSAMD (29 June 1927 – 18 April 2010) was a Scottish actor, director, and poet, and a television and radio commentator for the BBC. [1] [2]


Early life

Fleming was born in Edinburgh and attended Daniel Stewart's College, where the performing arts centre was renamed in his honour shortly after his death.


Acting career

His acting career began in 1945. His first professional performance was in Robert Kemp's Let Wives Tak Tent in 1947. [3] Along with Kemp and Lennox Milne, he co-founded the Gateway Theatre in Edinburgh in 1953, [4] . In August 1958, he played Lord Weir in the Gateway's Edinburgh International Festival production of R.J.B. Sellar's adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel, Weir of Hermiston . [5] In October 1961, he played John Knox in the Gateway's production of Robert Kemp's Master John Knox. [6] In 1962, he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company. That year he played the title role in William Gaskill's production of Cymbeline . In 1965, he founded a company at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh. He also became the director of The Scottish Theatre Company for most of its years in the 1980s. His film roles included a supporting part as the Catholic priest John Ballard in the period drama Mary, Queen of Scots (1971). On television, he played the title role in the 1956 BBC children's series Jesus of Nazareth. In 1983, he played the part of Lord Reith, the BBC's first Director General, in a two-part BBC production written by Roger Milner, entitled simply Reith. [7]

Presenting career

He was a commentator for the BBC telecast of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo from 1966 until 2008. He was the BBC commentator for the Eurovision Song Contest 1972 in Edinburgh. [8] He was a commentator on BBC television coverage of state events, and provided commentary outside Westminster Abbey for the Coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953. He commentated on the annual National Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph between 1966 and 1988,and for BBC Radio undertaking commentary for The Cenotaph Service in 1991, 1992 and 1993 and the outside broadcast of the Commemoration of the 50th anniversary of The Battle of Britain as well as royal weddings and funerals, for example the ceremonial funerals of Princess Diana and the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. [1] [2] He also read the script of the famous soliloquy of Sir Richard Dimbleby at the Lying in State of King George VI at a Service in Westminster Abbey to mark the placement of Sir Richard Dimbleby in Poets Corner. This was at the special request of David and Jonathan Dimbleby. The service was broadcast live on BBC Radio Four. (Prod. David France).


Honours and awards

He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1980 [10] and a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 1998. [11]

Fleming also received an Honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in 1984. [12]

Personal life and death

Fleming, who never married, was organist, lay preacher, secretary and reader at the Canonmills Baptist church in Edinburgh. [13] After a long illness he died in St Columba's Hospice in Edinburgh on the night of Sunday 18 April 2010, aged 82. [14]

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  1. 1 2 "Obituary". The Times . 21 April 2010.
  2. 1 2 "Obituary". The Guardian . 21 April 2010.
  3. Kemp, Robert (1965), "The First Seven Years", in The Twelve Seasons of the Edinburgh Gateway Company, 1953 - 1965, St. Giles Press, Edinburgh
  4. Elder, Michael (2003), What do You do During the Day?, Eldon Productions, p. 15, ISBN   9-780954-556808
  5. Reid, Alexander, "The 1958 Edinburgh Festival Drama", in Reid, Alexander (ed.), Saltire Review, Vol. 5, No. 16, Autumn 1958, The Saltire Society, Edinburgh, pp. 63 & 64
  6. Scott-Moncrieff, George, "Theatre in Scotland", in Thomson, David Cleghorn (ed.), Saltire Review, Vol. 6, No. 23, Winter 1961, The Saltire Society, Edinburgh, pp. 68 - 70
  7. Lord John Reith biography,; accessed 10 July 2014.
  8. "The Eurovision Song Contest (1972) (TV)". IMDb. Retrieved 22 June 2008.
  9. Elder, Michael (2003), What do yo do During the Day?, Eldon Productions, pp. 143 & 144, ISBN   9-780954-556808
  10. "No. 48059". The London Gazette (Supplement). 7 January 1980. p. 291.
  11. "No. 55155". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 June 1998. p. 4.
  12. "Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh: Honorary Graduates". Archived from the original on 18 April 2016. Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  13. Obituary The Daily Telegraph , 21 April 2010.
  14. "'Voice' of Tattoo dies aged 82". BBC News. 19 April 2010.
Preceded by Eurovision Song Contest UK Commentator
Succeeded by