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Today But Then. July 4th.

One of the most iconic days in the history of the world.

Today, in 2012, Eric Sykes sadly passed away, aged 89, surrounded by his wife of 60 years and his four children.

A veteran of post-war British humour, he wrote and performed with the likes of Tony Hancock, Peter Sellers, Tommy Cooper and Spike Milligan, before meeting the phenomenal Hattie Jaques and creating some of the most recognisable sit-coms of the 1960's and 1970's.

After the war, in 1946/47, he moved to London during a fierce winter, and within a week found himself freezing, hungry and penniless. By pure chance, he walked into a performer he had known in the RAF, a Scottish comedy actor called Bill Fraser. Fraser was working in a comedy at the Playhouse theatre in London's West End and took Eric into the theatre, fed him and kept him warm.

He offered him a job writing comedy for him to use on radio shows, and the couple worked together many times in the years to come. Despite being quite deaf, and half blind for most of his adult life, Eric managed to write and appear in some of the most iconic television, radio and film comedy of the time.

If you're a bit young to remember the original 'Sykes and A...' series (59 episodes between 1960 and 1965) or 'Sykes' the first time around (68 episodes between 1972 and 1979), you might remember him as the voice signing off at the end of the original Teletubbies programmes, or perhaps as the caretaker in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in 2005?

A funny man, who could write comedy quickly while sitting on a bus. A real natural. One of my favourite gags of his is: "I had lunch with a chess champion the other day. I knew he was a chess champion because it took him 20 minutes to pass the salt." I know it's not cheap, but the DVD of all the 70's Sykes can be bought here.

In other news, in 1776, the original the Declaration of Independence wording was ratified by Congress on this day, and received the first of 56 signatures. John Hancock, as the President of Congress, signed the declaration on the 4th of July with the final signature, that of Matthew Thornton of New Hampshire, taking place on November 4th 1776.

The original 13 states are represented on 'Old Glory', or 'The Star Spangled Banner' by the alternate red and white stripes, with the 50 current states represented as a white star on the blue background. Originally the square also had 13 stars, representing the original states.

Eight of the 56 signatories were born in Britain or Ireland, becoming naturalised US citizens during their lifetime. The youngest signatory was Edward Rutledge at just 26, while Benjamin Franklin was the oldest at 70.

Perhaps one of the most famous statements on Human Rights can be seen as the second sentence on the declaration;

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

We live in interesting times. If you're out celebrating American Independence Day today, or maybe just watching The Plank on Youtube (which you can watch here) have the best 4th of July!

Thanks for reading.