Sitcom legend Alan Simpson dies aged 87

The co-creator of Hancock's Half Hour and Steptoe and Son passed away after a long battle with lung disease

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Alan Simpson – one half of Galton and Simpson, the writing duo who created Hancock’s Half Hour and Steptoe and Son – has died at the age of 87.

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Along with his writing partner Ray Galton, Simpson created some of the best-loved sitcoms of the 20th century.

The pair first met in Guildford as teenagers when they both had stints in Milford Sanatorium after being diagnosed with tuberculosis. They went on to create Hancock and Steptoe and – during their long careers – penned scripts for the likes of Peter Sellers and Frankie Howerd. The duo wrote for the latter from the early 1960s into the mid-1970s, eventually providing the funnyman with his first major series, Frankie Howerd, airing on the BBC from 1964 through to 1966.

Simpson had fought a long illness, according to manager Tessa Le Bars, who paid tribute to the late writer: “Having had the privilege of working with Alan and Ray for over 50 years, the last 40 as agent, business manager and friend, and latterly as Alan’s companion and carer, I am deeply saddened to lose Alan after a brave battle with lung disease.”

A statement from Ray Galton – who had worked with Simpson for seven decades – and his family said:  “From their first attempts at humour in Milford sanatorium, through a lifetime of work together, the strength of Alan and Ray’s personal and professional bond was always at the heart of their success.”

Galton and Simpson received the Bafta fellowship at the Bafta Television Awards last May. At the time, Simpson said: “ We always wanted a Fellowship, even though we did not know what a Fellowship was. Not the sort of thing one associates with a couple of Cockney lads, apart from Alfred Hitchcock of course.”

Tributes have come from writers and actors who worked with Simpson through the years.

The novelist and writer Neil Gaiman wrote on Twitter: “The great Alan Simpson has died. I was lucky enough to meet & interview him & Ray Galton in 1985. They changed radio comedy, then TV comedy.”

David Walliams tweeted: “Alan Simpson was half of one of the greatest comedy writing duos of all time with Ray Galton ‘Hancock’ & ‘Steptoe & Son’ are masterpieces.”

Actress Vas Blackwood wrote:

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On fan shared a letter they had received from Simpson, who wrote: “First of all many apologies for the yellowing notepaper. A bit like its owner I’m afraid. Thanks for your kind remarks – Ray and I were delighted to know we still have a fan.”