Ray Galton typewriter set for auction

A typewriter used to create renowned TV sitcom Steptoe and Son is set for auction, among a host of treasures owned by the comedy genius who devised it, Ray Galton.

The late writer’s piano and a Christmas gift of vintage Macallan whisky from Canadian poet, songwriter and novelist Leonard Cohen to thank Ray ‘for all the laughs’ are among the items due to go under the hammer at Hansons London on October 29.

Ray Galton's typewriter
Ray Galton’s typewriter, estimate, £100-200 – credit Hansons

The auction firm said it has been a privilege to be reminded of Ray’s contribution to British comedy while uncovering items at his former home near Hampton Court Palace, London.

Chris Kirkham, associate director of Hansons London, said: “The period splendour of Ray’s former family home is certainly a far cry from the tatty rag-and-bone yard the nation came to know and love in Steptoe and Son. Back in the 1960s, it was a ground-breaking sitcom because it featured poverty-stricken, working-class characters. It was a dose of social realism at a time when upper-class accents and slapstick fun were the norm.

Ray Galton's former home
Ray Galton’s former home – credit Hansons

“Ray was a former union worker struck down by tuberculosis at 18. Nevertheless, he went on to achieve phenomenal success as a radio and television scriptwriter. Just how far he came is illustrated by the place he called home. As well as being awash with memories of his life and times, it is simply a magnificent place to be, enriched with a sense of history and happiness. It’s been an absolute privilege to go inside.

“To walk into a room and see his BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) awards decorating a Bechstein grand piano, or to pick up a bottle of whisky to read a personal message from Leonard Cohen, was special for me. And the moment I saw Ray’s typewriter I immediately pictured him hammering away at the keys, bringing a comedy moment to life. Whoever is fortunate enough to buy that will own a very special memento of British television history.

C Bechstein piano
C Bechstein piano in the sale – credit Hansons

“Like millions of others, I’ve laughed and smiled at Steptoe and Son and Hancock’s Half Hour, which Ray also penned alongside his writing partner Alan Simpson. Together, they created comedy that millions of people came to know and love.”

The typewriter, estimated at £100-£200; Macallan whisky, estimated £200-£400; and Bechstein piano, with a £500-£700 estimate could all see their guide prices smashed, said the auctioneers.

Steptoe and Son is regarded as one of the best British sitcoms of all time and key character Albert Steptoe is ranked 39th in a list of 100 Greatest TV Characters. Albert, the mean and grasping father, was played by Wilfrid Brambell while his long-suffering son, Harold, was portrayed by Harry H. Corbett.

Such was the show’s impact, it was remade in the United States as Sanford and Son, in Sweden as Albert & Herbert, in the Netherlands as Stiefbeen en zoon, in Portugal as Camilo & Filho, and in South Africa as Snetherswaite and Son. Two film adaptations of the series were also released.

Ray (1930-2018) was best known for his writing partnership with Alan Simpson. They devised and wrote 1950s and 60s BBC sitcoms including Hancock’s Half Hour (1954–1961), the first two series of Comedy Playhouse (1961–1963), and Steptoe and Son (1962–1974). Ray won two BAFTA awards (which are not for sale), among many others accolades, and received an OBE in 2000.

Macallan whisky gift sent to Ray Galton by Leonard Cohen
Macallan whisky gift sent to Ray Galton by Leonard Cohen – credit Hansons

He was born in Paddington, West London. After leaving school he worked for the Transport and General Workers Union. He contracted tuberculosis at the age of 18 in 1948 and was admitted to Milford Sanatorium near Godalming, Surrey, where he met fellow patient Alan Simpson, the man who became his writing partner.

Ray married Tonia Phillips in 1956, and they had three children. Sadly, Tonia died from cancer in 1995. Ray passed away in his sleep at the age of 88 in 2018.