You may not recognise the name Rosemary Anne Sisson – but she was the creative force behind global television shows who blazed a path for female screenwriters.
On Monday, the St Mary Magdalene Church in Lyminster was filled with family and friends to celebrate the writer’s life after she passed away from cancer aged 93 on July 28.
In an illustrious and varied career, Rosemary worked with legendary Hollywood filmmakers Walt Disney and George Lucas as well as penning 11 episodes of the hit period drama Upstairs, Downstairs, which was watched by 300million people globally at its peak.
She also wrote several plays, including The Queen and the Welshman, a tale of the romance which birthed the Tudor dynasty. The 1957 play launched her career and that of her lifelong friend and television star, actor Edward Woodward.
Her nephew Ben Lister described her as ‘joyous company’, and said the key to her success in many genres was that she treated writing not as an art, but as a craft.
The 61-year-old from Fareham, Hampshire said: “She thought writing was something to be polished and honed, and that is true of her life as well; it was a question of working at it.”
Rosemary was born on October 13, 1923 in Enfield in Middlesex to a Shakespeare professor and his wife.
Her childhood was spent at the family home in Lyminster, which Ben said was his aunt’s ‘emotional heartland’. In her 1995 poetry collection, Rosemary for Remembrance, she described life there as ‘a carefree country childhood, surrounded by love and beauty’.
After university, Rosemary taught English Literature at the University of Wisconsin and worked on a guest ranch in Montana, learning to ride horses with the wranglers.
When The Queen and the Welshman was adapted for television, Rosemary dived into the medium. As well as Upstairs, Downstairs, her writing credits included three Disney films, such as The Black Cauldron which was released in 1985, and George Lucas’ show The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles in the nineties.
Rosemary also wrote for state events, including the formal address at the Queen Mother’s 100th birthday celebrations in 2000. Her final television script was for an episode of Murder, She Wrote, aired in 2003.
Rosemary’s legacy extends beyond her writing. She was chairman of the Writer’s Guild of Great Britain, and the first female member of the Dramatist Club of Great Britain, leading to the resignation of two members, but later went on to become honorary secretary.
The owner of a flat in Rustington for decades, Rosemary took a big part in parish life at the Lyminster church, having helped fund both the church’s tower and the toilets.
Rosemary never married and had no children. She is survived by a niece and three nephews.