SIR Ken Dodd was a national institution. He worked tirelessly as one Britain’s most popular comedians for a staggering seven decades. His five hour stage shows were legendary, and he was still performing these hilarious theatrical marathons right up to the age of ninety.

But despite his nationwide fame and his crazy, larger-than-life stage persona, he was actually a very private person, away from the limelight. He consciously separated ‘the two Ken Dodds’, as he referred to them, and always declined to cooperate with biographers.

Now thanks to a new book - The Squire of Knotty Ash, written by Tony Nicholson with Anne, Lady Dodd - his many fans can read the first ever in-depth account of his astonishing story.

Tony was born in Ilkley in 1952 and lived in Burley-in-Wharfedale, attending Ilkley Grammar School. Catching the showbiz bug at a young age he formed the Ilkley Revue Group and staged numerous shows and comedy plays for charity at The King’s Hall in Ilkley. He eventually moved south and began to produce TV documentaries about much-loved comedy stars, earning him a highly-prized BAFTA Award.

Tony has been a lifelong Ken Dodd fan and has written this affectionate and candid biography with Lady Dodd, not just as a showbusiness insider, who worked with Ken in the 1980s, but also as a genuine fan of Ken’s work.

Tony said: “When Sir Ken Dodd died I was asked to produce a documentary tribute for BBC2. From childhood I had always been a Ken Dodd fan, and I actually made a series with him for BBC1 in the mid-80s, so I did know him. During the making of the posthumous documentary Lady Anne Dodd, Ken’s widow, gave her first ever TV interview. I was the one to interview her – and she was terrific. We got on so well and the documentary was such a success I tentatively suggested to Lady Dodd that we should write a book together about her legendary late husband. She had found my approach to the documentary (and my Larry Grayson book) sensitive and respectful, so she agreed.

“It was then a labour of love – spending countless days in Knotty Ash with Lady Anne, recording our conversations and turning them into our new book – The Squire Of Knotty Ash… & His Lady

“There have been other books about Sir Ken, but he was very private and declined to cooperate with biographers, so they had to rely on distorted stories, press cuttings and myths that were already in the public domain. This is the first full telling of Ken’s real story – from the horse’s mouth. Anne was with him for most of his stratospheric career and knew him better than anybody. They married just two days before he died, having known each other for well over 50 years.

"Ken had always intended to write an autobiography, but never got round to it. Anne wanted to be part of sharing the definitive Ken Dodd story with his many supporters, and revealing the human side of the comedy superstar who became her husband."

The Squire of Knotty Ash, written by Tony Nicholson with Anne, Lady Dodd, £17.99 was published on April 1 by Great Northern Books.