Rosemary Anne Sisson: 1923-2017

Bernie Corbett and Rosemary Anne Sisson
Bernie Corbett with Rosemary Anne Sisson

WGGB stalwart Rosemary Anne Sisson (pictured above centre), distinguished author and script writer, has died, aged 93.

Sisson was a former president of the WGGB (1995-99) and co-chair with Bruce Stewart (1978-80).

She was best known for her work on The Duchess of Duke Street, starring Gemma Jones (bottom right) as the Victorian servant and cook who works her way up to proprietrix of the upper-class Bentinck Hotel, for which she wrote 11 episodes. She also contributed scripts for The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Upstairs Downstairs, The Bretts and many other TV series as well as several plays and novels.

In 1974, she became the first female full member of the Dramatists’ Club. She was an enthusiastic attender of the club’s meetings and wrote a history of the organisation on its 100th anniversary in 2009. She attended her final meeting in March of this year and will be remembered at the next dinner on 14 September.

Co-chair of the theatre committee David Edgar said of Sisson: “I first met her while trying to negotiate an amalgamation between the Guild and the Theatre Writers’ Union, which she fiercely opposed (on the grounds that the TWU didn’t have a professional entry qualification). However, once we had agreed terms and joined the Guild, we got on famously. She was a robust defender of writers’ rights and both the profession and the Guild will miss her.”

WGGB chair Gail Renard said of “Rosemary Anne, or Romy as she was known to all who loved her, was a dear friend and gentle mentor. When I first joined the Guild as a young writer, she was determined that more women’s voices be heard in the industry as well as on our own committees. It was Romy who first suggested that I join the TV Committee, nudged me towards the EC and became head cheerleader when I was elected Chair.

Gemma Jones, The Duchess of Duke Street

Her career was incredible and varied. As well as the telly work she was known for, she co-authored a play, A Ghost On Tiptoe, with Robert Morley. She found it a great learning curve and said the luncheons were wonderful. Romy also wrote The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles for George Lucas and took great pride in wearing her silk Lucasfilm bomber jacket well into her 70s. She was delighted that she wrote Murder She Wrote when Angela Lansbury and she were both nearly 80.

As a former Chair and President, Romy remained interested in all aspects of the Guild and attended AGMs until two years ago. No one knew our Rule Book better than her. She was the first person I ran to with Guild news and gossip and, most importantly, wise counsel. All writers have a lot to thank her for. Rosemary Anne will be missed by many people, including me.”

Current WGGB president Olivia Hetreed described Sisson as “a wonderful person, dauntless in pursuit of principle and splendidly unflagging in spite of her years. She kept us all up to the mark. A loss to the Guild and writing.”

A funeral service will take place on 21 August. A memorial service will be held in London in October.