'Only Fools and Horses' writer John Sullivan dies

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The Independent Culture

Scriptwriter John Sullivan has died at the age of 64, the BBC announced today.

Most famous for creating the favourites Only Fools and Horses, Citizen Smith and Roger Roger, the writer died after a short illness.

Mark Thompson, the BBC Director General, said: "John created some of the UK's most-loved comedies, from Only Fools and Horses to his most recent work, Rock & Chips.

"He had a unique gift for turning everyday life and characters we all know into unforgettable comedy.

"His work will live on for years to come. We will miss him and we send our condolences to his family."

Sullivan was born in 1946 in Balham, south London, and was married to his wife Shirley. He had two sons, one daughter and two grandchildren.

He died at a private hospital in Surrey after a battle with viral pneumonia, and he had been in intensive care for six weeks.

The illness took its toll on his lungs, and he was never able to make a full recovery.

Gareth Gwenlan, a close friend and producer of Only Fools and Horses, said: "Shirley is obviously devastated and she has her family around her."

Sullivan got his first job at BBC Television Centre as a scene hand at the age of 16, shortly after he left school.

Always fascinated by literature and the English language, the would-be writer tried to work on as many comedy programmes as he could, in order to gain experience in the genre.

During his spare time he wrote sketches.

His break came when submitted one of his scripts to Dennis Main Wilson, the renowned BBC comedy producer.

Mr Gwenlan said the producer thought Sullivan's work was "wonderful", and he immediately commissioned the rising star to write more episodes.

He was given three months paid leave to work on the series, which turned out to be Citizen Smith.

According to Mr Gwenlan the challenge "phased him hugely", but with help and support, the youngster produced his first comedy series fit for the nation's screens.

"He became a full-time writer literally over night," his friend said.

The teenager realised he had landed the career he had always wanted, and never looked back.

Only Fools and Horses ran from 1981 to 2002, and was loved by generations throughout its record-breaking time on our screens, and by millions more around the world.

He was awarded an OBE in 2005 for services to drama.