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Monday, July 19, 1999 Published at 13:32 GMT 14:32 UK


Final farewell to Summer Wine star

Bill Owen as Compo in love with Nora Batty (Kathy Staff)

Last of the Summer Wine Star Bill Owen has been laid to rest in the Yorkshire village of Holmfirth, the setting for the popular TV series he cherished.

The 85-year-old, who played Compo, died last week after losing his battle against cancer of the pancreas.

His final wish was to be buried in the village he had grown to love over the 26 years he had worked on the hit BBC comedy.

His family carried out that request after a low-key service at nearby St John's Church, attended by 20 friends and relatives.

[ image: Peter Sallis represented the cast and crew]
Peter Sallis represented the cast and crew
The mourners included Peter Sallis, who played Clegg in Last of the Summer Wine and Roy Clarke, the show's creator and writer.

After the service, Mr Sallis, who was representing the rest of the cast and crew, said:

"It's very sad. But it was a lovely service and Tom, his son, spoke beautifully. It's 20 years ago when we sat up here by the church filming when Bill turned to me and said this is where he wanted to be buried."

Future of series

Before the service Tom Owen had asked that would-be on-lookers stay away, adding that memorial services would be held later in Holmfirth and London.

Even so, about two dozen fans of the programme gathered outside the church.

Others laid flowers by a statue of Compo outside the cafe used in the programme.

[ image: Fans lay flowers by a statue of Compo outside the famous cafe]
Fans lay flowers by a statue of Compo outside the famous cafe
And Mr Clarke said a fitting tribute to the actor would be to continue filming Last of the Summer Wine: "I've been touched and pleased by the tributes made to Bill.

"It's very nice to know how far he went into people's hearts. The best thing I can do for him is to keep the show going."

Mr Sallis also said he hoped the series had a future: "We cannot slide down hills on pin trays anymore. But the series has its own strengths and I hope it will continue."

It was while filming a millennium special in France last month that Owen was taken ill.

But Mr Clarke said he was not aware how serious Owen's illness was at the time: "We could see he was poorly but did not know how serious he was."

He continued: "I am just delighted he was able to continue working right up to his death."


Despite being extremely unwell, Owen had soldiered on with the same degree of professionalism that had carried him through an acting career spanning more than six decades.

[ image: Bill Owen with Sid James in the 1963 BBC TV drama Taxi]
Bill Owen with Sid James in the 1963 BBC TV drama Taxi
Though known chiefly for Last of the Summer Wine, Owen won acclaim for his stage roles and many screen appearances in more than 40 films.

He was also the lyricist to songs recorded by Sacha Distel, Matt Monro and Sir Cliff Richard.

But it was as the mischievous Compo, who was always trying to win the affections of Nora Batty, that Owen won a place in the nation's hearts.

The role also convinced millions of viewers that Owen, born and bred in London, was a true Yorkshireman.

[ image: Bill Owen with Last of the Summer Wine co-stars Frank Thornton (left) and Peter Sallis (right)]
Bill Owen with Last of the Summer Wine co-stars Frank Thornton (left) and Peter Sallis (right)
In fact, before stepping into the role of Compo in 1973, he had never tried a Yorkshire accent.

Yet the natural ease with which he slipped into it meant that for many it was a surprise to find he had a natural London accent.

Over the years he developed a serious love affair with Yorkshire and the townspeople of Holmfirth took him into their hearts.

And at the age of 83, he disclosed that he planned to be laid to rest in the churchyard at Holmfirth, for which he had helped raise money for repairs.

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