Sir Ronald Millar, playwright and speech writer; born November 12, 1919, died April 16, 1998

Sir Ronald Millar, who came up with Mrs Thatcher's famous line ''The lady's not for turning,'' was a playwright and screenwriter who came into political speech-writing more or less by accident.

Suitably for a writer, he told the story quite well himself in an interview nearly 20 years ago. ''I'd been at a dinner party with Reggie Maudling in 1969 and had told everyone present how bloody awful the (Conservative) party's broadcasts were. Unfortunately one of my fellow diners was in charge of them and I was virtually told to put up or shut up.

''I put up a few ideas for Edward Heath and then, just before the 1970 election, I heard someone say that one of his Ministers was to be given a 10-minute radio broadcast to do as a consolation prize because their television recording had not been good enough to use.

''It seemed such a weakness and a waste to me that I immediately wrote a 10-minute speech for myself to deliver and they decided to use that instead. It was only later that I found out the Minister involved was Margaret Thatcher.''

A recording of the broadcast was played to Mrs Thatcher after she became party leader and, without knowing that it originally had displaced a broadcast of her own, she liked it enough to want

to use the Millar talents. The first speech he wrote for her contained the Abraham Lincoln quote ''you cannot help the poor by destroying the rich'', and when he handed it to her she opened her handbag and showed him that she always carried the quote around with her. From that moment they worked together, though Millar was said to take no money either from Thatcher or the party, and he admitted to finding it ''a lot easier to write for her when we were in opposition and there was no Civil Service machine to worry about''.

Ronald Millar was educated at Charterhouse and King's College, Cambridge. He served as a sub-lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve from 1940-43, when he was invalided out.

He began his theatrical career as an actor, spent four years as a screenwriter in Hollywood (The Miniver Story, Scaramouche), and had some notable successes in the West End, many through dramatisations of the works of

C P Snow - The Affair, The New Men, The Masters. He also wrote the book and lyrics for the musical Robert and Elizabeth.

As a political speech-writer he worked for Edward Heath for four years before working for Thatcher. He was knighted when she became Prime Minister and, after her departure, he worked

for John Major. As well as ''The lady's not for turning'', it was Millar who suggested to Thatcher that she should make her

dramatic recital of the words attributed to St Francis of Assisi (''Where there is discord, let us bring harmony'') just before she entered 10 Downing Street on

the day in 1979 when she became Prime Minister, and he was said to have been of enormous help to her during the miners' strike and the Falklands War.

He was in the habit of leaving the best lines he had written out of the early drafts of speeches for Thatcher - because he knew she rejected initial versions almost as a matter of course.

Paying tribute to him, she said he was a man of remarkable talent who gave freely of his artistic abilities, a great friend of her family and ''a real believer in our whole philosophy''. She added: ''Sir Ronald knew how difficult

it was to turn things round to

the way we wanted them to be, and he made a real difference to getting our political message across successfully.''