Having listened to Mary speaking on 'Solstice' I have to say that she came across as a fascinating woman. She was intelligent and thoughtful and it was obvious that both Paul and Gareth had enormous respect for her. I was occasionally reminded of two naughty schoolboys caught out by their teacher.
She started in television in the early days. I often wonder how easy it was for women then. Women directors aren't that common even now.
I wish I'd had the chance to meet her.
Remembering Mary The first time I met Mary Ridge, she didn't want to talk to me. Perhaps I should clarify that sentence- it was 1992, and I had been trying (unsuccessfully) for several years to persuade Mary to do an interview about her work on Blake's 7. Nothing personal, she just didn't think people would be interested in hearing what she had to say. My future wife Sheelagh finally agreed to call Mary on my behalf and arranged to meet up. They were going to try to civilise this American guy by taking him out to tea, and along the way, could he maybe ask a few questions?
We met up at the Hothouse in Kew, introductions were made, tea was ordered (coffee for the American of course) and before I could broach the subject of our interview, Mary turned to me and said, 'I remember when I was doing this episode of Doctor Who...' That was it, and for the next two hours, the stories poured forth punctuated only by the occasional fresh pot. For me, it was the beginning of a friendship that lasted nearly ten years.
There are so many fond memories of Mary, but here's one of my favourites. Afternoon tea (and coffee for the American) became a semi-regular event for the three of us, and she would often come over to see us in Brentford. On one particular day, Sheelagh and I had one of our 'Wouldn't it be funny if...' moments and invited Mary and former B7 producer Vere Lorrimer over the afternoon. Mary knew about it ahead of time, and loved the idea. Vere was clueless, and when he finally arrived, we let Mary answer the door. The reaction was priceless: momentarily off balance, Vere quickly recovered, and ever the gentleman, presented the bunch of flowers he had brought for Sheelagh to Mary instead. Once again, the stories flowed as quickly as the tea.
Years later, when Sheelagh and I started work on our book, Blake's 7: The Inside Story, Vere and Mary were both invaluable sources of information and support. Mary would often call to see how things were progressing, and she provided some fascinating insights into the series, as anyone who's read the book will agree.
More recently, as Sheelagh was making plans for volume six in her Together Again audiotape series, we agreed that it was time to approach Mary. Once again, it took several months to wear her down, and I think it was the prospect of meeting up with Paul Darrow and Gareth Thomas (as well as fellow ex-BBC director Pennant Roberts) that made her give in. By the way, for those fans that enjoyed the tape but complained that there wasn't enough of Mary on it, you're absolutely right and the plan had always been to bring her back for another one once she realised how much fun it was. That plan alas, will now never come to pass.
What else can I say about Mary? I don't think she ever said a nasty thing about anybody, ever. Even during an interview, when she mentioned somebody that might have given her a hard time during her BBC days, she'd talk about him or her with amusement, as though remembering the antics of a mischievous child. She also loved to laugh. Sometimes one of her favourite anecdotes would take much longer to tell because the three of us would be reduced to tears of laughter. I'll miss that laughter. And I'll miss Mary- a lot.
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