Obituary: Leon Griffiths

Colin Cooper
Thursday 30 July 1992 23:02

JOHN Hurry Armstrong's obituary of Leon Griffiths (16 June), excellent though it is, writes Colin Cooper, makes comparatively light of his intense disillusionment with the Communist Party and, particularly, the Daily Worker, when his dispatches from Budapest at the time of the Soviet invasion were mangled beyond recognition to fit the Stalinist line.

But journalism's loss was television's gain; and only a bigoted traditionalist would argue that 'Arfur' Daley was a comic creation inferior to Sam Weller or Bertie Wooster. I met Leon only once or twice - when he moved out of his mother's flat in, by then, a salubrious part of Hampstead, I moved in as a lodger - but his laconic wit delighted me. He recounted, hilariously, his meeting with a literary agent who had told him, 'Three things are doing very well now: Sex, Crime and Real Life.' Leon Griffiths, to his credit, chose real life.

How much of his character he owed to his remarkable mother is not for me to assess, but a book could be written about her and it would be more than a slim volume. I remember how the genteel woman who lived on the ground floor, apparently unaware of Sadie's political background, inquired: 'But why won't you put up a Conservative poster in your window, Mrs Griffiths?' To which the answer, conveyed in the richest of Glaswegian accents but mild in the circumstances, was: 'Because I don't want the buggers to get in]'

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