Last of the Summer Wine revisited, 10 years on...

It is 10 years now since it went off the air, but it remains one of the most enduring images of a traditional, albeit larger-than-life, Pennine community.

Bill Owen as Compo, Brian Wilde as Foggy and Peter Sallis as Clegg, in 1997
Bill Owen as Compo, Brian Wilde as Foggy and Peter Sallis as Clegg, in 1997

Last of the Summer Wine never claimed to break new ground in television, yet it was revolutionary in its way. Its characters were mostly over 50 – in some cases well over – and it appealed to two sections of the audience often neglected by comedy producers – those in the North and those over 30.

Yet it was by any measure one of the most successful comedies there has ever been. Its total of 295 episodes is unprecedented in Britain and all the more remarkable for having been written by the same person, a former soldier, teacher and policeman from Austerfield, near Doncaster, named Roy Clarke.

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He was already a prolific scriptwriter when Summer Wine took to the air, having won a Writers’ Guild award for ATV’s The Misfits, with Ronald Fraser. But it was 1973 that was to be his breakthrough year, with the premieres of not only Summer Wine but also another North Country classic – Open All Hours with Ronnie Barker and David Jason, the sequel to which is still in production.

Actress Kathy Staff as Nora Batty in Last of the Summer Wine.

Clarke’s signature piece, filmed in and around Holmfirth, centred on three men, old in years but young at heart. The original trio was Bill Owen as the mischievous Compo, Peter Sallis as the easy-going Clegg, and Michael Bates as the haughty Blamire. When Bates became ill after two series – he was also starring in It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum at the same time – Brian Wilde took over as “Foggy” Dewhurst.

By the time the sun finally set on the cobbles and terraces of their world, Summer Wine had become Britain’s longest-running comedy and the longest-running sitcom in the world. Its demise was almost a national event, marked by a special edition of Songs of Praise from Holmfirth.

Editor’s note: first and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.

Almost certainly you are here because you value the quality and the integrity of the journalism produced by The Yorkshire Post’s journalists - almost all of which live alongside you in Yorkshire, spending the wages they earn with Yorkshire businesses - who last year took this title to the industry watchdog’s Most Trusted Newspaper in Britain accolade.

Bill Owen as Compo in 1977

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Sincerely. Thank you.

Holmfirth, 21st May 1983 Bill Owen and Kathy Staff as Compo and Nora Batty.

James Mitchinson, Editor

Holmfirth, 24th June 1987 From Left; Bill Owen, alias Compo, Peter Sallis (Clegg), and Michael Aldridge who plays Seymour.
Edie (Thora Hird), Glenda (Sarah Thomas) and Wesley (Gordon Wharmby)
Actress Kathy Staff (Nora Batty) during filming for Last of the Summer Wine in Homfirth.
Howard and Marina, Robert Fyfe and Jean Fergusson