Thursday, 30 September 2010

Doris Speed On Annie Walker

Here's Doris Speed as Annie Walker, photographed way back in the Street's early days in the 1960s. Note how the Corner Shop is next door to the Snug at The Rovers in the studio!

Doris Speed was not Annie really, she was possessed of a wonderful wit and often told stories against herself.

And she was clear sighted when it came to Annie.

Speaking about Mrs Walker in the late 1960s, Doris said:

"I don't think Annie is really horrid. She's a silly, pretentious woman, and her silliness is amusing. Her judgement is wrong on almost everything, but she is not an unkind person."

Annie is the Number One favourite Coronation Street character of all time for this blogger! Whenever she appeared, I always knew I was in for a treat - another crash course in bitchery, or comic complications as Madam was brought down a peg or two.

And occasionally the character could move me to tears.

I recall Mrs Walker being visited by her cousin Edwin Beaumont in 1977. A real, live Beaumont of Clitheroe in the Street! The residents, who had heard so much about Annie's wonderful family over the years, were agog.

As it turned out, Edwin lied to Annie about his financial circumstances and borrowed money from several of Annie's friends and customers, money he was unable to pay back.

Annie was devastated, but she hid the facts from the other residents, made sure that the money was repaid, then saw Edwin off from The Rovers, telling him that she had a name to keep up - a very good name.

And she didn't mean the Beaumont name, which she had so often bragged about.

She meant the Walker name.

The end credits rolled with Annie staring at photographs of her beloved husband Jack and son Billy on the mantelpiece in her living room.

And I wept.

Doris was a brilliant actress.

And, through Annie, she made us laugh, made us fume at the character's bitchery and snobbery, and made us care.

1983: The "How Should Len Fairclough Die?" Competition...

By September 1983, the news that actor Peter Adamson had been sacked from his role as Len Fairclough in Coronation Street was public knowledge. And a sad Corrie time it was (see our post on Len here).

But with Len on his way out, and the character already absent from our screens for several months, conjecture started about how he was was to meet his end.

The Sunday Mirror, September 11, 1983, tapped into the issue and presented a competition:

It's the question millions of Coronation Street fans have been asking: "How will Len Fairclough be written out of the series?"

Peter Adamson, as Fairclough, is as much a part of The Street as the Rovers Return. He was one of the first characters to appear when the series began 23 years ago.

So how do the scriptwriters get rid of him?

Len has dropped a few bricks in his time. He has been in more than a few punch-ups, and has never been slow to voice his opinions.

He has a son from his previous marriage, so he could be involved in his father's permanent disappearance. There hasn't been a street "death" since Ernie Bishop was shot [oh yes there had - Renee Roberts in 1980 - Andy], so Len might easily be involved in something equally dramatic.

He was last seen in the series on May 1 [it was actually May 11 - Andy], when he was working on Mike Baldwin's new Graffiti Club.

If you were a Coronation Street scriptwriter, how would YOU end Len's days? Write to us, telling in no more than 150 words how YOU think Len should be written out.

The writer of the entry we think best will win a super Ferguson Video cassette player worth £560.

The winner will also receive a marvellous Granada video cassette called The Magic Of Coronation Street...

Weren't VCRs EXPENSIVE?!! No wonder only 5% of the UK population had them in 1980 and around 25% by the middle of the decade!

Brilliant prizes - The Magic Of Coronation Street was the show's first EVER home video release, from 1982.

So who won the competition? Let's press on a week...


Let Len go with dignity. That's the demand of thousands of Sunday Mirror readers over the fate of Coronation Steet's tough-guy star.

We asked YOU to write the script for the Finish Of Fairclough.

And there is only one word to decribe the response to our great competition. Staggering.

Your letters came by the sackful.

Nearly all of them were caring, most were dramatic, many were gory and some well... fiendish!

Lots of you "killed" Len off in a car crash, or a fall from the Graffiti Club roof, or from electrocution when he drilled through cables.

Others had him mugged, killed in an explosion, drowned - and even sucked down into sewers.

But some of the more bizarre endings had him choking on an oyster, drowning in a vat of Newton and Ridley's bitter, killed by space invaders, bitten by a rabid dog at Sharon's kennels or eating a poisoned pie given to him by Bet Lynch!

Len has to go because Peter Adamson, who plays the character, has been sacked.

He last appeared on May 1 [11th - Andy] at work on Mike Baldwin's new Graffiti Club. Granada have said that Len is not to be brought back to the studios to act out his final scene. They want him killed off.

The winning entry, described as "simple and dramatic", went like this:

It is lunch-time at the Rovers. In walks Rita Fairclough...

Rita: "A vodka and a pint for the old man. He'll be here in a bit - he's just finishing some soldering."

Fred pours the drinks. At that moment an explosion shakes the building. The talking stops. Dust flutters down.

Fred: "What the 'ell were that?"

The door bursts open, Eddie rushes in.

"It's the yard. Fairclough's yard, the whole lot's blown up."

Rita: "Oh my God. What about Len? Have you seen him?"

She rushes out.

Next scene: Fairclough's yard. Fire engines, lots of noise, shouting, hustle and bustle, flames and smoke.

Fireman emerging from smoke speaks to waiting ambulance man: "Only one body. Didn't stand a chance. Looks like a Propane bottle blew up."

Camera pans to a shocked Rita.

Flashback to the Rovers bar... Len's untouched pint. Fade-out.

One of the competition's runner-ups suggested that Rita should receive a letter from Len:

Dear Rita, I hope some day you can understand why I had to do this even though I still love you.

Eight months ago I met a woman who'd just been widowed. I felt sorry for her and somehow we started having an affair and now she's pregnant. She's not a young independent dolly bird, and she needs me to look after her. And it is my kid too. So Jean and I are moving down South to start a new life.

The yard is being put on the market and I've had the Kabin legally transferred to you. The solicitors will be in touch about the divorce. At least you've got the house and the Kabin, so I know you'll get by without me. Jean and the baby can't.

God only knows how sorry I am for doing this to you. - Love Len.

I like that ending.

A tongue-in-cheek clever runner-up suggested:

The regulars in the Street discover that Len had been snapped up by a commercial TV company to play a major role in a series about life as it really is in a typical street in the north west.

Everyone in the Street is very jealous because they also find out that the actors in the series, which has been running for some twenty years, earn incredibly vast amounts of money, as befits the stars of a programme which regularly finds itself in the top two positions in the TV ratings.

Len, as would most people finding themselves in his position, has forsaken the Street for the bright lights of showbiz. The Street will never be the same...

For all those concerned that Rita (Barbara Knox) could be on the way out too, the article contained words of great comfort:

Will Len's wife, Rita, become a merry widow once she has recovered from the shock of his dramatic death?

Granada TV chiefs aren't giving much away about her future, though Barbara Knox, who plays her, has been guaranteed a place in The Street's events.

But a Granada spokesman did drop this hint that there could be a new man in Rita's life:

"It's true that a lot of real-life widows find second partners, and Rita COULD find somebody else."

Tantalisingly, the spokesman added:

"Viewers will have to wait and see what happens to Rita, and how she copes after Len's death."

Len, of course, finally met his end in a road accident in December 1983. And Rita was further devastated by the discovery that he'd been having an affair.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Make Time For Wine At The Rovers

The Rovers before the 1980s. You couldn't have wine - unless Mrs Walker sent out for it - but you could have Champagne!

When was wine first available at The Rovers Return? asks Peter. A book he read suggests 1978, but he has all the 1978 episodes on DVD, taped from Granada Plus, he's studied them, and there's certainly no sign of it!

Quite right, Peter - don't rely on books, rely on the episodes! I have the 1978 episodes too, and The Rovers did not stock wine then, indeed it had been stated shortly before that there was no demand for it.

Many backstreet pubs never used to serve wine, and The Rovers was typical.

We lower-working class folk were all far too down to earth, unsophisticated and utterly downright lovely back then to want that poncy muck.

In 1976, when Renee Bradshaw (Madge Hindle) applied for an off-licence for the Corner Shop, the fact emerged that The Rovers did not stock wine, due to lack of demand.

In 1978, Harry Payne (Max Wall) asked Mrs Walker (Doris Speed) for Champagne - which she immediately supplied - and I think this is where the confusion comes in with the book you mention. Many humble pubs which did not stock ordinary wine kept a bottle of two of Champers on standby - for special events such as engagements. Of course, they hardly ever sold any!

Annie Walker, being of a better class than most landlords and landladies, had made sure The Rovers could rise to the occasion for many years.

As for ordinary wine, it made its presence felt in The Rovers in the mid-to-late 1980s, with wine by the glass available (a prominent "Make Time For Wine" sign appeared behind the bar). This reflected real life trends.

Things were upwardly mobile.

In 1987, my local boozer had a conservatory put on and suddenly went all posh.

It was a sign of the times.

And Corrie tends to reflect the trends of the times.

Which is why watching old episodes is so fascinating!

Monday, 27 September 2010

Sadistic '60s - Part 1: Elsie Tanner At Knife Point...

Part two of our occasional series - Sadistic '60s, Savage '70s, Evil '80s, which highlights the dark side of The Street in our chosen decades.

Eeek! Poor Elsie Tanner had a troubled 1966. A series of anonymous phone calls led to the appearance of Mrs Moira Maxwell, wife of Robert Maxwell, who had died of a heart attack behind the wheel of his car whilst Elsie was in the passenger seat the previous year.

Driven mad by jealousy, Mrs Maxwell wanted bloody revenge.

Of course, the phrase "bunny boiler" was not coined until after the 1980s film Fatal Attraction, but Mrs Maxwell now definitely qualifies for the title.

Fortunately for Elsie, her old mate Len Fairclough arrived to save the day.

One of the interesting things about the photograph above, is the appearance of a flying duck on the far left.

It was one of those later used to such great effect for Hilda Ogden's "muriel".

And pity poor Elsie. A lesser woman might have been driven quackers by the stress of her ordeal with Mrs Maxwell.

But not our Elsie.

She flew straight on, searching for calmer waters.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Goodbye, Len Fairclough - And Some Thoughts About Men In Coronation Street

1980 - Rita gives Len, who was going through a slobbish phase, a right lambasting.

Len Fairclough (Peter Adamson) was one of the Street's legendary male characters from 1961 to 1983.

Who could forget his on-off romance with Elsie Tanner (Pat Phoenix) in the 1960s, his marriage to Rita Littlewood (Barbara Knox) in the 1970s, and his late-in-life stint as a foster parent in the early 1980s?

In 1983, the character was killed off in a road accident. There were backstage problems for Peter Adamson, but I regretted the end of the character.

Len was a real working class man of the times, and was one of the few men in the Street who could hold his own against those wonderful womenfolk.

The Street was always a matriarchal society, and I loved the fact, but nowadays it seems to me that the show's women are seen as a thoroughly superior species, whatever their wrongs, whilst the men are... well... lesser beings.

The last time I tuned in, it was to witness a woman shrieking at Roy Cropper (David Neilson) that he was the only man in her life that had never hurt her.

Wow! All the men in her life had hurt her... her father, her uncles, her neighbours, her teachers, her employers, her friends, her lovers...

What beasts we are!

But Len, flawed though he was, was also a man to be relied upon. Brash and handy with his fists in the early days, Len was still a good guy.

And he stood shoulder to shoulder with the glorious Street women as somebody we viewers could recognise and emphasise with.

Whatever Len did wrong, and there was plenty (in 1980 he even gave Rita a "good 'iding") we knew he was likeable. And complex - like most human beings, regardless of gender.

Street writer Peter Whalley declared in a 1990s interview that the Street's men were shiftless, idle and untrustworthy because of the original template laid down by the show's creator Tony Warren in 1960.

But that's not true. Jack Walker (Arthur Leslie), Harry Hewitt (Ivan Beavis), Frank Barlow (Frank Pemberton) and Mr Swindley (Arthur Lowe) were all dependable, hard working characters. Albert Tatlock (Jack Howarth) may have developed into a bit of a grouse and penny pincher after the first few weeks, but this was also a man who had worked all his life, and fought in the First World War.

The Street doesn't do Len Faircloughs any more.

Or Harry Hewitts, or Frank Barlows or...

And I think it's a shame.

In the modern day Street, I wouldn't trust a lot of the male characters with a jar of Bovril, and the women tend to be sexist martyrs.


Not where I live.


Friday, 24 September 2010

Savage '70s - Part 1: The Siege At No 5

The first of an occasional series in which we take a look at the horrors inflicted on the good folk of Coronation Street by our three chosen decades.

Sadistic '60s
, Savage '70s and Evil '80s will blast our rosy coloured specs off!

We begin with a look at 1970, where we find the Swinging '60s had absolutely ceased to swing, and the people of Coronation Street were starting to count the cost. Albert Tatlock (Jack Howarth), depressed by the state of things, locked himself inside No 1, while police officer Cyril Turpin (William Moore) was forced to retire when he attacked a criminal with a lead pipe. The man had been terrorising Cyril's wife, Betty (Betty Driver).

The year thudded to an end with the sound of a single gunshot ringing out from No 5.

The second edition of The Street magazine from 1989 had the details, together with the marvellous mock-up of the Weatherfield Gazette front page pictured above:



A single shot rang out in Coronation Street last night and an American G.I. fell dead. Before turning his gun on himself Sergeant Joe Donnelli confessed to an unsolved murder in 1968

Local man Stanley Ogden became a hero when he saved hostage, Minnie Caldwell, from the hands of a crazed gunman.

Mr Ogden of Coronation Street managed to persuade the gunman to release Mrs Caldwell in exchange for himself in the tense drama which unfolded yesterday at 5 Coronation Street, the home of Mrs Caldwell.

The siege ended when Donnelli, an American Army deserter, shot himself with his own gun.

Donnelli was very popular in Coronation Street and had been a visitor for some years. The locals in The Rovers Return had only good to say of him. Mrs Annie Walker the landlady described him as "a polite, courteous and friendly" person.

When he gave the officers who came to arrest him for desertion the slip he fled to the nearby flat of an old flame, Mrs Irma Barlow. It was to her that he confessed to the murder, in 1968, of Master Sergeant Steve Tanner (44), at Clayton Court Service Flats. An open verdict was recorded on the event.

A Police spokesman said the investigation would be reopened. Tanner's wife Elsie still lives in Coronation Street.

It is understood that a large debt existed between Donnelli and Tanner.
Donnelli was apprehended in the vicinity of the Rovers Return and burst into a nearby house where he held hostage its resident Mrs Minnie Caldwell (70).

After firing shots from the window he surprisingly allowed local lorry driver Stanley Ogden (48) into the house. Mr Ogden, who is the father of Mrs Barlow, tried to talk Donnelli into handing over his gun but to no avail - he turned the gun on himself and the siege was over.


Stan's wife Hilda (45) watched anxiously from the street while her husband was inside.

During the nerve-wracking vigil she kept a bold face and was always confident that "her Stan" would pull it off.

"My Stan's never flinched from anything," she said. "Old Hitler couldn't scare him off, so he won't worry much about this Yank."

Stan, a hero? Of course, things were not quite as they seemed!

Marvellous though the Weatherfield Gazette mock-up is, there is one flaw: the featured photograph of Coronation Street could not have been taken in 1970 - in fact it must date from a number of years later. Do you know why?

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The Truth About Betty's Hotpot...

Lovely Betty Williams (Betty Driver) - whose hotpot became an everyday fact of life on the menu at The Rovers Return in the 1980s.

Eee, Betty Turpin/Williams' hotpot. It's been a regular on the Rovers menu since Adam were a lad...

Oh, really?

Whilst it seems that a version of Betty's hotpot was first served at The Rovers over thirty-five years ago, studying hundreds of consecutive Corrie episodes from the mid-to-late 1970s and early 1980s, the hotpot was not a regular on the pub's menu - and indeed was a great rarity. The regular hot food at The Rovers in those days consisted of pies, pies, pies and more pies.

It was revealed in the early 1980s that Annie Walker always stocked Mertog's pies, apart from a brief break in 1978 when she bought them from Joe Dawson.

Watching the episodes, it is plain that Betty's hotpot became a Rovers menu regular during the great food menu expansion at the pub in the 1980s.

Funny, in't it - how reality differs from myth, chuck?

News of Betty's hotpot from the Coronation Street Blog here.

Remembering Margot Bryant

Margot Bryant, Minnie Caldwell in Coronation Street from 1960 to 1976, was a great real life character - and the complete opposite to Minnie, great fictional character though she was!

Here we feature some quotes about the lady from people who knew her, and a few from Margot herself.

Whilst Minnie stayed in her home town of Weatherfield and, over the years, looked after her mother, Jed Stone and Bobby the cat, Margot had a great spirit of adventure. And whilst Minnie was gentle and whimsical, if something displeased Margot, she didn't mince her words...

"I'm tough. Very tough." - Margot Bryant

"We flew from one place to another in old Dakotas made of cardboard. Often they'd say, 'This plane is unsafe, you'd better change to another plane.' It was great fun and terribly exciting."

- Margot on her experiences in World War II as an entertainer with ENSA. She travelled through Europe and the Middle and Far East.

"Of course cats understand me. Cats are super-intelligent animals. It depends on how you treat them. If you never spoke to a child, it would never learn anything. It's just the same with cats. If you speak to them all their lives, then they understand you."

- Margot Bryant. The one thing Margot had in common with Minnie was a tremendous love of cats.

"Margot was barmy about cats. A friend of mine once telephoned me and said, 'Now I've seen everything. I've seen your Minnie Caldwell, on holiday, in Venice, feeding stray cats from a huge pile of tins, wearing a mink coat.' So I said to Margot, 'I didn't know you had a mink coat,' and she said: 'Oh, that's nothing - I've got a tiger's whisker, and what's more I went in the cage to get it!' So, anything that had four legs and whiskers... Well, obviously, we couldn't give her a tiger, so we gave her Bobby."

- Tony Warren speaking on the 1988 tribute show Minnie Caldwell Remembered.

Margot has had a strange love for animals ever since she was a child and first heard the Bible story of Daniel in the lions' den. At Belle Vue Zoo, Manchester, she went to have some publicity pictures taken with a lion cub - and ended up the best of friends with a fierce Bengal tiger which flopped down beside her like a great fur coat at her feet when she stroked him tenderly on the neck and tickled him behind an ear. Nobody else but the zoo-keeper would go near the beast.

- Ken Irwin, author, The Real Coronation Street, 1970.

Her appearance can be deceptive. Behind that gentle, old lady look there lurks a dragon of a woman. And she chuckles quietly to herself at the thought of the deception she often portrays in the meek-and-mild role which has guaranteed her a comfortable retirement in her old age.

- Ken Irwin, The Real Coronation Street.

... and so Minnie Caldwell became the character who earned so much sympathy from the viewers. What they did not know was Margot's ability to forget key words in her dialogue and substitute others that frequently made no sense. "My father had a dog once," she said. "It was a ferret..."

- Jean Alexander (Hilda Ogden) in her 1989 autobiography, The Other Side Of The Street.

I had only been in the studio a couple of days when, opening the door of the Green Room, I heard a little Minnie Caldwell voice saying, "And the car was so filthy I wrote F**** on the bonnet with my finger!" I could hardly believe my ears. "Did Margot Bryant say that?" I asked somebody. "You haven't heard the half of it!" I was told.

- Jean Alexander, The Other Side Of The Street.

She [Margot Bryant] had a way with words which was at times distinctly unladylike, and what's more she couldn't have cared less who happened to be listening.

- Bill Podmore in his 1990 autobiography,
Coronation Street - The Inside Story.

"I liked her. We had our rows. Oh, we had our ups and downs. I once told her she was ruder than Ena Sharples was ever meant to be - because she'd been rude to some people that had come to watch an episode. They said, 'Hello, Minnie, my flower," and she said, 'How dare you call me Minnie, you oaf!' I was livid when I got to the dressing room. I said: 'Margot Bryant, you're ruder than Ena Sharples was ever meant to be!' And, with that, I swept off!"

- Lynne Carol (Martha Longhurst) appearing on the 1988 tribute show Minnie Caldwell Remembered.

"And Minnie was meek and docile - rather sweet, easily squashed... Margot was very sophisticated, rather arrogant, and could be very provocative..."

- Doris Speed (Annie Walker), Minnie Caldwell Remembered.

"What a pity it isn't a kitten!" - Margot Bryant to Eileen Derbyshire (Emily Nugent/Bishop) when the actress brought her new baby into the studio.

- The Other Side Of The Street, Jean Alexander.

"Certainly, she did project a sort of female WC Fields attitude, you know: I do like children, yes - on toast. I was unbelievably touched when she arrived one day and almost in a sort of shamefaced way, said: 'I've made you this.' And she had made me this little shirt for him, you see, which nobody would ever believe... I've treasured it now for twenty years and shall always treasure it because it was one of the loveliest presents I was ever given. But nobody would believe that, because never in a million years would Margot make a shirt for a CHILD, you know, a CAT yes, but..."

- Eileen Derbyshire remembers an unexpected gift, Minnie Caldwell Remembered, 1988.

There was a time when she [Margot Bryant] was having a few problems with her bank manager and he took her to lunch to sort it out. They went to a restaurant in Brighton, near where she lived, and a funeral party happened to be eating at the other side of the room. The chief mourner came solemnly over for the inevitable autograph and said, "I've just buried my wife." Margot looked at him very firmly and said, "Did anybody see you do it?"

- Bill Waddington (Percy Sugden) in his autobiography, The Importance Of Being Percy (1992).

And finally, for Minnie Caldwell Remembered in 1988, Doris Speed recalled how Margot, at that point not playing Minnie as a permanent Street character, visited her dressing room in 1960:

"She came to my dressing room, and she said, 'I've come to say goodbye.' And she wasn't looking one little bit arrogant, she was looking very sad. So I said: 'Oh, Margot, what nonsense, you'll be coming again - you were very, very good - which she was. And she said: 'Was I really?' And she welled over with tears. So there was a little bit of Minnie there, wasn't there?"

Name That Cliffhanger 1 - The Answer...

Actor Ian Mercer - flippin' 'eck, it's Pete Jackson! Nay, yer puddled - it's Gary Mallett...

Thanks to those who took part in my first Name That Cliffhanger quiz.

Tvor said...

That was the guy that later played Gary Mallett but back then he played one of Terry Duckworth's mates (Pete something?). Terry, however, ran off with this guy's missus.

Cerys said...

It's Ian Mercer as Pete Jackson, ex-army mate of Terry Duckworth. Terry ran off with Pete's wife Linda in the 1980's. Ian Mercer returned later as Gary Mallett and thumped Terry!

Darlene said...

Ian Mercer as Pete Jackson - he was dishy back then. I felt sorry for Pete when his mrs ran off with naughty Terry and would of loved to comfort him!

Paula G said...

Yes, Ian Mercer was nice looking. His wife was called Linda in the show and I thought she was a mug to run off with Terry. I remember Pete (Ian) cried and it was well acted and I felt so sorry for him! Terry was back in Weatherfield, minus Linda, in 1988.

Quite right!

It was rather a sad story. Nigel Pivaro had decided to quit his role as Terry Duckworth, and so up popped an old Army pal in the story-line, Pete Jackson (Ian Mercer).

Terry found Pete was living in the Weatherfield district when he was on the rounds with his "Cheap And Cheerful" door-to-door venture, and wasted no time in getting re-acquainted. The two men reminisced about their boozy Army days and "romantic" exploits and Terry discovered that Pete had left the Army and married.

Terry was immediately attracted to Pete's wife, Linda (Kazia Pelka), and she to him.

Pete had been made redundant from his last job as a security guard.

Terry invited Pete to join him and Curly Watts (Kevin Kennedy) at Cheap and Cheerful, and began an affair with Linda.

Linda hated herself for submitting to Terry's advances, but couldn't help herself.

Pete quickly became aware that she was unhappy. "It's not me, is it?" he asked her, aware that he'd been having a few too many boozy nights out recently.

No, she said - she didn't know what it was.

Determined to cut down on the boozy nights out, Pete returned home early one evening to find Linda in Terry's arms.

Unable to believe the betrayal of his wife and "best mate", Pete was stunned. The following day, he broke down in tears and begged Linda to stay with him.

Moved by his distress, Linda agreed, and Pete called at the Yard to tell Terry - and to warn him to keep away from Linda.

But Terry couldn't. He gave Curly £250 for his half share in the works van, dissolved their business partnership, and drove over to the Jackson house.

At first, Linda remained strong - she would stay with Pete, he needed her, she needed him.

But finally her will broke - and she packed her suitcase.

Terry told Pete he'd never wanted to hurt him. Pete replied: "Yer a bastard!"

"I love you. We'll be all right!" he told Linda.

But Linda told him she loved Terry, she'd never felt this way about Pete.

And she felt that if she didn't leave with Terry, she'd regret it for the rest of her life.

Pete was shattered, but as the van drove away, he said: "I'm gonna get you, Duckworth. I'm gonna kill yer."

That was our cliffhanger.

Another person distressed by Terry's actions was Curly Watts, who faced life alone at Cheap and Cheerful. Not realising that Terry had run off with Linda, he called on Pete the following day to invite him to come back into the business.

Pete asked if this was a perverted joke?

Curly was completely unprepared for the news that Terry had scarpered with Linda.

Terry's Mum, Vera (Liz Dawn), was also deeply distressed by the news.

As it turned out, the Terry/Linda relationship didn't last.

Terry was soon back in Weatherfield.

And who knows what happened to poor Pete, betrayed by his wife and his "best mate"?

I must say, Ian Mercer was very good in the role, portraying Pete as good natured, laddish, and touchingly "little boy lost" and tearful at the prospect of losing his wife. He left some of us wondering just how Pete was going to fare alone.

Ian Mercer returned to the show in 1995 as a new character, Gary Mallett.

And Terry Duckworth deprived Gary Mallett of his wife, Judy - by inadvertently causing her death.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

How Far From Coronation Street To Albion Market?

How far is the Coronation Street set from the old Albion Market set? asks Stuart.

I've heard that the old Albion Market set is still standing. Is that true? And if so, could it be revived?

Look at the aerial view for locations, Stuart. Albion Market is just across the road from Coronation Street!

The Albion Market set is still recognisable, although part of the old warehouse has now been demolished and the (then) derelict warehouses nearby (which housed the "Bubbles" Disco in the show) are now the Victoria and Albert Hotel.

Several other buildings associated with Albion Market - the Waterman's Arms pub and Klyne's bookies - were demolished for the hotel development in the early 1990s.

It would be impossible to revive the show in the original setting, and, fond of it though I was, I don't think anybody would ever want to!

Read my '80s Actual Albion Market article here and an uploader to YouTube pays homage to the show below.

That theme tune sets my spine tingling!

1989: Stone Cladding, A Stabbing, Demolition, New Buildings And PSCs...

1989: Brian Tilsley stabbed, Vera Duckworth stone-cladded, the Street transformed by demolition and building work, and the arrival of the PSCs. No wonder Percy Sugden (Bill Waddington), Emily Bishop (Eileen Derbyshire), Curly Watts (Kevin Kennedy) and Vera Duckworth (Liz Dawn) look aghast!

Cerys writes:

Looking at episodes from as recently as the 1980s, I'm surprised at how little exterior set and location filming there was. Why was that?

Well, for most of the 1980s, exterior and location filming was a cumbersome and costly business, Cerys. It was in 1989 that new Corrie executive producer David Liddiment decided to make use of new technology - PSCs, portable single cameras - and so "up" the outdoor work.

The excellent book The Coronation Street Story by Daran Little (1995) reveals:

For years, writers had been restricted to using only one or two location scenes per episode. This was because the scenes would have to be shot on expensive film rather than cheaper studio tape. By the late 1980s, however, lightweight equipment that used tape rather than film made location filming more economic. The cast suddenly found they had to use a new technical term 'PSC' (Portable Single Camera), and adjust to working at weekends.

And so, as The Street moved out of the 1980s and into the 1990s, the world was its lobster - as Hilda Ogden might say.

One of the first changes made in 1989 was the introduction of Bettabuys Supermarket into the story-line - filmed on location at a real supermarket.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Brian Park And Wikipedia On Kevin And Sally Webster

"Eee, Kev - beans on toast for tea."

Cerys has written, questioning a statement made in Wikipedia about a "lack of story-lines" for Kevin and Sally Webster (Michael Le Vell and Sally Dynevor) in their early years on the show, and a statement from ex-Corrie producer Brian Park made some years ago:

"Kevin and Sally Webster had years of washing their hands and eating baked beans on toast. Michael Le Vell and Sally Whittaker were then given great story-lines, including his affair with Natalie, Sally's catfight with her when she found out and the subsequent divorce."

Were Kevin and Sally featured in many story-lines in the 1980s?

asks Cerys.

Well, Cerys, I'm currently watching episodes from 1987 and they're choc-a-bloc full of Kevin and Sally. Sally has begun work at the Corner Shop, the pair have moved into the shop flat, and Sally is trying to get Kevin to buy Tilsley's garage.

No shortage of story-lines - although the nature of the story-lines changed in the 1990s and 2000s to become more sensationalised, as with other UK soaps.

In the 1980s, UK soaps became grittier and more topical.

Having done "grit" and "topical" issues, soaps then became more sensationalised during the last two decades.

Yes, Kevin and Sally led quieter lives in the 1980s.

They did wash their hands and eat baked beans on toast.

But there was certainly no lack of story-lines for the couple.

As for Wikipedia... large pinch of salt required.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

The Road To Coronation Street

Watched The Road To Coronation Street this evening, and what can I say? Everything was just spot on, and the tale of Tony Warren, his genius of an idea (to be called Florizel Street originally) and its first cast was definitely the highspot of my telly viewing this year.

Writer Daran Little did us proud.

I had my doubts about the casting of Jessie Wallace as Pat Phoenix, but she was simply brilliant - as was the rest of the cast. There were several moments in the show when I literally yelped with delight!

Congratulations to all concerned.

Name That Cliffhanger - 1

First in a new series of posts - Name That Cliffhanger.

We'll provide you with screen caps, the episode's final line of dialogue and the year of broadcast and we want you to tell us what was going on, the details of the story-line.

Here, it's 1987 and we see a young man standing in a wet street watching a van moving away.

The closing words are:

"I'm gonna get you, Duckworth. I'm gonna kill yer."

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Jack Duckworth - Pyjamas In The Rain...

I found this fabulous 1989 pic of William Tarmey, having a quick cuppa between exterior set Corrie takes, in the second edition of The Street magazine.

A Coronation Street resident since 1983, when Bill was given a permanent contract, Jack had been slowly established by the show's production team beforehand as an intermittent character.

This "intermittent" suddenly and unexpectedly boomed in popularity in 1983 with the glorious Vince St Clair story-line.

And shortly after that, Mr Duckworth landed the keys to No 9 Coronation Street.

They were richly deserved.

Our Jack is pure Street gold.

Monday, 13 September 2010

In Praise Of Alf Roberts

From the TV Times, 27 September - 3 October 1986:

Alf's got it right

Grumbling may be one of the characteristics of Coronation Street's Alf Roberts, played by Bryan Mosley, but his corner store is top-of-the-shops for service according to a recent national survey.

A shopfitting group's study says Alf has got it just right with his sense of service, and many other grocers in the North of England follow his example.

These days, Coronation Street seems to harbour lots of villains - even serial killers are not unknown - and buildings explode and people die horribly and there's generally a lot of aggro.

One building which exploded in quite recent years was the Street's Corner Shop, blown-up by a mad woman.

Back in the 1980s, such a story-line would have seemed absurd.

For almost the entire decade - from mid-1980 onwards - the shop was solely owned by one Alfred Sidney Roberts (Bryan Mosley).

Alf's wife, Renee (Madge Hindle), died in a road accident in the summer of 1980, and Alf decided to keep the shop.

He took on Deirdre Langton (Anne Kirkbride) as shop flat tenant and shop assistant later in 1980, and so began Deirdre's long, on-off association with the place.

Alf was never afraid to move with the times when it came to the items he stocked, even though his attempt to sell courgettes in 1981 failed miserably because his customers had no idea what they were and were not impressed with them when they were explained, but he brought tremendous change to the shop in 1985, when he masterminded its conversion into a mini market. "Alf's Mini-Market" was emblazoned on the front window, but the main sign above the door read "CORNER SHOP", in big red capital letters, on a white background. This was a first, as the shop sign had just carried the name of the current owner and occasionally such phrases as "Provisions" before. So, the mini-market was first and foremost the Corner Shop!

Twice widowed Alf was never happy alone, and 1985 also saw him marrying the brilliantly squawky Audrey Roberts, marking actress Sue Nicholls' graduation from intermittent to full time regular Corrie character.

And Audrey led Alf a merry dance - turning his life upside down with her spend, spend, spend attitude and a ready-made step-family.

Audrey was most unhappy living in the flat above the Corner Shop, and wanted to move somewhere more befitting her new station in life. She was not at all pleased when Alf bought No 11 Coronation Street, but decided to make the best of things.

In 1987, local councillor Alf faced a challenge for the ward from Deirdre Barlow, who campaigned with a faintly feminist agenda and a concern for local kids and road safety issues.

Deirdre won, and Alf suffered a heart attack.

Also in 1987 Alf employed Sally Webster (Sally Dynevor) as his assistant at the shop.

"I don't care what you say - boot polish isn't as good as it was in the old days - nowhere near!" Percy Sugden (Bill Waddington) gets on Alf's wick.

In 1989, Audrey made a determined attempt to get away from Coronation Street, persuading Alf to buy a posh house in another part of Weatherfield.

But the chain collapsed, and the couple were forced to move back into the Corner Shop flat as No 11 had been sold to the McDonald family.

But as the 1990s arrived, Audrey finally got her wish to be upwardly mobile, and she and Alf relocated to Grasmere Drive. Alf soon sold the shop, briefly bought it again, and then finally retired.

Alf and his years at the Corner Shop are now distant memories, but there's no doubt that they are remembered fondly by many Corrie fans.

Was Alf a mean man? Well, maybe a little, but it must said that after he died Audrey was dismayed to discover that there was rather less money than she had thought. It seemed that his caution had been justified and perhaps he'd let her have her way with the dosh rather too much.

Could Alf get wound up? Ooh, yes - he definitely had a slightly short fuse.

But most of all, Alf was a kind and decent man, a good friend and neighbour to many and a respected part of the Weatherfield community.

After the character died, I suddenly realised just how much I liked Alf, and just what a necessary role he had fulfilled in the show - as an everyday man in an area noted for its beautifully OTT characters.

Alf was everyday, none of his traits were terribly colourful or outstanding, he never set the screen alight with his exploits.

And yet I never found him boring - thoroughly enjoying the warmth, stability and sense of reality he brought to the show.

Definitely one of the unsung heroes of Weatherfield history!

The way it was - Alf, Audrey and Sally in 1989 - service with a smile!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Uttered In The '80s - Part 7

1987: Deirdre Barlow had been seeking nominations from her friendly neighbours so that she could stand for the local council. She asked Percy Sugden and regretted it, reporting afterwards:

"He thinks that a woman's place is in the oven."

Saturday, 11 September 2010

The History Of Hilda Ogden's Flying Ducks...

Hilda Ogden (Jean Alexander) has a night in with the telly and the ducks.

Hilda's famous ducks, taking wing across her mural (sorry, chuck, I mean muriel), were one of the most familiar sights in Coronation Street from the late 1970s to the late 1980s. One of them was crooked (Jean Alexander always checked this personally before filming commenced) and they looked absurd.

But very Hilda.

One of my favourite duck-related incidents occurred in the early 1980s, when Stan (Bernard Youens) was studying the racing form in one of the tabloids.


A duck fell off the wall.

Stan looked up briefly at the sudden loud noise but then, with that commendable lack of interest he always displayed regarding matters which did not involve beer, betting or fags, returned to his studies without bothering to find out what had made the noise.

How I loved Stan!

The ducks in the Ogdens' living room had previously been seen at No 11, home to Elsie Tanner (Patricia Phoenix), during the show's earliest episodes (including the very first), and Lorna has written to ask:

Surely Hilda had not acquired the ducks from Elsie? And why did one of them always point downwards?

Of course, Hilda would not have accepted Elsie's cast offs, Lorna, you're absolutely right.

In 1987, Hilda wondered whether to give her ducks to Kevin and Sally Webster (Michael Le Vell and Sally Dynevor) when they moved into the Corner Shop flat.

But, to Sally's secret relief, she decided not to as they had belonged to her Auntie Aggie and were of great sentimental value.

So, in the story-line, Hilda's ducks had never graced Elsie's wall.

As for the crooked duck, I'll let you into a little secret.

My great granny had a flight of birds, similar to Hilda's ducks, winging their way across her chimney breast, for many years.

When she died, my mother inherited them, and in 1997 she bequeathed them to me, being the oldest of her children.

By my family's standards (dirt poor) these were real heirlooms.

I was not impressed, particularly as Mum expected me to be delighted with them, and hang them in my lounge. This I finally did (anything to keep the peace and, in the interests of continuing peace, they're still there).

Some of my more uncharitable friends called my house "The Oggies" for a while, but the thrill of that soon wore off for them.

I was interested to note that each of my great granny's flying birds had a piece of stiff, thick wire attached to the back to enable them to be hung. It's my belief that a little tampering with the wire could easily cause one of the birds to adopt a downward course.

And I believe that this was what was done, to great comic effect, with one of Hilda's ducks!

Friday, 10 September 2010

When Did Deirdre First Work At The Corner Shop? And When Did Stan Die?

Deirdre began work at the Corner Shop in 1980 - when this very dinky exterior set was still in use!

Doreen is confused:

When did Deirdre first work at the Corner Shop? I'm sure it wasn't the 1970s as it says on-line. I don't recall her working with Maggie or Renee or Gail and Trisha - nor Blanche for that matter.

Quite right, Doreen - Deirdre Langton (Anne Kirbride) first worked at the Corner Shop in 1980. For her first few years in the show, the character's jobs were secretarial - both at Len and Ray's builder's yard and briefly in business with Emily Bishop (Eileen Derbyshire).

Renee Bradshaw/Roberts (Madge Hindle) only ever employed one assistant at the Corner Shop - and that was Betty Turpin (Betty Driver) for a short period whilst she was away. Deirdre never worked there until 1980, after Renee had died.

With Emily Bishop marrying Arnold Swain (George Waring) in 1980, Deirdre and Tracy (Christabel Finch) needed a new home, and newly-widowed Alf Roberts (Bryan Mosley) offered them the Corner Shop flat and Deirdre a job at the shop.

And that was how Deirdre's on-off Corner Shop career began!

Hilary asks:

When did lovely layabout Stan Ogden die in the plot?

21 November, 1984, Hilary.

Our screen caps show Jean Alexander as Hilda visiting Stan's grave in 1986 to tell him about a holiday she plans to take. She also tells him she would forgo any number of holidays to have him back, and asks him who she will have to talk to on her holiday, without him being there?

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Which Year?

We're back after our summer break and we've got some fun planned!

We're not saying "Flippin' 'eck! The factory's blown up again!" or: "Is that a dead body you have there?" or: "Oooh, we hear there's a tram about to crash off the viaduct - we wonder who has a grisly death? Can't wait!"

Nope, we're saying: "Ooh, Mr Swindley, what a lovely window display!" and: "There you are, Elsie Tanner - we told you the pigeons were in your loft!" and: "Can WE join The Percy Sugden Formation Dance Ensemble, please, Mr Sugden?"

And to start off with here's a fun little brain tester. The photo of a past Corrie cast above features England's former Poet Laureate John Betjeman, a great fan of the show.

The cast line-up indicates that the photograph could only have been taken during one particular year. Do you know which year and just what indicates the fact?