Tom Owen, who played Tom Simmonite in Last Of The Summer Wine, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 73. Having starred in over 90 episodes of the sitcom between 2000 and 2010, Owen played Tom Simmonite, the long lost son of William ‘Compo’ Simmonite – the character who was played by his real-life father, Bill Owen.
Owen’s father appeared in Last of The Summer Wine for 27 years (1973-2000) and 184 episodes as ‘Compo’, the incorrigibly scruffy working-class pensioner, alongside Frank Thornton (Truly Truelove), Peter Sallis (Norman Clegg) and Brian Wilde (Foggy Dewhurst). Sporting his trademark woolen hat, Compo spent much of his time lusting after dowdy housewife Nora Batty.
Set in the Yorkshire village of Holmfirth, Last of the Summer Wine was a sweet comedy, written solely by Roy Clarke (Open All Hours, Keeping Up Appearances, Still Open All Hours), about people in the autumn of their years. Premiering in 1973, it was the world’s longest-running sitcom, having clocked up over 30 series as well as several Christmas specials.
Tom Owen began is career as an assistant stage manager at Leatherhead Theatre in Surrey, before moving on to Westminster Theatre. After a stint working in TV he returned to work and direct in the theatre, in Sidmouth, Devon. He also appeared in other TV shows like The Bill, The Onedin Line and Upstairs Downstairs, as well as the 2018 film The Bromley Boys.
In a 2000 interview, Tom Owen recalled his initial effort with LOTSW: “It was two or three days after dad had died. Obviously my mind was on other things, like organising the funeral, and it hadn’t occurred to me at all that I would be approached to play Compo’s long-lost son. Alan [producer/director Alan J. W. Bell] suggested the idea to me and I thought about it for two seconds before saying yes.”
Owen went on to say, in the same interview, he had been “very aware” of how “wary” the other cast members might have been of him. “They had all been through a traumatic shock when Dad died,” he added. “They had known him for all those years as well. Dad loved the show and I think he would be very proud that it is going to continue, and in a way it’s continuing in his memory. I think he would be very happy that I’ve taken his place.“
R.I.P. — Tom Owen