Friday, 14 August 2009

Harry Alan Towers

Matthew Sweet has just announced on Radio 4's "Film Programme" the death of "mountebank" (Sweet's word) Harry Alan Towers. He must have been in his nineties, a score one would not have expected him to achieve, given his amazing life story. There are stories of fraud, vice and moving nimbly between tax havens which will no doubt be told in full in the press of three continents.

I never met him, but I remember his face being picked out for me on one of those panoramic school photographs. The school in question was Oldershaw School for Boys (shortly after to be Oldershaw Grammar School) in Wallasey, one of the first truly public grammar schools, which I attended in the 1950s. My uncle Harry (himself quite a character) had been part of the initial intake in 1920, along with Towers.

The reason for his being identified for me was that Towers had taken advantage of the sudden increase in demand for material by the introduction of commercial television. He had set up a production company named (presumably with an eye to the transatlantic market) "Towers of London". This produced half-hour episodes of a crime series for either ABC Weekend or Granada TV. I can remember few details of this, except that it was formulaic and every segment ended in a chase, usually up to the roof of a building.

After that, it all seems to have gone downhill - or perhaps not. Towers was probably one of those characters who will never settle down to safe, moderate, prosperity but enjoy dodging authority.

Update 2009-11-8 : it seems my informant had the wrong Towers - or H.A.T. lied about his age. The Independent has just published his obituary, from which it appears he was born in SW London in 1920.

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