Tribute to binman who helped inspire TV drama

17 August 2016

Few men become as well-known and well-liked driving a council bin lorry as Malcolm Greaves did, but the former Newark and Sherwood driver, whose funeral takes place on Friday, was certainly the exception.

Malcolm Greaves‌Malcolm, of Southwell, provided much of the inspiration for the hugely popular drama series Common As Muck, which ran on BBC1 in 1994 and 1997, gaining up to 11 million viewers and providing a huge boost to the career of Southwell-born writer and one-time student bin-man William ‘Billy’ Ivory.

Malcolm, 75, (pictured with his son Paul) was a diabetic and died at The Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham on July 31 after complications following an operation to remove his leg, but affection for him amongst his former colleagues and contemporaries as well as among his close-knit family will live on for a long time.

Son Paul, 51, who worked on the bins with his dad for many years and is now a driver himself, said: “He inspired not one character in the TV series but two.”

The late Edward Woodward played one of them – Nev Smith, the wise owl who always had the best interests of the bin-man team at heart, while Tim Healy played the wily father in a father-and-son binman team with young actor Stephen Lord that was clearly modelled on Malcolm and Paul.

“Edward Woodward played the serious side to my dad,” said Paul, “but dad was also very happy and jovial. He was full of one-liners and would have people in stitches, but he was never crude. Everybody felt better for being in his company, whether they were 18 or 80.

“Dad enjoyed watching the series. He was very pleased with it all because he could really relate to all the characters. He recognised a lot of the traits of people he’d worked with at the depots in Newark and Southwell. My dad thought the world of Bill Ivory anyway, and Billy always liked to get back on the bins when he was back home from university in the holidays. He liked to meet up with all the old friends and faces.”

Malcolm worked as a driver on the bin lorries for 28 years, originally for Southwell Rural District Council, which was later succeeded by Newark and Sherwood District Council.

Malcolm’s widow Pat still keeps a treasured scrap book of all the local and national publicity that the series created, not only for the actors starring in it but also for the real bin-men who inspired them.

William Ivory himself, now a well-established and highly successful scriptwriter, paid tribute to Malcolm after being informed of his death by another friend, council sweeper truck driver Bob Macrae-Clifton. Bob passed on the writer’s message which read: “Malcolm was a lovely, funny, kind man and was a big part of my growing up.”

The funeral takes place on Friday at 4pm at the Sherwood Forest Crematorium in Ollerton.

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