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In memoriam: Remembering the famous faces from around the world we lost in 2020

From Chadwick Boseman to Sean Connery we take a look back at some of the many greats that the world lost.

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THIS YEAR, WE lost many luminaries of the stage and screen around the world.

Here, we remember the people who shaped our lives and bid their final farewells in the last 12 months.

Neil Peart, the drummer and lyricist of the Canadian rock group Rush, died at the age of 67 of brain cancer on 11 January. 

Rush formed in 1968 and Peart joined in 1974, replacing John Rutsey, alongside singer and bass player Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson.

After starting out in hard rock and moving gradually toward jazz rock, Peart was known for his flamboyant style and very precise technique, which won him a legion of admirers among professionals and fans.

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English actor Derek Fowlds best known for playing Bernard Woolley in Yes Minister and Oscar Blaketon in Heartbeat, died at the age of 82 on 17 January. 

He found fame with children as Mr Derek on The Basil Brush Show, alongside the glove puppet fox with the catchphrase “boom boom!”, from 1969 to 1973, replacing Rodney Bewes as the presenter. 

Later, he came to wider attention from 1980 for his portrayal of private secretary Bernard Woolley in BBC satirical comedy series Yes Minister. 

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On 22 January Monty Python star Terry Jones died at the age of 77.

The actor and comedian, who had dementia, directed some of the comedy troupe’s most-loved works, including Life Of Brian.

He appeared in the TV series Monty Python’s Flying Circus in a variety of characters and was known for his performances in drag.

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Basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were killed in a helicopter crash along with seven others on 24 January. 

Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist, was an iconic figure in basketball and became one of the faces of his sport during a glittering two-decade career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

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On 1 February, Mary Higgins Clark, the long-reigning “Queen of Suspense” whose tales of women beating the odds made her one of the world’s most popular writers, died aged 92.

Widowed in her late 30s with five children, she became a perennial bestseller over the second half of her life, writing or co-writing A Stranger Is Watching, Daddy’s Little Girl and more than 50 other favourites.

Sales topped 100 million copies and honours came from all over, including a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters from France, and a Grand Master statuette from the Mystery Writers of America.

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One of the last stars of the golden age of cinema, Kirk Douglas, died aged 103 on 6 February. 

The Spartacus actor was renowned for the macho tough guy roles he took on in around 90 movies over a six-decade career.

Douglas was Oscar-nominated for his roles as a double-crossing and womanising boxer in Champion (1949), a ruthless movie producer in The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) and tortured artist Vincent Van Gogh in Lust for Life (1956).

His only Academy Award came in 1995 – an honorary lifetime achievement statuette “for 50 years as a creative and moral force in the motion picture community”.

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On 8 February, American actor and comedian Orson Bean died after being hit by a car in Los Angeles. He was 91.

He appeared in a number of films — notably, Anatomy Of A Murder and Being John Malkovich – and starred in several top Broadway productions, receiving a Tony nod for the 1962 Comden-Green musical Subways Are for Sleeping.

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UK television presenter Caroline Flack was found dead at her London home on 15 February. She was 40 years old. 

She was best known for presenting reality show Love Island from 2015 to 2019, along with The X Factor (2015) and Xtra Factor (2011-2013).

In August, a coroner ruled that Flack killed herself after discovering she was definitely going to be prosecuted for assaulting her boyfriend and feared press intrusion. Coroner Mary Hassell said the fact the alleged assault case was “played out in the national press” was “incredibly difficult for her”, and she feared the loss of her hard-fought career.

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British Musician, DJ and producer Andrew Weatherall died aged 56 on 17 February. 

Weatherall was best known for producing Primal Scream’s album Screamadelica. During his career, he also remixed the work of New Order, Bjork, My Bloody Valentine and Manic Street Preachers. 

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US rapper Pop Smoke was shot dead at his home on 19 February aged 20. 

He released his breakout record Welcome to the Party in 2019. His debut studio album, Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon, was posthumously released in July, debuting at number one on the US charts. 

Pop Smoke earned his first Grammy Award nomination this year in the best rap performance category for his single Dior.


On 9 March, Swedish actor Max von Sydow, known for collaborations with director Ingmar Bergman and numerous Hollywood roles, died aged 90.

Sydow’s iconic roles include The Seventh Seal (1957) – known for its scene in which von Sydow plays chess with Death – Jesus Christ in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) and  Father Merrin in The Exorcist (1973). 

Most recently, he starred in Game of Thrones as The Three-Eyed Raven and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. 

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Country singer Kenny Rogers passed away at the age of 81 on 21 March. 

Rogers is best known for his chart-topping hits like The Gambler, Lady, Lucille, She Believes In Me, and Through the Years. 

He also came to prominence through his many collaborations with Dolly Parton. The two were paired at the suggestion of the Bee Gees’ Barry Gibb, who wrote Islands in the Stream.

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On 2 April, comedian Eddie Large died at the age of 78 after contracting coronavirus while he was being treated in hospital for heart failure.

Large formed his double act with Syd Little in 1963. Their prime-time BBC One series The Little And Large Show attracted audiences of almost 15 million before ending in 1991.

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Soul singer Bill Withers, best known for hits such as Lean on Me and Lovely Day, passed away aged 81 on 3 April. 

He was awarded Grammys as a songwriter for Ain’t No Sunshine in 1971 and for Just The Two Of Us in 1981.

In 1987, Bill received his ninth Grammy nomination and third Grammy as a songwriter for the re-recording of the 1972 hit Lean On Me by Club Nouveau.

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On 8 April, Linda Tripp, the former Pentagon civil servant who recorded conversations with Monica Lewinsky about her relationship with then-President Bill Clinton, died aged 70.

Tripp made secret tapes of conversations with Lewinsky, who told her she had had an affair with Clinton. Tripp, then a Pentagon employee, turned the tapes over to Kenneth Starr, the independent prosecutor investigating the president.

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American folk legend John Prine, widely considered one of his generation’s most influential songwriters, died following complications of coronavirus on 8 April. 

Once dubbed the “Mark Twain of American songwriting,” over his five decades in the music business Prine carved an image as an off-the-cuff wordsmith who forged melancholy tales with a dose of surrealist wit.

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The Grammy winner with 19 studio albums to his name this year received a lifetime achievement award from the Recording Academy, which praised him as “one of the most influential songwriters of his generation”.

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Brian Dennehy, the Tony and Golden Globe-winning actor known to wider audiences for blockbuster movies First Blood and Romeo & Juliet, died aged 81 on 16 April. 

His career spanned four decades, including early television roles in Dynasty and Dallas, acclaimed Broadway performances such as in Death of a Salesman, and voice work on the Pixar hit movie Ratatouille.

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On 29 April, acclaimed Indian actor Irrfan Khan, whose international movie career included hits such as Slumdog Millionaire, Life of Pi and The Amazing Spider-Man, died aged 53. 

The father-of-two, who was diagnosed with a neuroendocrine tumour in 2018, acted in almost 100 films, winning awards and the admiration of his peers for his nuanced performances.

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US actor Sam Lloyd died aged 56 on 2 May, a year and four months after he was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

The actor was well-known for his portrayal of lawyer Ted Buckland in the long-running comedy series Scrubs. He also appeared in a string of US shows in the past two decades, including The West Wing, Desperate Housewives, Modern Family and Malcolm in The Middle.

Away from acting, Lloyd was also an accomplished singer and musician and performed with the a cappella group The Blanks. 

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On 6 May, the co-founder of electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk, Florian Schneider, died at the age of 73 from cancer. 

The band, which he set up with Ralf Hutter in 1970, changed electronic music, laying down the foundations for hip-hop, synth-pop, techno and house. 

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Little Richard, known for his outrageous showmanship and hits like Tutti Frutti and Long Tall Sally died aged 87 on 9 May. 

With a distinctive voice that ranged from robust belting to howling falsetto, Richard transfixed audiences and became an inspiration for artists including The Beatles as he transformed the blues into the feverish new style of rock ‘n’ roll alongside Fats Domino and Chuck Berry.

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On 11 May, actor Jerry Stiller died at the age of 92.

He was best known for his roles as Frank Costanza in comedy show Seinfeld and as Arthur Spooner in The King of Queens.

Jerry’s last role was in the TV movie Zoolander: Super Model which also starred his son, Ben Stiller.

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Fred Willard, the comic actor in films like This Is Spinal Tap, Best In Show and Anchorman, died aged 86 on 16 May. 

Willard was a four-time Emmy nominee for his roles in What’s Hot, What’s Not, Everybody Loves Raymond, Modern Family and The Bold and the Beautiful.

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Lynn Shelton, an independent filmmaker who directed Humpday and Little Fires Everywhere, died aged 54 on 17 May. 

Shelton had become the leading voice of the new American independent cinema movement.

She caused waves with her low-budget films, then made splashes through her work on television including Mad Men, Fresh Off The Boat, The Mindy Project and GLOW.

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On 27 MayLarry Kramer, the playwright who raised theatregoers’ consciousness about Aids, died aged 84.

For many years he was best known for his public fight to secure medical treatment, acceptance and civil rights for people with Aids. He loudly told everyone that the gay community was grappling with a plague. He wrote The Normal Heart and founded the Aids Coalition to Unleash Power, also known as Act Up. 

Kramer was nominated for an Academy Award for his screenplay for Women In Love, the 1969 adaptation of DH Lawrence’s novel.

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Actor and narrator Michael Angelis passed away aged 76 on 31 May. 

Angelis is often best known as the long-term narrator of Thomas The Tank Engine series Thomas And Friends, taking over from Ringo Starr in 1991.

He also starred as Arnie in September Song, Martin Niarchos in GBH, Lucien Boswell in The Liver Birds and as Mickey Startup in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.

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On 18 June former US ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith died aged 92.

Smith, whose pivotal role during the 1990s helped bring an end to violence in Northern Ireland, was the last-surviving child of Joseph P. Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald.  Her siblings included US President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Special Olympic founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Senator Ted Kennedy.

She was appointed US Ambassador to Ireland by President Bill Clinton in 1993, and granted honorary Irish citizenship by President Mary McAleese in 1998, the year the Good Friday Agreement was signed. 

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Singer Vera Lynn died at the age of 103 on 18 June surrounded by her close family.

Lynn, who entertained troops with morale-boosting visits to the front line during the Second World War, is best remembered for singing We’ll Meet Again, The White Cliffs Of Dover, There’ll Always Be An England, and I’ll Be Seeing You. 

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Ian Holm, best known for roles in Chariots Of Fire and The Lord Of The Rings, died at the age of 88 on 19 June. 

The actor, who was also an acclaimed theatre star, appeared in films such as Alien and The Madness Of King George.

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On 22 June, acclaimed Hollywood filmmaker Joel Schumacher died at the age of 80.

Schumacher directed a whole host of successful and critically-acclaimed films across five decades. For Irish audiences, he brought the story of Veronica Guerin to the big screen in the film of the same name. 

Among Schumacher’s most notable films as director are St. Elmo’s Fire, The Lost Boys, Falling Down, Flatliners, The Client, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin and 8mm. 

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Carl Reiner, the writer, actor and director who broke through as a “second banana” to Sid Caesar and rose to comedy’s front ranks as creator of The Dick Van Dyke Show and straight man to Mel Brooks’ 2000 Year Old Man, died aged 98 on 30 June. 

Reiner was a welcome face on the small and silver screens, in Caesar’s 1950s troupe, as the snarling, toupee-wearing Alan Brady of The Dick Van Dyke Show and in such films as The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming and It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

Films he directed included Oh, God! starring George Burns and John Denver and the Steve Martin classic The Jerk.

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On 6 July, Italian composer Ennio Morricone, one of the world’s most prolific film composers, died aged 91.

Best-known for scoring Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns, the Oscar winner composed 500 film scores, including The Mission, The Untouchables and Cinema Paradiso. 

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Glee actress Naya Rivera died on 8 July by drowning while swimming in a California lake. 

The 33-year-old disappeared during the boating trip on Lake Piru with her four-year-old son, her body was found days later following a lengthy search. Her death was ruled an accidental drowning by medical examiners. 

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Kelly Preston, actress and wife of actor John Travolta, died aged 57 after a two-year battle with breast cancer on 13 July. 

Preston, best known for film roles in movies like Twins and Jerry Maguire, married Travolta in 1991.

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On 13 July, Zindzi Mandela, the daughter of South African anti-apartheid leaders Nelson and Winnie Mandela, died at the age of 59.

She came to international prominence in 1985, when the white minority government offered to release Nelson Mandela from prison if he denounced violence perpetrated by his movement, the Africa National Congress, against apartheid, the brutal system of racial discrimination enforced in South Africa at that time.

She read his letter rejecting the offer at a packed public meeting which was broadcast around the world. Prior to her death, she had been South Africa’s ambassador to Denmark since 2015.

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US representative and civil rights leader John Lewis died at the age of 80 on 18 July. 

He was the youngest and last survivor of the Big Six civil rights activists, a group led by Martin Luther King Jr that had the greatest impact on the movement. He was best known for leading some 600 protesters in the Bloody Sunday march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

Lewis turned to politics in 1981, when he was elected to the Atlanta City Council. He won his seat in Congress in 1986 and spent much of his career in the minority.

After Democrats won control of the House in 2006, Lewis became his party’s senior deputy whip, a behind-the-scenes leadership post in which he helped keep the party unified.

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On 25 July, Fleetwood Mac co-founder Peter Green died at the age of 73.

The influential blues-rock guitarist, from Bethnal Green in London, formed Fleetwood Mac with drummer Mick Fleetwood in London in 1967. He left the band after a final performance in 1970.  

Green was among the eight members of the band — along with Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, John McVie, Christine McVie, Danny Kirwan and Jeremy Spencer — who were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

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US TV star Regis Philbin, who fronted breakfast TV for decades and hosted the American version of the game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? died aged 88 on 26 July. 

Philbin logged more than 15,000 hours on the air, earning him recognition in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most broadcast hours logged by a TV personality. 

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On 26 July, Hollywood great Olivia de Havilland died aged 104. 

Dame Olivia won two best actress Oscars for her roles in 1946’s The Each His Own and 1949’s The Heiress. However, she is often best remembered for her turn as Melanie Wilkes in the 1939 film Gone With The Wind.


The acclaimed British director Alan Parker died at the age of 76 on 31 July. 

Parker is perhaps best known here for directing beloved 1991 comedy The Commitments and the 1999 adaptation of Frank McCourt’s memoir Angela’s Ashes.

Across his long career, he also directed Bugsy Malone, Midnight Express, Fame, Mississippi Burning and Angel Heart

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On 15 August, Donald Trump’s younger brother Robert died after being hospitalised for an undisclosed illness.

While far less famous than his older brother, Robert Trump, who was born in 1948, had long been an integral part of the family real estate empire and was fiercely loyal to the outgoing president. 

Chadwick Boseman, best known for playing superhero Black Panther, died at the age of 43 on 29 August following a battle with cancer.

Boseman’s family said he had been diagnosed with colon cancer four years ago and died surrounded by his loved ones, including wife Taylor Simone Ledward.

He never discussed the illness publicly and films including Black Panther, Da 5 Bloods and Avengers: Endgame were all filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy. 

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Actress Dame Diana Rigg died on 10 September at the age of 82. 

She was best known for her roles in The Avengers, Game of Thrones and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. She had been the recipient of Bafta, Emmy, Tony and Evening Standard Awards for her work on stage and screen.

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US Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg died aged 87 on 19 September from complications of metastatic pancreas cancer.  

After a decades-long career fighting for gender equality, Ginsburg was appointed to the court by Bill Clinton in 1993. She was just the second woman to hold a position on ‘the highest court in the land’.

She served for more than 27 years. In recent years, she was recognised as the most senior member of the court’s liberal wing. 

Her death left a vacancy on the court that was swiftly filled by President Donald Trump who nominated Amy Coney Barrett to solidify the court’s conservative tilt.

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On 21 September, Michael Lonsdale, the British-French actor with a far-ranging film and theatre career but most widely recognised as the villain opposite James Bond in Moonraker, died aged 89. 

Lonsdale, who was bilingual, chalked up more than 200 roles over a six-decade career, and was equally at ease in experimental arthouse productions as in big-budget crowd-pleasers.

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Celebrity astrologer Jackie Stallone, the mother of Hollywood actor Sylvester Stallone, died at the age of 98 on 22 September. 

Stallone was married three times and had three sons and a daughter, Toni D’Alto, who died in 2012. She was also a women’s wrestling promoter and had a memorable – although brief – stint in the Celebrity Big Brother house in 2005.

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On 6 October rock musician Eddie Van Halen, of the iconic hard rock group that bore his surname, died aged 65 following a long battle with cancer.

Born in the Netherlands and raised in California, Van Halen founded the rock group with his older brother Alex in the 1970s and quickly grew a fan base.

Van Halen has sold more than 75 million albums and has more number one hits on the mainstream US rock chart than any other artist, according to the band’s label. 

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American singer-songwriter Johnny Nash, best known for his 1972 hit I Can See Clearly Now’, died aged 80 on 7 October

The Texas-born pop and reggae star died at his home in Houston. He rose to the top of the charts with I Can See Clearly Now, and his 1975 hit Tears on My Pillow. 

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On 29 October, Bobby Ball, one half of comedy double act Cannon & Ball passed away at the age of 76 after testing positive for Covid-19.

Ball found fame on The Cannon & Ball Show opposite his lifelong friend Tommy Cannon. He also appeared in TV series including Last Of The Summer Wine, Heartbeat, Mount Pleasant, Benidorm, The Cockfields and Not Going Out, and the duo appeared on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! in 2005.

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Sean Connery, best known for playing James Bond, died at the age of 90 on 31 October. 

The Scottish actor had a successful film career over several decades, with multiple awards including an Oscar for his role in the 1987 film The Untouchables. 

Born in Edinburgh as the son of a factory worker and a cleaner, he left the city to join the Royal Navy, before becoming a bodybuilder and a Mr Universe contestant – a path that eventually led into acting. 

An early role included the 1959 Disney film Darby O’Gill and the Little People. 

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On 3 November, actor and comedian John Sessions died at the age of 67. 

He enjoyed a career across TV, film and the stage but was best known for regular appearances on shows like Whose Line Is It Anyway? and his work on Spitting Image

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On 8 November, Alex Trebek, who presided over the American quiz show Jeopardy! for more than 30 years, died aged 80.

Jeopardy! bills itself as “America’s favourite quiz show” and captivated the public with a unique format in which contestants were told the answers and had to provide the questions on a variety of subjects, including films, politics, history and popular culture.

Trebek, who became its host in 1984, won five Emmys and received stars on both the Hollywood and Canadian walks of fame. In 2012, the show won a prestigious Peabody Award.

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TV star Des O’Connor died at the age of 88 on 15 November, days after he suffered a fall at his home. 

O’Connor was a TV fixture with shows such as Today With Des And Mel and Des O’Connor Tonight, and he also hosted Countdown.

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On 25 November, Argentina football great Diego Maradona passed away at the age of 60. 

He will be remembered as one of the greatest footballers of all time. His signature achievement is leading Argentina to win the 1986 World Cup; his two-goal performance in the quarter-final against England one of the most iconic individual performances in the competition’s history. 

His finest hour at club level came at Napoli, leading an unfancied and disparaged club from the south of Italy to two Serie A titles, the Uefa Cup, and the Italian Cup, a series of improbable victories over the established and affluent clubs from the North. 

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British actor David Prowse, who played Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, died aged 85 on 29 November. 

The weightlifter-turned-actor, who also earned an MBE for playing the Green Cross Code Man to promote road safety, died after a short illness. 

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On 11 December famed British actress Barbara Windsor, best known for her roles in Eastenders and the Carry On franchise, died aged 83

Windsor was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2014 and made the news public in 2018.

She played pub landlady Peggy Mitchell in BBC soap Eastenders beginning in 1994, she soon became one of the small screen’s best-loved characters as she yelled at rogue drinkers to “get outta my pub!”.

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Pioneering US country music star Charley Pride died 12 December of Covid-19 complications aged 86.

Born in racially segregated Mississippi in 1934, Pride was known for 1970s hits including Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’ and was the first African American to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

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On 14 December, Cold War espionage author David Cornwell, known by his pen name John le Carré, died aged 89 after a battle with pneumonia.

Among his 25 novels were acclaimed best-sellers including Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, and The Night Manager.

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Adventurer and author Tim Severin passed away aged 80 at his home in West Cork on 18 December. 

Born in India in 1940, Severin became renowned for retracing legendary journeys of historical figures such as Marco Polo, Genghis Khan, and Sinbad to name a few. 

In Ireland he is often best remembered for his ‘Brendan Voyage’ across the North Atlantic in a skin-covered boat.

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On 23 December, Scottish model Stella Tennant died aged 50.

The granddaughter of the 11th Duke of Devonshire, Andrew Cavendish, and Deborah Mitford, she rose to fame in the 1990s, walking the runway for designers including Versace and Alexander McQueen.

She was among models representing the British fashion industry during the closing ceremony at the London 2012 Olympics.

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 Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

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