William Stewart, a US Army Air Force Captain in World War II, tells about his flight across the English Channel on December 15, 1944. Enemy planes were a risk, yes, but so too was the weather.
I was standing back of the pilot in a B17 stripped down bomber with about 17 pilots on board. I was flight operations officer for our squadron. We all were riding as passengers, flying over the English Channel and back to our base in England.
I was not trying to tell the pilot how to fly the plane. He was a better pilot than I. But I wanted to see the weather ahead through the pilot’s window.
Fog and clouds were the major nemeses for countries surrounded by water. Most of the deaths in my squadron were caused by fog or poor weather and only a few by mechanical failure. I was surprised to have spent so many hours over France and Germany – flying gasoline, ammo and bombs in and wounded out – and not taken any gunfire to my airplane. But, while flying over Muenster in Germany one day, I struck a balloon cable between my fuselage and right engine. This ripped all the de-icing boot off my right wing but it didn’t bring me down. I was flying an old dependable DC3 or, as some call it, a C47.
Foggy English Channel
So, this December day, crossing the English Channel, I was looking out the front of the cockpit to see how bad it was ahead of us. The weather was terrible to say the least. Most think of the weather as moving from west to east. But it forms and changes all the time in place.
We were flying about 100 feet off the water in what looked like a tunnel. This tunnel obviously was made by the heat of aircraft engines ahead of us; there was no air movement.
Suddenly the pilot said “That looks like an airplane on the water down there.” I had not seen anything. Maybe we had met another plane or overtaken another. Things happen quickly when you meet head on, each going over 150 miles per hour.
I asked the pilot if we had enough gasoline to get back to Paris and he said “No.” This is an example of a difficult and tight situation. Most are not as bad as this but there are many bad ones.
The pilot continued to fly ahead. Soon we could see the cliffs of Dover or a similar place dead ahead. When we got close to the cliffs, the pilot turned north. The tide was out, thus we had a sandy beach if we had to crash. We all had to look up to see the church steeples and houses on top of the cliffs. The pilot was an excellent flyer and, by radio, the co-pilot somehow located a control tower and airfield close by. This was one of the most difficult situations I was ever in during my years of flying in England.
Glenn Miller, Air Force Major and band leader
We landed at some RAF base near the coast. Only a superb pilot could have found it and lined up with the runway in near zero visibility. Later the next morning we learned that a plane flying Glenn Miller had disappeared over the channel.
There may not be any air movement, yet fog just forms in still air. You don’t realize that, unless you are flying in it. Over water, fog is a real killer for pilots. The pilot has no horizons.
Bill Stewart (1915-2005) is my father-in-law. This is from an unpublished memoir he and his wife, Marji Smock Stewart, wrote. He never knew if the plane that pilot saw in the water was Glenn Miller’s plane. But it was that same day, same place.
I’ve wondered what real jockeys think about horse racing novels. Especially those where newcomers – human and horse – manage against all the odds to win THE BIG RACE. It’s a frequent, and beloved, theme. National Velvet, The Black Stallion.
Jockeys know too well the years of blood, sweat, tears and broken bones that go into racing. Trainers do too. For the horses, many may be called but an infinitesimal number make it to the top races. So when I read the back cover of Jump! by Jilly Cooper, I was dubious. An older woman finds a horribly injured filly – and the rest is racing history. However, I absolutely love Jilly Cooper’s novels. Especially the Rutshire horsey ones. if anyone can do justice to the horse world with this premise, I thought, she can. And she does.
It takes a village
It takes a village to get a horse to the races. Fortunately our heroines, horse and human, can call on a village full of trainers, riders and wannabe owners. All of them love racing and most love horses. Enough of them have money. The wherewithal for preparing a horse – and a Jilly Cooper story – is here. The truly good, the selfish and silly, those evil to the core, and all points between. In this novel, Jilly Cooper keeps a curtain drawn on most of the evil done. Thank heavens! Some descriptions of horse “training” in her earlier books still give me nightmares.
So it works. It’s classic Jilly Cooper and as true to life as any of her tales of the English horsey set life may be. The covers of her books alone tell you what to expect. A fun, racy (in all senses) farce. Many people, horses, dogs, cats – all with huge personalities. A lot of sex, a lot of drinking. Schemes and manipulation. It’s as competitive off the course as on.
You get pulled into this world and you happily live there for as long as you can. You want to keep reading to find out what happens next. But you don’t want to come to the end either. So like many of the characters, you face a difficult choice. It’s just not as difficult as the choices that the characters must too often make. I thought I had read all Jilly Cooper’s novels so was delighted to find Jump! (2010). Looking further, I found another, Mount!, published in 2016. Jump! is about hurdles and steeplechase while Mount! is about flat racing. I can’t wait.
You could start reading the Rutshire Chronicles with Jump! since it’s set much later than the others. And the major characters are new. The main characters of the earlier ones are in Jump! but you can figure out their history.
Looking through Amazon.ca for links, I found this book. A 41-year old countess and a little mare compete against Nazi riders in a Czechoslovakian steeplechase just before World War II. It sounds like Jump! and National Velvet put together – but it’s a true story. Unbreakable is the story of Lata Brandisová and her horse and their 1937 Grand Pardubice. (tap image for link)
Today is Derby Day in Kentucky. Best of luck and safe ride to all the horses and jockeys!
The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory is about Henry VIII. It was published in 2014. Despite knowing this, I kept checking the publication date because of passages like this:
Dear God, I’d never tell the truth to this king… He has become a man quite out of control of his teachers, of the priests, perhaps of himself. There is no point giving the king an honest opinion, he wants nothing but praise of himself. He cannot bear one word of criticism. He is merciless against those who speak against him. (p. 495)
In 2019, two years into US President Donald Trump’s reign, The King’s Curse reads like subversive allegory. That is unintentional of course. It was written pre-Trump. Also Philippa Gregory is a historian, and keeps her imagination true to historical likelihoods.
A passage in her author’s note, about “how easily a ruler can slide into tyranny,” is chilling, though. And it applies equally to those born to the position or elected.
Because no one effectively defended
As Henry moved from one advisor to another, as his moods deteriorated and his use of the gallows became an act of terror against his people, one sees in this well-known, well-loved Tudor world the rising of a despot. He could hang the faithful men and women of the North because nobody rose up to defend Thomas More, John Fisher, or even the Duke of Buckingham. He learned that he could execute two wives, divorce another, and threaten his last because no one effectively defended his first. (p. 603)
Henry VIII just wanted people to like him. He was a breath of fresh air at the beginning. Accomplished in everything he did, young and handsome, in love with his Queen Katherine. But then it went wrong. His moral compass, it seems, centred on himself. The belief system and welfare of the country took second place to what he needed. And he needed a son. So began his complete upheaval of everything sacred and secular in Britain. For Henry, the political was extremely personal.
Lady Margaret Pole
The King’s Curse tells Henry VIII’s story from boyhood, when he was the “spare”, to midway through his six wives. Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, tells the story. She is a York from the Plantagenet line of British monarchs. The Yorks wore the white rose in the War of the Roses, opposed to their cousins, the Lancasters, whose emblem was the red rose.
Henry VIII’s father was the first Tudor king. Henry VII took the throne after defeating Richard III, the last Yorkist king, in battle. So Henry VIII was desperate for a son to ensure the continuation of the still new House of Tudor. But it lasted only to the next generation. First the brief reign of his young son Edward VI, then his daughter Mary, and finally Elizabeth I. She fulfilled her father’s dreams of empire but, having no children, the Tudor dynasty died with her.
The King’s Curse is the last in The Cousins’ War series by Philippa Gregory. It also fits in with her Tudor Court novels (philippagregory.com). Despite it being late in the story, you could easily start her books with this one. It stands alone and touches on much of what is in the other novels. For more on those, see my Reading History.
Are people in Weatherfield stockpiling water, tinned food and toilet tissue? They are in real life Britain, according to news reports. People fear shortages, due to goods tied up at customs when Britain leaves the EU. Entrepreneurs are rising to the challenge. You can buy a Brexit Box, a 30 day supply of freeze-dried food. At £295, they are moving briskly.
Since hearing about the Brexit Box, I’ve been imagining Kirk jumping on that bandwagon. What would he see as essentials for survival? But there’s no point in my going back to the Street in hopes of such a storyline. Coronation Street, Emmerdale and EastEnders decided in 2016 not to deal with Brexit, according to the Daily Star. Already all over the news, so not something their viewers wanted to see in their soaps as well.
Perhaps saying nothing was the right decision. The Archers, a BBC radio serial on air since 1951, had its farming family talk about Brexit – like they would be. But complaints poured in: enough about Brexit in the news, didn’t want it in their show too.
And yet what a perfect venue for discussion of such a monumental decision. The Archers, Coronation Street and all UK continuing serials. Each is set in a different part of the country, each has characters who would be affected in different ways by staying in the EU or leaving. Fans know the characters well. Like their audiences, leaving the EU would benefit some and hurt others.
The characters’ history and circumstances provide a way to look at the economic, political and societal aspects of Brexit. Maybe it’s Liz popping over to Spain to see her son Andy, Underworld worried about getting materials, or the corner shop facing emptied shelves as the tinned beans are snatched up. What would the McDonalds, or Connors, think about the question of the border between Northern Ireland and the south? Having already been the target of racial abuse, would Alya fear further attacks?
Britons face these questions now, and uncertainty has caused divisiveness. It is a shame, I think, that Coronation Street has not laid out some Brexit scenarios for its characters The long arc storytelling of soaps is ideal for this.
And unlike North American daytime soaps, British serials are part of personal and public discourse. If it happens on Coronation Street, it’s in the news the next day. Looking at Brexit through Dev’s eyes, or Carla’s, can only help get all aspects out there in a real but non-confrontational way.
Spotted Dick and Custard
Coronation Street is often criticized for showing a Britain of the past. For not reflecting the ethnic and socio-political diversity in what is no longer a nation of (white) shopkeepers, at their best during the war. Maybe this would be a time to use that to show that Britons have been through worse, and survived. That there was a UK before the EU. That immigration and diversity have always been part of the British Isles. Conflict too. But they did survive.
Maybe the oldies need to gather the young’uns in the Rovers. Have Rita lead a singsong of The White Cliffs of Dover. Ken can quote Percy Sugden: “When you’ve prepared spotted dick and custard for one hundred and fifty of ’em under heavy artillery fire and not allowed one lump in that custard, you can do anything.”
A big year for royal weddings. Tomorrow, October 12th, Princess Eugenie will marry. In May, her cousin Prince Harry married Meghan Markle. Both large, lavish and televised. But, in between the weddings of the Queen’s grandchildren, a distant Mountbatten cousin got married. That wedding was private but it caused a big ‘wow’.
Princess Eugenie of York is marrying Jack Brooksbank. “Who?” seems to be a common question in online comments – about both of them. She is the younger daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. Jack worked in a bar in London. Yes, he’s a commoner. But it’s an upscale bar, and his pedigree has baronets and the like in it. He and Eugenie are third cousins and he has kin connections with other royals. As the Daily Mail put it, his family may have started as Yorkshire farmers, but “they grew rich… and married well.”
Eugenie and Jack will marry in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, same place as Harry and Meghan. A two-day reception will be at Eugenie’s family home, the Royal Lodge in Windsor. Their guest list, at over 850 for the ceremony, is even larger than Harry and Meghan’s.
But there is not as much public hoopla for Eugenie’s wedding as there was for Harry’s. That is despite Eugenie’s being the first wedding of a British Princess since her Aunt Anne’s. Maybe that’s because she’s the daughter of the Queen’s second son whereas Harry is the second son of the first-born. Maybe too because Jack, in himself and his family background, does not cause celebration of Royal Family diversity and inclusivity as Harry and Meghan’s marriage did. Also as the wedding of their distant cousin did.
Lord Ivar Mountbatten
‘I’ll see your divorced American bi-racial bride, and raise you a white English groom.’ So might Lord Ivar Mountbatten have said. His engagement caused a flap when it was announced in June. The second marriage of a British aristocrat – what was the big deal? First gay marriage in the Royal extended family, that’s what. Lord Ivar married James Coyle in front of a couple hundred family and friends. None of the Royals were there, but they sent their best wishes.
Who’s Lord Ivar Mountbatten? You might ask. I did. His late father was David, 3rd Marquess of Milford Haven. David was the Queen’s third cousin and Prince Philip’s first cousin. He was Philip’s best man at his wedding and a close friend. Read any biography of Prince Philip, you’ll find David Mountbatten stories. He was quite the lad.
David and Philip’s uncle was Louis Mountbatten, Earl Mountbatten of Burma. The last Viceroy of India, he was assassinated by the IRA in 1979. Louis’ wife was Edwina Ashley. Read any book about interesting – ‘scandalous’ – women of the early 20th century and you’ll find Edwina Mountbatten.
In those same stories is Edwina’s friend and sister-in-law, David’s mother Nadejda de Torby. An English marchioness by marriage, Nada was a Russian countess by birth. She was also Russian literary ‘royalty’, being a great granddaughter of Alexander Pushkin.
So an interesting family. Lord Ivar Mountbatten’s own life was pretty standard for the aristocracy. A geologist and gentleman farmer with a wife and daughters. Then, in 2011, an amicable divorce. Four years later, he came out. He and James Coyle made public their relationship. Mr. Coyle, an airline cabin services director, has no royal antecedents as best my googling can detect.
Lord Mountbatten and Mr. Coyle married Sept 22, 2018 at Lord Mountbatten’s Devon estate. Those are the names and titles each will continue to use. So the protocol people didn’t have to scramble to figure out title usage for same-sex spouses, but this marriage gives them a heads-up on it.
Princess Eugenie’s wedding will be televised on TLC in the US (starting live at 4:25 ET). It’s on ITV in the UK. But apparently not in Canada at all. Pity! You can read more here about the Mountbatten family. For my thoughts on Harry and Meghan’s wedding, see Princess Harry.
On Saturday, Meghan Markle will become Princess Harry. That is when she will marry Prince Henry of Wales, second son of the Prince of Wales and better known as Prince Harry.
She probably won’t be called Princess Harry. Although it is the proper form for non-royal wives of princes, it has not been used often. The only example I know of is Princess Michael. That is how Baroness Marie Christine von Reibnitz has been known since 1978 when she married Prince Michael of Kent, first cousin of the Queen.
The Queen likely will give Harry a dukedom or earldom, as she did his elder brother William upon his marriage. That way, his wife can be called the Duchess or Countess of whatever.
Meghan is American and an actress. Although Grace Kelly and other American actresses have married into European royalty, this is a first for Great Britain.
A more serious aspect of British royal marriage rules does not have to be an issue for them, or the Queen or Parliament. Meghan is divorced, with a living ex-husband. Despite being founded by a King who wanted to divorce and remarry, the Church of England long forbade the marriage of divorced persons unless the ex-spouse had subsequently died.
For being free to marry Harry in the Church of England, Meghan has 1992 to thank. That year, called by the Queen an “annus horribilis”, Harry’s parents Charles and Diana separated after scandal upon scandal. Tabloid photos of his Aunt Sarah, Duchess of York, scandalized the world after she and Prince Andrew split up. His Aunt Anne, Princess Royal, divorced her husband Mark Phillips then married Timothy Laurence. All this in one year.
Princess Anne and her second husband Timothy Laurence married in the Church of Scotland. It allowed the marriage of divorced, but not widowed, persons. So by getting married at a church near Balmoral, her family home in Scotland, they sidestepped Church of England dicta.
Dissolution of Charles and Diana’s marriage was a thornier issue. He was heir to the throne, therefore the next head of the Church of England. Their marriage and its problems were much more public than his sister’s first marriage had been. However, Charles and Diana did divorce in 1996.
The next problem was what to do about his relationship with Camilla Barker-Bowles. She too was divorced, and her ex-husband was alive. So in November 2002 the Church of England changed its rules. The General Synod said that divorced people with living exes could remarry in the Church.
Despite having the way open to a church wedding, Charles and Camilla did not marry until 2005 and then in a civil ceremony, followed by a Church of England blessing.
Three Kings in One Year
It is the story of Harry’s great-great uncle, 82 years ago, that has been most compared to Harry and Meghan. In December 1936, the new King Edward VIII abdicated the throne rather than give up the woman he loved. She was an American divorcée, Wallis Simpson.
1936 was commemorated in a plate my mother had as Three Kings in One Year. George V died in January, Edward abdicated December 10th, and his brother became George VI. The former king and his new wife were given the titles of Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and effectively banished from the UK.
While Meghan Markle’s story invites comparison with Wallis Simpson, Harry’s story is maybe more like that of Princess Margaret. Like Harry, Margaret was a member of the inner circle of Royals and always would be. Also like him, she was in little danger of actually ever becoming monarch.
In 1953 Margaret was third in line for the throne, behind her nephew Charles and niece Anne. She was in love with RAF Group Captain Peter Townsend, and he proposed to her. Problem was he had just divorced his wife. The Queen and Parliament would not agree to their marriage. Over the next two years, they sought ways to allow it without compromising Church or government rules. If Margaret gave up her place in the line of succession, they eventually decided, she could marry him in a civil ceremony. But in 1955 Princess Margaret said that, due to “the Church’s teachings” and her “duty to the Commonwealth”, she would not marry Townsend.
In 1960 Margaret married Antony Armstrong-Jones. Wikipedia says she “reportedly accepted his proposal a day after learning from Peter Townsend that he intended to marry a young Belgian woman [who] bore a striking resemblance to Princess Margaret.” True or not, it fits well in the story of thwarted romance. Princess Margaret and Armstrong-Jones’s wedding was the first to be televised. Fitting for her, the glamorous sister and maybe the first Royal media star. Also maybe in keeping: in 1978 they divorced amid tabloid scandal.
So, from Edward VIII and Wallis, through Princess Margaret to Harry’s own parents, the path has been cleared for him and Meghan. The Church, the Queen and the public have given their blessing.
A girl from Tinseltown and a prince. Maybe General Hospital will use the storyline. The soap opera is part of Meghan’s story. Her parents met while working on it and Meghan got her acting start there.
The Princess Harry story is a happy-ending romance, one hopes. Wallis and Edward, Princess Margaret too, are more tragic romance stories.
See The King and Us for why I think Wallis Simpson and Parliament did us all a favour. Also, although Coronation Street hasn’t yet mentioned Harry’s wedding (at least in Canadian airtime), I loved their take on William and Kate’s marriage in 2011.
A week ago, the death of an elderly dog made headlines. A pet’s death is always momentous for his or her loved ones. But it’s usually not world news. Willow, who died April 15th, was Queen Elizabeth’s pet, however, and her last link to Susan, matriarch of the Royal Corgis.
Willow is a 14th generation descendant of the Queen’s first Corgi, Hickathrift Pippa, known as Susan. Susan was born in 1944 and died in 1959. King George VI gave the two-month old pup to his daughter Elizabeth on her 18th birthday, 74 years ago.
Corgis in the York family
Susan wasn’t the first Corgi in the royal household. In 1933, the Queen’s father bought a pup from Corgi breeder Thelma Evans Gray. The pup’s name was Dookie (Rozavel Golden Eagle). Three years later, a female pup called Jane (Rozavel Lady Jane) joined the family.
Unbeknownst to the then Duke of York, he and Thelma had discussed dogs before. When Thelma was 9, her dog was killed by a car – the Duke’s car. He wrote to Thelma’s parents, offering to buy her another dog. Thanks but no, they replied, Thelma’s grief was too great. Thelma, however, wrote to him that she would happily accept. He told her that they must abide by her parents’ wishes.
Thelma grew up and established Rozavel Kennels. When the Duke bought the Corgi pups from her in the 1930s, he didn’t make the connection to the child Thelma. And she never told him.
The Susan Lineage
Susan was the Queen’s first dog of her own. Susan had pups and they had pups. So through the decades, there were always Royal Corgis of Susan’s line. But several years ago, the Queen said no more. She didn’t want to leave any young dogs behind.
Willow, Monty and Holly were the last three Susan descendants. Monty died in September 2012, soon after the Corgis starred in the London Olympics “007” video with the Queen and Daniel Craig. Monty was named for Monty Roberts, the “Horse Whisperer” and friend and advisor of the Queen. Holly passed away in 2016.
The Queen’s Pembroke Welsh Corgis were of the best stock. She put the same care into their pedigree that she does for her horses. But they were her pets, her friends. Unlike her horses, the Queen has never entered her dogs in competition.
Only one royal Corgi ever competed in dog shows. The Queen gave Windsor Loyal Subject, aka Edward, to Thelma Gray, along with permission to show him. He won twice at Crufts dog show in the 1970s.
The Queen still has her Dorgis. They started from an unsanctioned dalliance between one of the Corgis and Princess Margaret’s Dachshund. She also has one elderly Corgi. The Queen took Whisper home after his owner died in 2017. Bill Fenwick, her retired gamekeeper, and his late wife Nancy looked after the Royal Corgis for many years.
So a Corgi is still with the Queen. But no Corgis of Susan, a lineage that has accompanied the Queen for longer than even Prince Philip.
The Battle of Passchendaele ended 100 years ago today. It is also called the Third Battle of Ypres and the “Muddy-est, Bloody-est of the whole war”. The latter is what Alberta infantryman Arthur Turner called it in his diary.
Passchendaele is a small village in Belgium near Ypres close to the border with France. British troops came to the aid of the French there in July 1917. Australian and New Zealand divisions were brought in early in September, then the Canadian Corps in October.
The Canadians weren’t supposed to be involved. They’d just come off the terrible Battle of Vimy Ridge in July. They were assigned to diversionary attacks on the Germans occupying nearby Lens, France. But the British Commander, General Douglas Haig, ordered them in over the protests of the Canadian Commander General Arthur Currie. Too much of a mess, too uncertain of a strategic gain, and the likelihood of too many casualties.
Be that as it may, General Haig was Commander in Chief and so his plan went ahead. And that meant reinforcements. The British and ANZAC troops were exhausted and their numbers drastically depleted. They pulled out and four divisions of the Canadian Corps moved in.
General Currie decided the first thing to do was clean up the place. The Canadians had fought two years earlier at the 2nd Battle of Ypres, and Currie and the men could see the bodies still there. Bodies of men, mules and horses had been churned up from their shallow graves by the renewed fighting. So they reburied the dead, built roads and board walks, brought in supplies.
Battle of Mud
The 2nd Battle of Ypres was marked by gas warfare, the 3rd Battle by mud. Complete desolation of the land from the years of battle and heavy rains caused the drainage system to collapse. “The mud is a worse enemy than the German” said NZ divisional commander Sir Andrew Russell.
Two months of horrific fighting and losses by both sides, but the Canadian troops prevailed. The Germans were pushed back and the battle ended November 10th.
Then in December, General Haig pulled out the Allied troops guarding this patch of land won at such expense. The Germans moved in again. After two more battles of Ypres, the Allied Forces won it back by the end of the war a year later.
British soldier and poet Siegfried Sassoon was not at Passchendaele. He was in hospital, but could well imagine what it was like. He could imagine too the process of ‘king and country’ that took so many young men to fields of slaughter like it. In October 1918 he wrote Memorial Tablet.
My name’s Liz Dawn. I play Vera Duckworth. I bet all your listeners will recognize this voice!
What’s Vera like?
Well, actually, Jack and Vera, they’re the best – most happily married couple in Coronation Street. Really! Because every time they have an argument, well, it’s a form of endearment! It’s not really like it looks, it’s a caress!
Well, Vera, she’s quite happy. In this day and age, she’s got her job, her husband’s working. I go play bingo with Ivy. Great corner shop, great Rovers Return. I’ve got lots of friends. Really she hasn’t a bad life, don’t you think? Compared to some people. I don’t know what it’s like in Canada, but we’ve got so much unemployment, you know. I’m so happy that Jack’s got this job in the pub. and he don’t really do owt wrong.
He just has these pigeons he loves. I don’t know whether you’ve seen the pigeons. Oh, he loves them. We’ve got them in the yard and every morning he goes out and feeds them. and he listens for them cooing.
Do you know much about pigeons? Well, they’ve got a sound of their own. And they’re filthy! So he’s having to clean the cages out, you know.
She should have an affair
Apart from that, actually, not a lot happens for Vera. I think she should have an affair. With Reg Holdsworth in Bettabuy. Because I worked at this supermarket. He’s a bit manic looking, Reg Holdsworth. But I think Vera could quite feel as if she’s come up in the world, you know, having an affair with a manager. Do you know what I mean – after Jack! She’d think she’d quite done well for herself.
What’s she like really: well, she’s down to earth. She likes a laugh. Some people think she’s nosy but she’s not really. It’s just her way, do you know what I mean?
I don’t think Vera will ever be able to afford to go to Canada. How much is it to go to Canada? [₤300, 400] Oh! I mean, our Jack can’t even get his glasses mended. You know our Jack, he wears Elastoplast around the edge. You see, that is about five pints to Jack, to get them repaired. That’s what he’s like, really, you see. He’d rather spend money for beer than have his glasses repaired.
Vera since 1974
Oh, do you want me to be Liz now? I get mixed up sometimes. I go into an identity crisis. Sometimes I’m Vera and sometimes I’m Liz. Right, well, my name’s Liz Dawn. I’m married, got 4 children. I’ve got 4 grandchildren.
I started off singing in working men’s clubs, you know, to earn a bit of money, extra money. Then I joined Equity to do ‘extra’ work. But when I joined, it was just around the time when we had a lot of Northern directors, and story writers that wanted the real thing. So anyway, I landed on my feet. It just happened the right time. And I had quite a few cameo parts in good plays.
So then I ended up in Coronation Street. And that were 1974 when it was Ken Barlow’s old factory. He managed the factory, and that’s where it all started really. And I’ve been in it ever since.
Next Ena Sharples
I’m hoping to be the next Ena Sharples, you know. I want to be in the snug, with an hairnet, drinking milk stout, with Ivy and a few other old cronies. Wearing big bloomers. Because I just love the programme.
[Did you watch it before you were on the show?] Yeah, I thought it were brilliant: oh, look at this! It’s so different than the programmes that were around at that time. Everybody spoke ‘very nice’, ‘very posh’. Weren’t a bit like real life, not in the North anyway. And that’s how I started.
I think It’s more of an institution now. It’s not a soap really, is it. After thirty-two years, I think it’s part of people’s life. If it came off it’d be like taking the 9 o’clock news off. People have just grown up with it.
The Duckworth Doorknob
We have a tour – Granada Tours – here, and people come round, there’s thousands come round a day, from all over the world. And they keep pinching my stone cladding! I don’t know, it’s a bit of memorabilia or whatever it is.
And one week they took the doorknob. What they thought they were going to do with the Duckworth doorknob I don’t know! They sent us out to do a scene, it was in the old factory. I came out of the factory, walked over the road, and I said to the prop man where’s my doorknob? He said them bloody tours again! I said what do you mean? And he said somebody’s took your doorknob. I said the doorknob! Can you imagine, it’d be stuck on somebody’s mantlepiece. They’re having cups of tea and boiled ham sandwiches and say ‘oh look, did I tell you that’s the Duckworth doorknob?’ Oh dear!
Duckworths visit Canada
I went over with Easter Seals, in Ottawa. Me and Bill. It were hard work. We were only there a week, 6, 5 days, something like that. But we raised a lot of money for charity and that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it.
[Why do you think people in Canada and other countries watch?] I think it’s memories isn’t it, well, people that’ve gone over. People who’ve gone over to live there. I think it’s a piece of home, don’t you?
So that’s how it started, yeah. Time flies, doesn’t it. People say to me, did you think you’d be in it so long. Well, it’s just part of my life now. It’s hard work, it’s a fast show, it’s a 3 half hour programme a week. So you haven’t really time to look around. In my head sometimes it’s 1982, you know.
[Do you do any other work, other acting?] No, not acting, because our contract is very binding. You can’t do other things and quite rightly so. Because that’s what makes the characters believable. I mean, they’re a bit unbelievable aren’t they if you see them on other programmes.
And I think Granada has always had the right idea about how things should be. You know, the programme and how it should be run. I think it’s always been looked after, people kept their eye on things. ‘Hang on, you can’t do a pantomime and be in this.’ Well, you can’t anyway, it’s too – you couldn’t do a lot of things in this programme. It’s too time-consuming, you know.
Well, I’ve got to go. Because my husband’s waiting for me. But I’ve enjoyed talking to you and I’d like to wish your listeners all the best. When you go home, just say Liz Dawn, or say Vera says, look after yourselves.
In March 1992 I was lucky enough to meet actor Liz Dawn in her dressing room in the Granada Coronation Street studios. This is a slightly condensed transcript of our conversation. There is a lot of laughter in the actual tape. A lovely woman who made you feel right at home. Thank you, Liz – and Vera. (Meeting Jack Duckworth has more on my interviews with Liz and Bill Tarmey, our Jack.)
Twenty years ago today Diana, Princess of Wales died at the age of 36. She was the daughter of the 8th Earl Spencer and 15 times great-granddaughter of King Henry VII. She was the ex-wife of Prince Charles, also 15x-great-grandchild of Henry VII.
Diana’s line comes from Princess Mary, daughter of Henry VII. Charles traces his ancestry from Henry VII’s heir, Henry VIII. Her family therefore is nobility while his is royalty. Her sons, however, are royals and direct heirs to the British throne.
Spencer Family Tree – from Edward IV to Diana
18th century Lady Diana Spencer
A several times great-aunt, and name-sake, of Diana’s almost took the same path from nobility to royalty. (See her highlighted in chart.) That earlier Lady Diana Spencer‘s grandmother tried to arrange her marriage to Frederick, heir apparent of George II. But he married Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha. Frederick died before his father and his son became the next king, George III.
While Frederick was Prince of Wales, his grandfather George I created the title of Duke of Edinburgh for him. His son inherited the title but it “merged into the Crown” when he became king in 1760.
Two more times the title was created and died out before King George VI re-created it for Philip Mountbatten in 1947. In order for it to pass to Prince Philip’s youngest son Edward, as planned, instead of to eldest son Charles, as it would through rules of primogeniture, it will likely have to officially end and be re-created once more.
So had history played out differently, another Lady Diana Spencer would have been in line to be Queen. But ‘our’ Lady Diana is the only Spencer who actually married into the top echelon of the Royals. The People’s Princess, PM Tony Blair called her, “queen of people’s hearts,” she hoped to be. A fairy tale princess she certainly was.
Newfoundland Mi'kmaq, family history, Coronation Street, etc.