Cre­ator of TV’s great come­dies

Daily Express - - LIVES REMEMBERED -

IN 1947 Ray Galton was ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal with a high fever and per­sis­tent cough. Tow­er­ing above his peers at 6ft 4in, the teenage boy weighed only nine stone and feared he was go­ing to be gravely ill for some time. He was di­ag­nosed with TB and sent to an iso­la­tion hos­pi­tal, where he was in­formed treat­ment could take up to four years.

At Mil­ford sana­to­rium, the 16-yearold Galton felt lost and alone, as most of his fel­low pa­tients were much older men. How­ever three years into his time at the sana­to­rium his luck changed.

Galton was ly­ing on his bed in a small four-cu­bi­cle room when an­other teenager ap­peared. “The room went dark, be­cause he was a big man,” Galton would re­call. “I thought, ‘Who the hell’s that?’ He was the big­gest guy I’d ever seen.”

That teenager was Alan Simp­son. The pair soon be­came friends, be­gan writ­ing com­edy sketches and went on to forge a long and dis­tin­guished part­ner­ship, earn­ing a rep­u­ta­tion as the cre­ators of the Bri­tish sit­com and famed for writ­ing Han­cock’s Half Hour and Step­toe And Son.

Born in Padding­ton, Lon­don, Ray­mond Percy Galton was the son of Her­bert, a bus con­duc­tor, and his wife Chris­tine.

He at­tended Garth School in Mor­den but left at the age of 14 to work as a ju­nior clerk at the Trans­port and Gen­eral Work­ers’ Union. He toiled there un­til he was sent to Mil­ford sana­to­rium and had his fate­ful meet­ing with Simp­son. To­gether they would lis­ten to the Amer­i­can Forces Net­work and soon started writ­ing their own sketches.

Their first, called Have You Ever Won­dered?, was for the sana­to­rium’s in-house ra­dio sta­tion, which was housed in a broom cup­board but gained good re­views from fel­low pa­tients.

Af­ter leav­ing, the pair moved on to writ­ing for the ra­dio show Happy Go Lucky star­ring Derek Roy, earn­ing five shillings per episode, although it was not a suc­cess.

Their luck changed how­ever when they sent a script to the BBC and were put in touch with the co­me­dian Tony Han­cock, who of­fered them 25 guineas to write for his pop­u­lar ra­dio show Han­cock’s Half Hour.

When Han­cock made the tran­si­tion to tele­vi­sion, rat­ings climbed steadily and for seven years Galton and Simp­son wrote ev­ery scene in the much-loved show.

It rapidly be­came the yard­stick against which all other Bri­tish sit­coms would be mea­sured.

In 1961 Han­cock ended his pro­fes­sional re­la­tion­ship with Galton and Simp­son but a year later the pair wrote the sit­com Step­toe And Son which re­volved around a father and son’s rag-and-bone busi­ness in the fic­tional Oil Drum Lane.

Star­ring Wil­frid Bram­bell and Harry H Cor­bett, the pro­gramme ran for eight se­ries and boasted au­di­ences of up to 28 mil­lion.

Dur­ing that pe­riod, Galton and Simp­son won the Screen­writ­ers’ Guild best com­edy se­ries for four years run­ning.

The show fin­ished in 1965 but was re­vived for a sec­ond run from 1970 to 1974, when Galton and Simp­son then went their sep­a­rate ways for a num­ber of years.

Galton con­tin­ued to write com­edy, col­lab­o­rat­ing with Johnny Speight in Spooner’s Patch for four years un­til 1981. When asked why he had not taken a much-de­served sab­bat­i­cal like his op­po­site num­ber Simp­son, Galton said: “I re­ally have no other in­ter­ests.”

In 1997 Galton and Simp­son won the Writ­ers’ Guild of Great Bri­tain life­time achieve­ment award and three years later Galton was awarded an OBE.

He fol­lowed this up with a Bafta fel­low­ship in 2016, the same year as the 60th an­niver­sary of the first TV episode of Han­cock’s Half Hour. Simp­son died last year.

Galton mar­ried his wife To­nia in 1956. She died from can­cer in 1995 and he is sur­vived by his three chil­dren, An­drew, Sara and Lisa.

BEST: Galton won awards with Simp­son for Step­toe And Son

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