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Farewell to Ray Galton one half of the greatest sit-com writing team

By: stagedoorscribbler - October 8, 2018

Ray Galton (right) with Alan Simpson and actress June Whitfield. Photograph by Hattie Miles

We were sorry to hear of the death on Friday of that great comedy scriptwriter Ray Galton. With his long time writing partner Alan Simpson, Ray penned wonderful post-war radio and TV classics like Hancock’s Half Hour and Steptoe and Son.  

Alan died last year aged 87 and now Ray’s death at the age of 88 brings a special era to a close. The pair met as teenagers in 1948 when they were both recovering from TB. It was the start of a writing partnership that a few years later would take them to the BBC where they met up-and-coming comedian Tony Hancock. It was a perfect match. Galton and Simpson’s intuitive understanding of how to find the humour in the bleak and austere world of 1950s suburban London provided the perfect vehicle for Hancock’s lugubrious, hang-dog persona. The Hancock programmes thrived on radio and TV from  1954 to 1961, including all time classics like The Blood Donor and The Radio Ham, before the troubled comedian went his own way.  

Galton and Simpson were undeterred and almost immediately started working on a one-off play called The Offer. It was about the rag and bone trade and so well received that it was quickly developed into the long-running sit-com, Steptoe and Son which ran from 1962 until 1974. 

Recent years found them regularly guesting at Hancock Conventions and showbiz and writer’s events. They were held in high regard by contemporary writers and acknowledged as the undoubted masters of their art

As David Walliams tweeted following the announcement of Ray’s death:  “What an incredible body of work Ray Galton has left us with. Some of the greatest TV comedy ever written, ‘Hancock’ & ‘Steptoe & Son’ are still the gold standard of sitcoms…”

And comedy writer Simon Blackwell, whose work has included The Thick of It and In The Loop, commented: "Very sad indeed to hear that Ray Galton has died. He and Alan reached such heights in terms of structure and character.”

Other 21st century comedy writers taking to Twitter to express their admiration for the work and sadness at Ray’s death included Frankie Boyle and Ade Edmondson.