Tuesday, 21 July 2009

1965: Violet Carson, OBE

Violet Carson and singer Frankie Vaughan with their OBEs at Buckingham Palace, 1965.

Ena Sharples was, and is, quite simply a Coronation Street legend.

Played by Violet Carson, Ena appeared in the very first episode of Coronation Street, lambasting new Corner Shop owner Florrie Lindley (Betty Alberge). In that first episode, she didn't wear a hairnet. But that quickly followed.

Early Ena was a fiery treat, a real harridan, with nowt good to say about her neighbours and, in particular, Mrs Elsie Tanner (Patricia Phoenix) of No 11. Clashes between Ena and Elsie in those early days still make breath taking viewing today.

Ena sat in the snug at the Rovers in the early years, with her two pals, Minnie Caldwell (Margot Bryant) and Martha Longhurst (Lynne Carol), providing the show with many a moment of high class comedy. What a trio they were! Ena headed the group, vinegary Martha often sought to usurp her, but never succeeded, and Minnie was largely away with the fairies.

Over the years, Ena mellowed more than somewhat. Never afraid to speak her mind, and a stern upholder of "good", old fashioned morals, Ena was also a friend and confidante to many. And her relationship with Elsie evolved - these two very strong, very different woman, developed a respect and fondness for each other, and when Ena found herself temporarily homeless in 1980, it was Elsie who came forward to offer her a roof over her head.

Ill health caused Violet Carson to take several lengthy breaks from the show in the 1970s, and when she made her final appearance in 1980, none of us were aware of the fact that we had seen the last of the glorious old battle-axe.

Ena was in her heyday in the 1960s, and in October 1965 that fact, and Violet Carson's long career in show business before The Street, were recognised when Miss Carson was awarded the OBE.

From The Real Coronation Street, by Ken Irwin, 1970:

When Violet Carson received an important-looking envelope bearing the Royal crest through the post at her home in Blackpool, one morning in the autumn of 1965, she had absolutely no idea what it might be.

She even hesitated before opening it. Then, with much surprise, her trembling fingers pulled out the official notification - she was to be awarded the OBE by the Queen.

She was stunned but immensely pleased. Yet a little puzzled. She could not explain the Royal award. "I do not know why I have been singled out," she said. "I would like to think that it was some sort of recognition for the whole of my career. People tell me I have managed to make a lot of folk happy. I hope I have."

The Real Coronation Street by Ken Irwin, the Daily Mirror TV critic who declared that Coronation Street had "little reality" and was "doomed from the outset" back in 1960! The book - "The fascinating, true story behind a TV serial and how it has affected the lives of the actors involved in it over a period of ten years" - sometimes pops up on eBay and is well worth a read.


  1. AnonymousJuly 24, 2009

    Has anyone seen Ena's final appearance on the street?

  2. I've got a copy of the episode somewhere. I'll try and find it and post some info/captures.

  3. John in OaklandJuly 25, 2009

    Ena is one of my favourite characters. I was lucky enough to find an official Granada publicity picture of her online and it sits above my desk.

  4. Terrific! I thought she was wonderful!

  5. Violet Carson always reminds me of my nan - not in her gossipy nature or her sharp tongue - but because she always wore a hairnet - and the fact that Nan's name is also Violet. I adore my Nan Violet - she's still alive and in excellent health and I love her to bits. In that last scene between Elsie and Ena, Violet was just like my nan. Love you always, Nan Violet. Your loving grandson Scot.

  6. That's a lovely tribute to your nan. My best regards to you both!

  7. Andrew, thank you very much indeed. Nan Violet's an amazing woman and both my brother David and I adore her. She's also like Ena in that she was widowed young. Nan Violet's just coming up for her 90th birthday, but she's still fit and healthy and lively. Happy birthday, Nan. Love you to bits. Your ever devoted grandson Scot.