Stars say a final farewell to Street’s Liz Dawn

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The little houses clustered in the shadow of Salford Cathedral looked like Coronation Street itself.

The contrast with the centre of Manchester, barely half a mile away, could not have been more appropriate. The stars arrived by the coachload but the friend whose life they had come to celebrate would have been at home here.

Michael Le Vell and Sally Dynevor at the funeral of Liz Dawn at Salford Cathedral

Michael Le Vell and Sally Dynevor at the funeral of Liz Dawn at Salford Cathedral

Liz Dawn was from humble beginnings in Leeds. Her road to fame had been a long one: as Sylvia Butterfield she had sold light bulbs in Woolworth’s, hemmed seams in a tailoring factory and walked the aisles as a cinema usherette.

Even as one of the most famous women in the land, in the person of TV’s Vera Duckworth, she clung to her working class, West Riding values, her co-star Samia Longchambon, noted.

“She wanted to share her good fortune with everyone and was the first to help charities that sought her patronage and support,” Miss Longchambon said.

The actress broke down as she and her co-star Alan Halsall delivered a joint tribute to Miss Dawn at the service, and both had to comfort each other at times as they recalled how generous their friend had been when they joined the cast as teenagers.

Helen Worth at the funeral of Liz Dawn at Salford Cathedral

Helen Worth at the funeral of Liz Dawn at Salford Cathedral

“Liz was a hard-working wife and mother, sister, grandmother great grandmother and a great friend,” Mr Halsall said. “She was a true inspiration and was always so generous with her time. And she never expected anything in return.”

A jobbing actress who had held down small parts on other Granada shows, Miss Dawn had arrived on Coronation Street in 1974 and stayed 34 years.

No-one had expected Vera to become a mainstay of the show, as much a part of Weatherfield as Ena Sharples and Albert Tatlock, but she forged with her screen husband, the late actor Bill Tarmey, an indelible double-act.

“Her formidable partnership with Bill is etched forever in the programme’s history as over three decades they entertained us with their incredible wit and legendary Duckworth sparring matches, written so beautifully and enhanced by their gutsy, honest performances,” Miss Longchambon said.

Don Ibbetson, her off-screen husband of 52 years, was in tears as he arrived for the service at the Roman Catholic cathedral.

Their son, Graham Ibbetson, told the congregation that the family learned only a few weeks ago that doctors had not expected her to live more than five years beyond her 2001 diagnosis of emphysema because her lungs were in such a poor condition.

In her final days the condition was very different to the health challenges she had faced over the previous years, he said.

“Mum was so pleased to be home, smiling, happy, delighted to see her grandchildren and great grandchildren visit her.”

Knowing of her love for songs from the 1950s and 60s, on her final afternoon he said he had played her Frank Sinatra’s My Way with the lyrics reflecting “mum’s path, her character, her adversities and her true spirit”.

He said his mother had met politicians and royalty, but that meeting Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 1998 was “very special”.

“This reflected a moment in her life that she knew for certain would make her mum Annie so proud,” he said. “I am sure Annie was looking down on Mum that day.”