I had a drive over to Holmfirth for a walk round Digley Reservoir. I was so close to St John the Baptist church at Upperthong that I had to call in. I’ve visited previously to see the grave of “Compo” from Last Of The Summer Wine. He’s now been joined fellow actor Peter Sallis who lies a few feet away. Though Peter was born and brought up in London his mannerisms were Northern and he’s best known for the voice behind Wallace in the Wallace and Gromit films. He also played "Cleggy" in Last of the Summer Wine for 37 years from its 1973 inception
You can’t miss the graves just behind the church. They receive so many visitors a new path has been made. A couple were at the graves so I went round the front of the church and had a coffee from the flask and watched a robin redbreast.
A quick summary: Peter’s life started a long way from here: he was born in Twickenham, an only child. His dad was a bank manager and he also went to work in a bank. He joined the RAF when World War Two commenced. He tried to join an aircrew but a lack of protein in his liver meant he may black out and was forced to work as a mechanic. He began acting in his four years in the RAF and resolved to become an actor after the war. His first professional appearance on the London stage was aged 25 in a play. Three years later he spoke his first word and his career started properly. He slogged as a jobbing actor before getting his first television role aged 37. I won’t go through his television credits here (it’s all on the net) but he was in many British films of the 1960s and 1970s.
In recent years he’s well known for being Wallace in the Wallace & Gromit films. It all started when - aged 62 - he received a letter from a student called Nick Park asking him if he would voice his character Wallace who an eccentric inventor. Peter agreed so long as £50 was donated to his favourite charity. Nick went to form Aardman Animations and make the hugely successful W&G films. For such a quiet self-depreciating man there was a fiery marriage to actress Elaine Usher when he was 36. Despite a son she left him 16 times before they divorced in 1965 on grounds of desertion and adultery (they’d reconcile, live together and part again when he was 78.)
In later years Peter suffered from irreversible vision loss and retired aged 89 in 2010. He died in an actor’s nursing home called Denville Hall in London aged 96. His wish was to be buried next to “Compo” (Bill Owen), his chum and fellow actor from Last Of The Summer Wine. Here I am by them both.
Higher up in the graveyard are four war graves, one being a woman (quite rare) who died aged 22. Opposite her is some poor kid who died aged 17. After a walk round a nearby reservoir I drove home thinking I must re-read Peter’s self-deprecating autobiography Fading into the Limelight.
A lady aged 22…