Bill is well known for playing “Compo” in the British longest television comedy series Last Of The Summer Wine. Here I am at his grave overlooking his beloved Holmfith where the series was filmed.
One Sunday I decided to go for a walk in the Wessenden Valley. I drove passed it and have a few hours in Holmfirth. I’d packed up a flask and sandwiches and thought I’d consume them by his grave. I entered the ground behind a couple in their fifties. I got out of their way and gave them some privacy (if that’s’ possible with people-watcher like me.) The rear of the grave yard is on a slant so I got high up and had something to eat while time passed. The couple went directly to a specific stone and remained there. They left and before I had finished an apple another couple appeared and visited the same grave.
When I had the cemetery to myself I walked down to the grave and the famous green boots told me it was the actor’s grave before the writing did. Another couple arrived and I found they were from Torquay and had come to visit filming locations of television dramas.
“Are you not touching the boots,” the woman said to her husband, “They’re supposed to be the ones he really wore.”
I’m not how true this is but I thought I’d better do the same before someone steals them.
Though not a fan of Last Of The Summer Wine (the humour was too weedy for me) I knew the character “Compo”. One of my favourite books is Brideshead Revisited and I know Bill Owen as Lunt in the glossy television adaptation. He starred in his first film aged 30 but it wasn’t until he first appeared in Last Of The Summer Wine aged 59 that he got anywhere. I didn’t know that he was a successful song writer in the 1960s but I can remember him appearing a few times in the Carry On films.
He was an active Labour supporter and founding member of the “Keep Sunday Special” campaign group. He was awarded the MBE in 1976. In 2000 while filming Last Of The Summer Wine French special he became ill. Returning to England he was diagnosed with pancreatic and bowel cancer. He worked almost to the end and died in a private hospital in Westminster in London where he’d gone to have tumour removed. As you can see from the photo the position of the grave affords a nearly-unobstructed view of his beloved Holmfirth.