Genius of Tony Hancock remembered in Bournemouth

Bournemouth Echo: June Whitfield, Alan Simpson, left, and Ray Galton at the Queen’s Hotel before the society’s annual dinner June Whitfield, Alan Simpson, left, and Ray Galton at the Queen’s Hotel before the society’s annual dinner

THE genius of Tony Hancock was remembered in Bournemouth by some of those who knew the great comic.

June Whitfield, who featured in his most famous half-hour The Blood Donor, joined Hancock writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson for the occasion.

Around 60 fans were at the Queens Hotel for the annual get-together of the Tony Hancock Appreciation Society.

Hancock was born in Birmingham but lived in Bournemouth from the age of three. After his father’s death, he lived with his mother and stepfather in the Durslton Court Hotel, now called the Hotel Celebrity, and first took to the stage at the hall of the Church of the Sacred Heart in Richmond Hill.

His mother was still living in the resort at the time of his suicide in 1968.

Alan Simpson, 82, wrote 166 Hancock episodes with Ray Galton before the pair went on to write Steptoe and Son.

He said: “The amazing thing about Hancock is how young people seem to relate to it. I’m told that the average age of the audience is about 35. When you think Hancock died 44 years ago, it’s amazing. Most of them weren’t born when he died.”

He said the writers never imagined the long-lasting appeal of the series.

“When they issued our first record in 1961 with two Hancock television shows, we thought they were mad. We couldn’t believe anybody was going to pay for something like that. How wrong can you be?” he said.

And he admitted the fans often know the shows better than the writers do.

“An 11-year-old was on Mastermind. His specialised subject was Hancock’s Half Hour. He got every question right. Half of them I couldn’t answer,” he added.

June Whitfield played the nurse in The Blood Donor, one of Hancock’s last TV shows for the BBC, transmitted in June 1961.

“We all thought it was very funny at the time but it’s only in retrospect that you realise what an impact it had,” she said.

She says of Hancock: “I think he was sad. He never really could appreciate or settle for the great talent that he had of making everyone absolutely adore him..”

She added: “They’re repeating some Terry and Junes now on ITV3. I looked at some and thought ‘I don’t remember doing that at all’.”

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