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28 October 2014

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Last of the Summer Wine

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Last of the Summer Wine is an affectionate comedy about people in the autumn of their years. The series is the world's longest-running sitcom, having clocked up over 30 series as well as several Christmas specials.

Compo and Nora Batty in Last of the Summer Wine

At last count, it's notched up nearly 30 series, numerous Christmas specials and a 1988 prequel, First of the Summer Wine, with the whole canon being written by just one man: Roy Clarke.

Created as a submission for the BBC's Comedy Playhouse in 1973, before the year was up, a full series had hit our screens.

A whimsical comedy with a penchant for light philosophy and full-on slapstick, that first run followed the misadventures of three elderly friends tramping around the Yorkshire countryside (the town of Holmfirth and its surroundings).

Compo, Foggy and Clegg in Last of the Summer Wine

The upper, middle and lowers classes writ large: they were Former Royal Signals Sergeant and notional gang leader Cyril Blamire; flat cap-wearing voice-of-reason Norman 'Cleggy' Clegg and scruffy hormone-riddled layabout Compo Simonite.

In a world where men are just over-grown kids, the authority figures come in the shape of some of TV's most formidable women. There's the physically intimidating tea shop owner Ivy, but even she pales in comparison to Nora Batty. With her wrinkled stockings and hair curlers, she's both a bogeyman figure curtailing the trio's fun and became an unlikely lust object for Compo.

Ill-heath forced Bates to quit after the second series. He was replaced by Brian Wilde as the pompous ex-army corporal Walter 'Foggy' Dewhurst, who led the show into its finest years, as the friends got into increasingly preposterous scrapes, usually resulting in near loss of life for Compo.

Ivy, Edie & Nora Batty in Last of the Summer Wine

Wilde bowed out in 1985, and the following year Michael Aldridge was introduced as ineffectual inventor Seymour Utterthwaite: younger brother to another fearsome Yorkshirewoman, Edie Pegden. He remained until 1990, at which point Wilde, and Foggy, returned.

Over the years, the show adapted to the passing of many of its cast, but never was the challenge greater than when Bill Owen died in 1999.

The following year, his onscreen character was given a funereal send-off, and Owen's real life son Tom brought in to play Compo's long-lost son, also named Tom.

With Wilde long since replaced by Frank Thornton as retired police office Herbert 'Truly' Truelove, it was initially thought the new trio of characters was in place.

Compo and Clegg in Last of the Summer Wine

However, perhaps realising the set-up had seen better days, Clarke has instead widened the cast, creating bigger roles for Auntie Wainwright; aging Lothario Howard Sibshaw and introducing newcomers such as Billy Hardcastle: a passionate outdoorsman who claims to be a descendant of Robin Hood.

And so it keeps going.

Cut to some years in the future, when this website has rotted down to its very pixels. Somewhere in the Yorkshire Pennines there'll still be an old man hurtling down a hill in a tin bath.


Bill Owen
Compo Simonite
Peter Sallis
Norman Clegg
Michael Bates
Cyril Blamire
Brian Wilde
Foggy Dewhurst
Michael Aldridge
Seymour Utterthwaite
Frank Thornton
Herbert 'Truly' Truelove
Tom Owen
Tom Simonite
Kathy Staff
Nora Batty
Joe Gladwin
Wally Batty
Gordon Wharmby
Wesley Pegden
Jonathan Linsley
Crusher (Milburn)
John Comer
Jane Freeman
Thora Hird
Edie Pegden
Mike Grady
Sarah Thomas
Robert Fyfe
Juliette Kaplan
Jean Fergusson
Danny O'Dea
Stephen Lewis
Keith Clifford
Billy Hardcastle
Julie T Wallace
Mrs Avery
Norman Wisdom
Billy Ingleton


Roy Clarke
Alan J W Bell
Sydney Lotterby
Ray Butt
Martin Shardlow
Alan J W Bell
Sydney Lotterby
James Gilbert
Bernard Thompson
Robin Nash

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