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writes to 'Beyond the Pale':
Yet again a sad time: we are reaching an age where friends and family leave us behind, but we should remember them for their goodness , loyalty and love of music.
Diane Rolph was such a person . Our friendship started years ago from when she was a fan of The Paramounts in the 60s to Procol Harum from 1967 to 2019.
Diane was a great cook and spoiled Gary with her special English pies. It was always a pleasure to visit her and husband John – who by the way got married the same day as Gary and I, 13 July 1968, yet we never managed to celebrate our anniversaries together.
Diane was always ready to help and she certainly did a fantastic job at organising the venue for Procol Harum’s 30 years' reunion at Redhill in 1997.
She also helped with the Russia tour, an amazing experience in every way.
She was a special friend and will be very
much missed as she wanders thru the Gates of Cerdes
Diane Ruth Rolph was born in Woking, Surrey (1 March 1948) to Ken and Elsie Heathcote. She went to local schools and then trained as a secretary.
She met John (a structural engineer) in 1967 at his work’s darts match in a pub in Chesham. Their second meeting was at another darts match, in The Cannon in Aldershot. John proposed in his MGA in a country lane (very romantic!) in late 1967 and they married 13 July 1968.
Diane had been following The Paramounts around from about the age of 14. She also had a huge love of soul music and on the two occasions Otis Redding came to the UK, Mum went to one of the gigs and got his autograph – a much treasured item now!
She joined the local Women’s Institute and performed as part of their theatre company 'Razzmatazz', in with musicals, panto etc. She performed in care homes on a regular basis.
Family followed: Neal (1 July 1969), Lou (26 April 1971) and Annie (7 October 1976). Money was tight, so while looking after the children Diane would do various jobs from home: Curtain making, Avon cosmetics. But her most bizarre job was painting body parts for medical schools, seated at the kitchen table painting intricate veins on a heart or kidney!
Once the kids were able to get to and from school themselves, Diane started working as a PA to Lee Dean, who owned a theatre production company touring plays around the UK with well-known actors.
Then once the council decided to build a new theatre in Redhill, Diane got the job at The Harlequin as PA to General Manager David Gardner in 1986. She was working alongside him even before the theatre was open, as there was so much to do in preparation.
In 1988 David decided the theatre needed a community theatre company, so Diane was instrumental in setting up The Harlequin Community Theatre Company with him. First production was The Life & Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. This was followed by The Crucible and Animal Farm, challenging and ambitious plays for non-professional actors to take on at the time. The pièce de resistance was a full-scale production of Barnum in a big top in the middle of Reigate Priory Park.
Having produced the Procol Harum newsletter for some time, Diane became Gary's assistant and organised not only the Thirtieth Anniversary at the Harlequin in Redhill, but also helped with the BtP’s weekend event in Salford in 2001. She went on tour with Procol to Russia, although she didn't enjoy the internal flights in tiny planes! Diane couldn't have been prouder when Gary asked Lou to sing – in Sam Brown's place – at one Village Hall Christmas ‘do’.
Diane and John divided their later years between their houses in the UK and in the Loire, and have spent many lovely days and evenings with Gary and Franky in France putting the world to rights over a bottle of wine (or two!)
And Diane's legacy lives on: Neal has two girls (Poppy and Beatrice) and is the Box Office Manager at London’s Wigmore Hall. Lou is married to Rodger (they have a son, Sam) and she works as a Marriage, Family & Funeral Celebrant; she also works as a vocalist (touring her own one-woman show celebrating the wonderful voices of Aretha, Etta, Billie, Roberta etc). Annie has two children (Rose and Oscar), lives in Australia near Melbourne, and is the SQL Programmer for Sydney Opera House.
For those asking, please don't arrange any flowers. If you would like to make a donation in Diane's name, please do so via www.thebrooke.org a charity that mum and dad support. Mum always used to get very upset seeing those TV adverts with those lovely old donkeys carrying large quantities of bricks on their backs ...
For those who cannot get to Diane’s funeral on 24 February, please navigate to https://watch.obitus.com, and watch the service using username falo3612 and password 092689 .
Many thanks to Lou for this summary of a splendid life, and for the photographs.
John Grayson of Shine On fame kindly
sent the following memoir to 'Beyond the Pale':
My memories of Diane go back to the early 1990s, when for a number of years she and I put out the Procol Fanzine Shine On. The way this all came about is a bit hazy, with the passage of so many years, but I think it is true to say that Diane and I handled the transition (of all things fan-related) from the sterling efforts of Henry Scott-Irvine in the pre-digital days of the '80s, to the magnificent smoothly-oiled machine which was, and still is, ‘Beyond the Pale’, in the very capable hands of Jens and Roland.
I first met Henry in Paris in 1992, during the comeback tour. The gig coincided not only with Valentine’s day but also with a France v England Rugby international, meaning I had to hitch from London to Paris, and sleep in a doorway after the gig.
Meeting Henry in the audience was a fateful moment. Given his existing familiarity with the band, not to mention his charm and gift of the gab, he managed to get us backstage, and thus I met Gary and Franky for the first time, a memorable moment for a very awestruck fan.
Henry and I remained friends, and sometime in the next couple of years he introduced me to Diane (possibly at a Chiddingfold gig?). We knew of Diane’s closeness to the band, stemming from her having followed the Paramounts around in the pre-Procol mid-1960s.
As the 90s progressed, Henry decided not unreasonably that he had had enough of manually printing out and posting out his meticulously-researched Shine On editions, so Diane and I agreed to take over the responsibility of keeping the Procol fans up to date with band activities, using the database Henry handed over to us, each name and address stored on file cards cut out from old cornflake packets.
Henry and I both remember Diane very fondly from those days. She was vivacious, energetic and cheerful. She loved the band, and worked selflessly on behalf of the fans to impart information, and to encourage the band to stay active, turning out regular printed copies of Shine On, with her in charge of editorial matters, and Christine and me addressing and stamping the envelopes.
Her finest hour was 1997’s Redhill fan convention which morphed semi-accidentally into a wonderful band re-union gig. The idea was mooted by Diane, Henry and myself (I forget in what proportion or sequence) that we should hold a fan convention. We had heard of other bands doing such a thing, and reckoned that – as being a Procol Harum fan felt so often like a solitary vice – fans would welcome a chance to get together and have a good old natter. The ace up our collective sleeves was the fine tranche of Procol footage that Henry had at his disposal. We figured that a get-together with a meal and a showing of some archive band performances would be attractive to fans.
Diane had a history of involvement with
regional theatres, and came up with the idea of using the Harlequin theatre in
Redhill, a venue she knew well, and shrewdly figured would be the appropriate
size for the gathering we were anticipating (it turned out to be a perfect
Her organisational abilities came to the fore as we worked towards the event, and she must take the lion’s share of the credit for what turned out to be a memorable day. For those who do not know about the event, what was supposed to be a fan convention turned out to be so much more. Initially, Diane asked Gary if he would attend, as a Guest of Honour, and gradually, through Diane’s perseverance and Gary’s generosity, more and more band members (past and present) were recruited, and in the end a day that would have been wonderful even with Henry’s film footage and the chance to meet up with fellow fans, became doubly memorable for an exhilarating full-on Procol Harum performance featuring ten musicians.
After Redhill, Diane and I continued to put out occasional magazines until gradually the Digital Age dawned, and Roland and Jens took over the fan-related duties and instigated many more fine adventures.
I largely lost touch with Diane, although we bumped into each other at various gigs and band-related events over the next twenty years.
Our thoughts are with her husband, children and grandchildren at this time.