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The BBC's Bill Hayton
reports from the memorial service
 real 28k

Friday, 19 November, 1999, 21:51 GMT
Colleagues remember Compo
Bill Owen as Compo: Born in London, buried in Yorkshire

Friends and colleagues of the late Bill Owen, who played Compo in the Last of the Summer Wine, have paid tribute to his talents at a special memorial service in London.

The event, held at the BBC's Broadcasting House, includes personal recollections and messages of thanks for the life of the actor.

Owen, who won a place in the hearts of the show's viewers after playing loveable rogue Compo for 28 years, died of cancer in July, aged 85.

Peter Sallis: Paid an emotional tribute to his colleague
Among those speaking at the memorial are many of those who worked with him on the long-running comedy series.

Co-star Peter Sallis, who plays the character of Clegg, said it was a shame Owen never won an award for his portrayal of Compo - "the finest comic creation of its time".

"No-one presented anything, certainly not on television, to match it. Year after year I waited for it to be recognised but it never was.

"You could rank that creation against the best of them - including Chaplin.

"I always thought it was an injustice that he never won an award for best comic performance. Is there room for a posthumous award? It would be a happy gesture."

Neil Kinnock paid tribute to the actor in a message read at the service
The actor's socialist convictions were also remembered. Former Labour leader Neil Kinnock sent a message saying: "Words were Bill Owen's profession, words and deeds were his gifts to the community."

Veteran MP Tony Benn wrote of Owen's gift for reminding older people that they could enjoy their later years.

Owen took up acting at the age of 18 and went on to have a long and successful career, which included roles in 46 films.

However, many of his second generation of fans were unaware of his earlier glittering career, not just as an actor, but as a writer of plays, musicals and popular songs.

In partnership with Mike Sammes, he wrote the lyrics for dozens of pop songs including Sir Cliff Richard's 1968 song Marianne.

The young Cliff Richard had a hit with one of Owen's songs
Sir Cliff wrote: "For me, like millions of others, Bill was a part of my Sundays. The fact that I was given a chance to sing one of his lyrics does make me think Compo and I have something in common."

Summer Wine writer Roy Clarke told of Owen's ability to charm the people of Holmfirth, where the series is filmed - even though he was born in London.

"If there are any other Londoners buried in Holmfirth, I think you can safely assume they died of culture shock," he said.

"For me, it ranks as one of Bill's finest achievements that he won the respect, trust and even love of that independent, self-reliant community."

The Holme Silver Band played the socialist anthem The Red Flag, while the Ronnie Hazelhurst Quartet played the theme to Last of the Summer Wine.

An emotional Sallis recalled how Owen had told him in Holmfirth: "I want to go on living - there's so much more to be done."

He told the guests: "Well, he achieved a great deal more than most of us."

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See also:
06 Aug 99 |  Entertainment
Like Compo, like son
19 Jul 99 |  Entertainment
Final farewell to Summer Wine star
29 Jul 99 |  Entertainment
Fitting send-off for Compo
12 Jul 99 |  UK
Farewell to a Cockney-born Yorkshireman
27 Oct 99 |  Entertainment
Thaw's double TV victory

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