Born in Yorkshire on 28 January 1930, Roy Clarke loved books from an early age and always knew he wanted to be a writer. However, he actually spent his early adulthood as a soldier and also tried stints in the 1950s as a policeman, teacher, salesman and taxi driver. Writing in his spare time, Roy soon began having plays accepted by BBC Radio. He established a reputation and graduated to TV in the late 60s, writing for various drama serials.
The big break
Roy's life changed forever in 1972, when he was invited by the BBC to write Last of the Summer Wine, a new sitcom about the exploits of three old men. Roy was initially daunted by the project, doubting his ability to find humour in the lives of pensioners. "It was when I realised that three old men could have the same thoughts as three young men that the comic element surfaced," he later explained.
Summer Wine would have been a career peak for most writers, but Roy had a couple more masterpieces up his sleeves. Inspired by his own childhood experiences working in a corner shop, Open All Hours was an instant TV classic and yet another milestone arrived in 1990 with Keeping Up Appearances. Hyacinth 'Bouquet' soon proved to be a comic archetype to rank alongside Fawlty and Mainwaring.
Not all Roy's sitcoms are well-remembered today. Despite starring Ronnie Barker as a witty, flamboyant photographer working in rural Wales, the 1984 sitcom The Magnificent Evans never made it past a first series. Also forgotten is 1984's The Clairvoyant, which featured Roy Kinnear as a salesman who thinks he's developed psychic powers. Or has he? Not many viewers cared to find out...
Did you know?
Despite penning numerous other projects, Roy has been the sole writer of every single edition of Last of the Summer Wine since it began in 1973 - that's over 200 episodes and specials to date!
The final word
Although his sitcoms feature over-the-top characters embarking on crazy pursuits, Roy claims it all pales in comparison to reality. "The irritating thing is that life is far more extravagant," he once said. "After all, things happen in real life which no writer could get away with."