Peter had been unwell for some time and although he eventually received the liver transplant, he had long awaited, tragically it was unsuccessful and he died in hospital on Monday 6th July, with the support and the compassion of his family who were by his side.
Elected to BSC Full Membership in 1995, Peter worked predominantly in Television Drama over his career, garnering a BAFTA award for Best Photography (Factual) for ‘Ancient Egyptians’ – The Battle of Meggido (2003) and a nomination for ‘Coliseum: A Gladiator’s Story (2004), along with Nominations for BAFTA Best Photography and Lighting (Fiction) for ‘Clocking Off ‘ (2001) and for the same again in 2002.
Well loved by those that knew and worked with him he has been described as a gentleman, a brilliant professional and a fantastic presence on set.
Peter’s funeral took place in Burley in Hampshire on Thursday 23rd July. The moving words, which his long time agent Sara Putt spoke in tribute on that day can be read below. Donations in fond remembrance can be gifted online to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham Charity (Transplant Unit)/Disability Snowsport in fond memory of Peter. Just click here and then click on donation to charity link to gift.
Peter will be sorely missed.
Sara Putt tribute to PETER GREENHALGH BSC
Where do I begin? Over the last couple of weeks there have been so many emails, so many cards and so many wonderful words describing the unique person that was Peter Greenhalgh. The word that has come up perhaps more than any other is “gentleman”. He was a gentleman.
Hence I thought a good place to begin was to look up the meaning of the word gentleman. The short and pithy dictionary definition reads as follows:
“well-bred or chivalrous”.
I think both of these definitions would make Peter smile. As many things did. His description of himself was rather different, being either the humble “darling I am merely an oily rag” or just the plain witty “please show me some respect I am after all the head test driver for Scalextric”. Over the decades colleagues found a variety of names for him from Twinkle to Sweet Pea, and to all of us in the office he was always PG. – all of these names affectionate, all of them expressing the love and esteem in which he was held.
However thinking on that dictionary definition, it seems to me that both well-bred and chivalrous may describe him rather well.
Peter was most definitely well-bred for our business. As many of you may know both his father and his brother were cameramen, and it was all Peter ever wanted to do. Having begun his career at Rank he then moved to Southern TV as an assistant and subsequently to Central. With his uncanny knack for spotting and embracing change and challenges in due course Peter actively chose a freelance career. Just as many years later when others were convinced that digital photography was a flash in the pan, a 5 minute wonder and would never last, PG was the cameraman who quietly said to me “darling do get me onto a job that’s shooting HD – I think we may all be using it a great deal in the future!”
How to encapsulate Peter’s amazing career? It is impossible. His CV reads like a who’s who of British Television. He has worked in over 100 countries. He swam on the Great Barrier Reef, crossed the Arctic Circle, hot air ballooned over Africa, sailed the Atlantic on a tall ship filming from the crow’s nest (the mere thought makes me queasy) He filmed in palaces and mud huts, in cathedrals and sports grounds. He communed with monarchs – both ancient and modern.
Now speaking of monarchs…..
When filming in Egypt the crew needed to crawl through a tiny tunnel to Lady Arbuthnot’s Chamber, hidden deep in the centre of a pyramid. The day before filming Peter confessed to his crew that he suffered from claustrophobia. So Keith and JJ made contingency arrangements rather bizarrely involving a hip flask and a small china cup and saucer. Having conquered the claustrophobia and made it to the lady’s chamber Peter and his crew marked the moment with tea from the hip flask served in the china cup and saucer – an event henceforth known as Lady Arbuthnot’s cup of tea. How appropriate for a well-bred chap!
The other monarchical story is of a young PG sitting on the steps of the Prado in Madrid changing lenses on his camera when accosted by a Spaniard with a keen interest in photography. They conversed for some time – in Spanish of course (have I mentioned that Peter spoke fluent Spanish?) before the Spanish chap headed off about his business. He knew that the keen photographer was none other than King Juan Carlos but Peter had chatted to him with his hallmark ease and warmth.
So well-bred I think we can all agree upon. A man with a clutch of Kodak Swan Awards, numerous nominations and a BAFTA to boot is most definitely a man who stands tall among his peers. Not that he would accept these accolades as belonging to him. He always insisted that he was part of a team and that any awards were as much for the team as they were for him.
Like the Hooper swan that graced the Kodak Awards Peter took so many people under his wing allowing them too to fly high. He was so much more than a client to me. He was a friend, a confidante and a wise counsellor. He was there for the good times and the bad. When we started our trainee scheme 4 years ago it was PG who offered such support and enthusiasm even suggesting he pay the registration fee for a young trainee unable to afford it.
How about chivalrous? In the medieval world a chivalrous man was an accomplished one and Peter most certainly deserves this epithet. A piano and guitar player, a linguist, a keen golfer, an expert skier and trophy winning curler; a great mimic, fantastic raconteur and such a funny funny man. And overlaying all of this, he was one of the finest cameramen of his generation – although when challenged PG would say “now Storaro may paint with light – but me, I light with paint!”
So truly a renaissance man. However perhaps the chivalry expressed itself more in what he did for others. His active involvement with the British Disabled Ski Club for example, skiing regularly with “the wobblies” and the way in which he nurtured the careers of so many around him and coming up in the industry. In the words of his gaffer Gavin he was “a doting father to all his crew”. I always said to him that he was a better agent than I would ever be.
Most of all it is maybe his love of the industry and his love of Switzerland that defined him. Never happier than behind a camera or hurtling down a ski slope in Wengen. And running though both of these passions were the two greatest loves of his life, Kate and Lucy. Marrying Kate and having Lucy were the proudest achievements in his high achieving life.
I think it would be hard to model a more perfect Dad. Lucy’s love of the business was born out of her love for her father, and seeing when on set how much his team loved him too. She is an extraordinary young woman and Peter was so very proud of her. As for his love for Kate, it went beyond words and his life with her made him so very very happy.
So I think the evidence is conclusive. Peter Greenhalgh was truly a gentleman. Well bred, chivalrous, short of stature perhaps but a giant among men. If I might steal the words of Jamie Harcourt to conclude:
“So off he flies with all his wisdom, love and humour. His brilliant skills, his ethics – his humanity”