Stewart Darby remembers some of the Coronation Street characters

Vi (Violet Carson who played Ena Sharples) was lovely! Oh God! She was a very good actress, Vi. I will tell you a couple of stories. There’s a couple of pictures, I don’t know if you remember it, but she’s like that grinning at me at the camera on one of the pictures from the exhibition. Now Vi was, you know, her character was the total opposite and I knew them all as well as they knew themselves! So I could say, like Minnie Caldwell.

This is one example of Minnie. The train crash, the train came off the viaduct many many years ago. Alan Rothwell who played Ken Barlow’s brother, is getting her out and I said to Margot, “Margot, your pal’s under the, I need a tear”, and she could cry like that, streaming. But Margot, she could be difficult! She could be tricky, Margot! She could, depending on her mood. I’d worked out a system. If I knew I was going to photograph her I’d meet her in reception and she used to come in with all these awful hats that she’d bought. They were terrible and I used to meet her at the Commissioner’s desk and I’d say, “Hello, Margot, how are you?” “I’m fine, dear boy” and what-have-you and I’d walk her down the steps and I’d say, “That’s a lovely hat. Is that a new one? Just bought it? I need to do a little picture of you after”. I used to call it the three-card trick to be honest because it was professional kind of, I was being genuine but for my own.

Now, you take Doris. Doris was lovely! Doris Speed. But she was deaf in one ear! And Fred Feast, who played the barman, and she did have a superiority complex, Doris, very much so. She did think that she was better than the others! But in a scene she’d go – and her nose would go up in the air – and she’d talk to Fred, the barman, and he’d have to come round the other side so that she could hear what he was saying! If he was on the wrong ear…he’d say, “I need to be on the other side”. And then, well, to finish with Pat. Actress through and through. Absolute through and through. Genuine.

This is Pat Phoenix?

Yeah. Sorry.

Who played Elsie Tanner.

Genuine, showbiz star from arriving in a taxi to arriving at night. A star and we all made her that way, I think, but there is one story I can tell you with Pat. I’d photographed her wedding to Alan Browning, this is. Forgot what year that was. She was doing a play and she was going to wear the wedding dress as part of one of the scenes and the Daily Star had just – it had not been going long – and they wanted an exclusive and they’d heard about Pat and the wedding dress and what-have-you and we’d arranged the photo call and of course the obvious is the Rovers Bar with a drink in a long, you know. Well, she arrived in a taxi at Make-up. Went down and she’s in tears. “What’s up?” “Me taxi was late, I’m not in the mood, I don’t want to do this picture, Stew! I don’t want to do it!” I said, “Calm down, I’ll get you a cup of coffee”. This was again the three-card trick really, if you see what I mean. So I’d got her a coffee and said, “Calm down, just have a rest and take your time and I’ll come back and see you in 10 minutes.” So I did and she’s finished in Make-up and I took her to her dressing room and I said, “We’ll go on the Street lot and we’ll do, you know.” “OK.” So I said, “I’ll be down in 10 minutes”, went down and she’s got this dress on and she did look nice and I went, “Oh, Pat, you’re absolutely stunning! You look absolutely marvellous! Are you OK? Come on” and I linked her and I took her to the Rovers Bar!!! Well, I did the pictures with a drink in the Rovers but she didn’t want to know. So I was kind of crafty in a way but you had to do that otherwise you’d lose out. You’d never get a picture in your life, you know! But that’s the one thing I missed when I left is the cast from the Street, I would say. And the crew, you know, really which was fantastic.

Photo by Stewart Darby

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