Page last updated at 13:12 GMT, Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Little Donkey writer dies aged 88

Eric Boswell
Eric Boswell composed songs for artists including Matt Monro

Eric Boswell, writer of the popular Christmas song Little Donkey, has died.

The 88-year-old, from Sunderland, penned the carol 50 years ago, and it became a hit for artists including Gracie Fields and the Beverley Sisters.

Tyneside-based music producer Ken McKenzie, who first met the composer in the 1970s, said he had been very proud of the success of his "simple song".

Mr Boswell, who spent his last months in a Northumberland nursing home, died at Hexham General Hospital on Sunday.

His death came just a week before a new album of his songs was due to be released.

It features a version of Little Donkey by County Durham-born opera singer Graeme Danby - a friend of Mr Boswell - and the late Gracie Fields.

Digital technology made it possible for Mr Danby to record a duet with Gracie, who died in 1979.

Eric Boswell
He was proud of the 'simplicity' of his song

Mr McKenzie, the album's producer, said: "Eric had very mixed feelings about Little Donkey.

"Obviously he was very pleased it became so popular, but he didn't want to be known only for that song because he had a lot of success with other things.

"However, he was delighted he had created a song that was very simple and easy to sing.

"It was all in one octave and very easy to play, which is why it became so popular in schools.

"Its beauty is in its simplicity."

The success of Little Donkey led to Eric Boswell being offered a contract with international publishing house Chappell, where he composed songs for artists such as Matt Monro.

He later returned to his roots to concentrate on writing material that reflected the culture and humour of the North East, saying: "I believe if we can leave behind a legacy of laughter, then that's as near as we're likely to get to immortality."

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