John Sullivan – 1946 – 2011
Forty years since Only Fools and Horses, it’s ten years since the ad passing of creator John Sullivan.
John Sullivan was perhaps one of the most prolific comedy script writers of a generation. His timeless comedies have been watched and enjoyed by millions all over the world for over forty years.
His first sitcom was Citizen Smith in 1977, that lead to, what was to become the nation’s favourite sitcom, Only Fools And Horses in 1981.
His final work during his lifetime was in 2010/11, his long awaited fools and horses prequel: Rock And Chips. However, in 2014, with help from his sons some unused Only Fools and Horses material was put together to give us one last outing for his most famous character: Del Boy, in a special one off sketch for comic relief.
Whilst he will be best remembered for his sitcoms many people forget he also wrote the themes for many of his comedies.
Born John Richard Thomas Sullivan 0n 23rd December 1923, the son of an Irish plumber and a charlady, he grew up in Balham, South London and left school at 15 without any qualifications.
His first paid employment was as a messenger boy for Reuters News Agency.
John Sullivan’s youth epitomised a poor working-class background and it was whilst growing up in Balham that he came accross the type of Market Trader that would influence him when writing Only Fools And Horses. It is claimed that much of his material for Fools came from real life experiences.
It is arguable that the economic insecurity experienced by the Trotters and their eventual rise to wealth is based on John Sullivan’s own personal background, he grew up in a poor household (noting in an interview that he and his friends seemingly had no other opportunities after leaving school apart from low-paid factory work). The success of Only Fools and Horses, however, propelled him to a far more comfortable lifestyle.
In 2005 he was awarded the OBE for services to drama.
John Sullivan died aged 64, on 23rd April, 2011, in a private hospital in Surrey, he had been battling viral pneumonia for six weeks.
His first scripts were Citizen Smith in 1977, an idea he came up with whilst working for the BBC as a scene shifter (read about this in our Citizen Smith Post). Only Fools And Horses Followed in 1981, subsequent creations were:
Just Good Friends (1983 -1986)
Dear John (1986 -1987)
Sitting Pretty (1992 – 1993)
Roger Roger (1996 – 2003)
Heartburn Hotel (1998 – 2000 in which he was co-writer)
Micawber (2001, comedy -drama)
The Green, Green Grass (2005 -2009, creator, but wrote series 1 only)
Rock And Chips (2010 – 2011)
Truly one of the greatest comedy scriptwriters whose work will live on for generations to come.