Advertisement

Liz Dawn: A life of drama and humour

From BBC - September 26, 2017

For more than 30 years, Liz Dawn played the loud and flighty Vera Duckworth in ITV soap Coronation Street.

Her turbulent relationship with husband Jack proved to be one of the Street's most enduring storylines and Vera became one of Weatherfield's most popular characters.

The episode featuring Vera's peaceful death in 2008 attracted more than 12 million viewers.

Liz Dawn was born Sylvia Butterfield on 8 Nov 1939 in Leeds, where her father worked as an engineer.

Childhood plastic surgery

At the age of eight, she fell in the street, gashing her mouth so badly that doctors feared she could be left with a hare lip.

But by chance, a skilled plastic surgeon was in Leeds at the time and a series of skin grafts repaired the damage.

She said: "The other kids used to run after me and say, 'Can I see your plastic face?' But I just felt so lucky to have been treated and put back to normal."

After leaving school, Liz took a series of jobs including working in a garment factory and as a cinema usherette. She was also a shoe salesgirl and a light bulb seller in Woolworths.

She married Walter Bradley in Leeds in 1957. The union produced a son, Graham, but the marriage collapsed after less than two years.

Her second marriage, to electrician Donald Ibbertson in 1965, resulted in the births of three daughters.

She began singing in nightclubs and then started auditioning for small acting parts in TV programmes and commercials.

Already a heavy cigarette user, the smoke-filled clubs in which she performed would have a serious effect on her health later in life.

Liz's breakthrough came when she was cast in Colin Welland's 1974 drama Leeds United, which appeared in the BBC's Play for Today slot.

Campaigning

Based on real events, the play documented the struggle by a group of female textile workers to get equal pay with men, only to be thwarted by their own trade union.

Although her role was a small one, it did lead to her being offered a bit part as factory machinist Vera Duckworth in an episode of Coronation Street.

She continued to take parts in other TV programmes until the arrival of the character Jack Duckworth in 1979 saw her role as Vera greatly enhanced.

The marital strife between the two became a major feature of the soap. They argued frequently, seemingly the epitome of a couple who cannot live with each other but fear being apart.

Both engaged in extramarital affairs. This led to one of the high spots of the drama when Vera confided in barmaid Bet Lynch about Jack's infidelities, unaware at the time that he was having a fling with Bet herself.

Ill health

Advertisement

Continue reading at BBC »