Tom Meehan (b. Lower Darwen, Lancashire, 07/03/1915 – KZN Midlands, 02/01/2003) was primarily a radio actor, writer and producer, mostly Durban-based.
Tom Squires Meehan was the son of Michael Meehan and Janet Squires. He was educated at schools in nearby Manchester and excelled at sport. As a young man he is said to have gained some acting experience in repertory theatre in Lancashire. At the outbreak of World War II he signed up and was sent to France, where he was part of the Dunkirk evacuation. This was followed by an officer’s course at Sandhurst, after which he eventually became a captain in the 11th Sikh Regiment of the Indian Army. In June 1942, after the Battle of Mersa Matruh, he was taken prisoner and spent the rest of the war in prisoner-of-war camps, first in Italy, then in Silesia and finally near Brunswick, in Germany. While incarcerated in the latter he produced the pantomime Aladdin and also took the role of the Widow Twankey.
After the war he was again shipped to India and on board he met Betty (Joy) Mungavin, whom he married at Fort William in Calcutta soon afterwards. The young couple eventually moved to South Africa, where he became a sports reporter on the Johannesburg newspaper The Star. Thereafter he joined the Daily News in Durban, wrote a weekly column for the Sunday Tribune and became a freelancer for the SABC. He played the lead in the soap opera Brave Voyage opposite Yolande d’Hotman and, with her, adapted the Leslie Charteris books featuring the character of The Saint for Springbok Radio. He played the lead role of Simon Templar for nearly six years. Amongst the shows he presented was the popular Desert Island Date and in addition he interviewed many visiting celebrities.
A popular actor, he appeared in such radio plays as Limes of Sicily by Luigi Pirandello (Humphrey Gilbert/1958) and The Man from Thermopylae (Cedric Messina/1958). For NAPAC he appeared on the stage in Hamlet (as Claudius), The Man Who Came to Dinner and With Intent (part of a double bill with By Accident, presented as Double Yolk). In 1965 he started his own production company and three years later embarked upon his greatest hit, the South African version of the British comedy series The Men from the Ministry, with the pilot programme being recorded in August 1968. He produced many of the more than 900 episodes that were produced and took the role of Sir Gregory Pitkin, with John Simpson as Number One and Roger Service as Number Two. In 1971 its success resulted in a feature film directed by Meehan himself. The series came to an end in 1985 with the closing down of Springbok Radio, but was later revived for Radio South Africa.
He also had small roles in the films The Tangent Affair (Neil Hetherington & Hanro Möhr/1989) and Barrett (Anthony Bond), and narrated the documentary The 1962 Veteran and Vintage Car Rally for Ken Clarke’s Impala Films. Meehan was a prolific producer of radio plays, mini series and serials, but will probably be best remembered for comedy programmes like The Men from the Ministry, Father, Dear Father! and The Navy Lark. He also wrote a number of radio plays himself. Brian Squires, who often worked with him, is his son.
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