Ray Galton, 64, was born in Paddington, west London. For the past 44 years he has been one half of the celebrated radio and television comedy scriptwriting team Galton and Simpson. He lives in Hampton Court, south-west London, with his wife, Tonia. They have two daughters, a son and six dogs. Alan Simpson, 65, was born in Brixton, south London, and educated at Mitcham Grammar School. In partnership with Ray Galton he created award- winning TV hits such as Hancock's Half Hour, Comedy Playhouse and, most famously, Steptoe and Son. He is a widower and lives in Sunbury-on-Thames.

RAY GALTON: It was 1948, somewhere round about August, and I was lying on the bed in my little ward in the Surrey county sanatorium near God-alming where I was being treated for TB. Alan was there, too, also being treated for TB. When Alan went past, the room went dark, because he was a big man - about 6ft 4in and 18 or 19 stone. I saw this shuffling figure with a big brown dressing-gown on, with the collar turned up, going by swinging his toilet bag, on his way to have a wash. I thought, "Who the hell's that?", because you expect everyone in a sanatorium to be thin and weedy, and he was the biggest guy I'd ever seen. They liked to put people of similar ages together, so we were put in next to each other. He was always the last one up in the sanatorium; he used to stay in bed as long as possible.

A sanatorium isn't like a hospital, because you're in there a long time; within reason, they let you do what you like. We started writing a comedy series for broadcasting through the sanatorium, and they created a little radio room in a linen cupboard. We were tremendously keen on comedy, and then we had this idea of doing this show, so we wrote to Frank Muir and Dennis Norden. I think we asked if we could be their tea-boys when we got out of hospital, but we weren't really serious about writing.

Alan got out of hospital before me and went back to work; I was there another few months. Then Strepto- mycin came on the market and I was out in four or five months, though I wasn't allowed to go back to work.

When I got out, Alan got in touch with me. We wanted a professional opinion of our work, so we wrote this sketch, The Pirate Sketch, and sent it to the BBC. We got a letter back saying, "We were highly amused and would you like to come up for an interview." We got drunk on that letter.

That's how we got working on the show called Happy Go Lucky. The fee was 20 guineas; three shows at 20 guineas - that was 60 guineas. We knew we had to do it - if we didn't, we might as well pack up. It was terrifying - we worked every hour of the day.

About six months after the end of Happy Go Lucky, Bob Monkhouse and Dennis Goodwin, who had been writing Calling All Forces for about 60 weeks, went on holiday, and the BBC asked us to write the last six shows. We said yes. Hancock was sharing top billing with Charlie Chester, and that's how we started writing for him.

We were nervous of him; we were so young. We still thought you had to be born into showbusiness, and neither of us had any connections. Tony was very friendly, very pleasant and quite generous. We wrote for him for a couple of years, and he always had guests on his show - so we wrote for practically every big comedian in the country, and quite a few film stars, too.

We had the idea of doing a situation comedy, half an hour, with no funny voices, no jokes as such, and a complete storyline with no interruptions by a singer or instrumentalist - which all shows had then. Our producer had quite a job persuading the BBC that it should happen. That's how Hancock's Half Hour started, which ran for 10 years and really made our names.

After we split with Hancock, we were offered 10 shows to do whatever we liked - no one had ever been offered that before. Show number four was called The Offer - and the characters were called Steptoe. The head of the department came to rehearsals and said, "You know what you've got here? It's a series if I've ever seen one." We didn't want to do a series, because we'd done 10 years with Hancock. For months we said no, but as we were running out of excuses, we said: "If Harry Corbett and Wilfrid Brambell want to do the show as a series, we'll do it", thinking that they wouldn't - they were straight actors. But they both jumped at it, so we had to do it, and in the end we were bloody glad we did.

When it comes to writing we're good meshers. Alan always did the typing and I did the sitting down watching him type, the wandering round the room, the lying on the floor...

We agree about most things. We were both committed socialists, left-wingers - now we're champagne socialists. We both enjoy wine, talking about it and being snobbish about it. We also love France. Alan goes six times a year, and I occasionally go with him. But we don't agree about everything. Alan is a sports fanatic and I couldn't care less about it, but we were and are friends. Why are people friends? Because you like each other, you get on, and you can talk to each other about anything.

ALAN SIMPSON: The first time I saw Ray, I was walking along the corridor at the sanitorium in my dressing-gown. At first we didn't have a lot to do with each other because we were at opposite ends of the block. I was in Ward 2 and he was in Ward 14. But I was transferred to 14; that's when we became friends. We were both in for three years, and for the last two we were in this ward together. We used to listen to comedy shows, and we were both film fans. We've known each other 47 years, and we don't look a day older.

We started writing a comedy series, for broadcasting over the sanatorium radio system - we played the parts with a couple of other patients, one of them doing the sound effects. We were playing, really, like playing at trains.

We had another year in the sanatorium after that. I'd been a member of a church concert party before, and when I got out, I got in touch with Ray. He used to come over on the bus to Mitcham, where I lived, and we wrote four or five sketches for it. Then we wrote a 10-minute skit and sent it to the BBC. We got a letter back, asking us to go in. I remember running over to Ray's house waving this sheet of paper, like Chamberlain with the Munich Agreement.

This script we sent in - it was the summer of 1951 - ended up on the desk of the producer of a show called Happy Go Lucky, with the top comedian of the time, Derek Roy. He phoned me at the shipping office where I was working and said he'd like to meet us with a view to us writing for him. Ray and I went to see him and he said he'd pay us five shillings for each joke he bought - that was our first professional payment. Ray would come over to my mum's house, we'd sit in the front room and write two or three sheets of one-line jokes. Derek Roy would go through them, he'd tick them or cross them, count them up, give us the money from petty cash, and Ray and I would go back home and share it out. We'd started being professionals.

Our big break came when Happy Go Lucky flopped. The producer had a nervous breakdown and they brought in a new one who sacked all the writers and asked us if we could write the whole show. We worked all the hours God sent - our doctors would have been horrified.

At the time, my mother was keeping me for 30 shillings a week - she was horrified about me giving up my job. She said, "If, after a month, you can't pay me the 30 shillings, will you go back to work?" I said, "It's a deal," and the very first week, we landed a six-guinea solo slot. Then we got this Happy Go Lucky offer that paid around 25 guineas - a fortune.

When we first started out, nobody know what scriptwriters were. When we went to open a bank account, the manager said, "Well, what do you do?" and we said, "We're scriptwriters," and he thought we did sign-writing on windows. We said, "No, we write scripts," and he said, "Yes, but what do you do during the day?"

Later on, Ray and I became well-known. We got our own show, the Galton and Simpson Playhouse. About 10 years later, after we had finished working with Hancock, we were given 10 half-hour television shows to fill however we liked. We decided to do 10 comedy plays instead of a series. But we reached episode four and we dried up. We had to use a technique we had when we couldn't think of anything - we'd start by saying, "Two ... something or others" - two rat- catchers in Buckingham Palace or whatever. Ray said, "Two rag-and-bone men walking down the street..." We started writing, and decided they were father and son, and that the son was quite old, he was about 37 - that was the key. We did five episodes and went on holiday to Spain. On my way down there, I got a Daily Mail, and read that Steptoe and Son had been such an enormous success that the BBC had decided to repeat it immediately, back to back - it had never been heard of before. We were delighted. The episodes that are going out now on BBC2 are 30 years old - and the audience seem to be quite young, which is very, very nice. What we write about doesn't seem to date - some of them could have been written yesterday. The political arguments are still the same - you just change Blair and Major for Heath and Wilson.

Ray and I have lots of things in common, but the most important thing is the sense of humour, the sense of comedy. In a partnership you spend more time with each other than you do on anything else - you can spend more time with each other than you do with your families. So if you don't get on, it's purgatory. 8

Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

Arts and Entertainment
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little