(This post was originally posted by Flaming Nora on the Coronation Street Blog September 2017, reposted to this blog with permission.)
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The only time I met Liz Dawn is a story that paints me in the worst possible way; so please don’t judge.
It was 2009. I was living in Preston – where the only hint of celebrity culture was seeing Kenny Baker in the local Morrisons or meeting Nick Park, the creator of Wallace and Gromit, when he came to visit my high school.
So imagine my surprise and delight when I was walking along the Adelphi roundabout with my friend Maria, who stopped and shouted, “is that Vera Duckworth?!” I looked up at the coach she was pointing at, which was motionless at the traffic lights. Yes, it was indeed Vera Duckworth, wearing an impossibly glamorous and over-sized fluffy hat. Hollywood had come to Preston.
Whatever I say about Jack and Vera will have been said a thousand times, by a thousand fans, but now isn’t the time for originality, just raw truth; they were like my Grandparents. (They even had a Grandson called Tommy!) They were the nation’s Grandparents. They were bloody funny too, and their legend lives on with every strong woman with fire in her heart and every hopeless bloke that just wants to sneak off to the pub. Beth and Kirk, Sally and Tim, Steve and Leanne, all very clear and loving descendants of Jack and Vera. But the Duckworth Duo were the originals; they were icons. I grew up with them on my TV and it broke my heart that Vera was so close but so far, soon to be driven away in her coach, out of sight.
Except it didn’t.
When the red light turned to green, the coach drove a few yards into the nearest carpark, over at the University. Maria and I had never run so fast in our lives, as we dashed to greet Vera Duckworth.
The coach doors opened as we arrived and a few minutes later she was walking down the steps and into the sunlight. She smiled kindly at the two young fans with a slightly crazed look in their eyes as she took photos with us. She was just as lovely and as funny as I’d hoped she would be.
After a few minutes, we turned around, realising there was an empty wheel chair behind us. It was for her. We’d made this lovely old lady stand up for far too long and all she needed to do was to sit down. It was then that I realised how badly ill she was.
I’ll always feel guilty about that, but I’ll also always be thankful that Liz Dawn gave us those few special moments. She gave us her time and it’s only on days like this you realise how precious that is.
About a year later, despite how ill she seemed, she showed how resilient she was by returning to Coronation Street – as a ghost! In a special scene filmed with Bill Tarmey for his last episode, we saw Jack and Vera reunited in the afterlife.
When I worked at The Coronation Street Tour, my favourite set to take people to was the Duckworth’s living room. They left their footprint on the cobbles by adding that gorgeously gaudy cladding to the front of Number 9 - the Street has literally been marked by Jack and Vera, Bill and Liz, and so have our hearts.
R.I.P Liz. And thank you. “Goodnight, my swamp-duck.”
Tvor @tvordlj on Twitter