November 11, 2009
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Queen Mary 2
As Queen Mary 2 headed back to Southampton on her last eastbound transatlantic crossing of the year, there was a special celebration for one of her guests. Most people from the United Kingdom will be familiar with the famous Soap Opera, Coronation Street, and will remember one of its most beloved couples, Jack and Vera Duckworth. Liz Dawn who played the role of Vera Duckworth for an impressive 34 years has sailed on QE2 and Queen Mary 2 many times. Here she is with Commodore Warner in 2007:
Born in Leeds as Sylvia Butterfield, Liz Dawn was the daughter of a skilled engineer and his wife, the third of five children. At the age of 16 she left school and started working in a local tailoring factory and then took various jobs including a cinema usherette, shoe salesgirl and a light bulb seller in Woolworths.
Liz then sang in clubs and posed for publicity photographs with a guitar but when bookings came in for a guitarist she claimed she had hurt her finger and told jokes instead as she was unable to play the guitar. When Liz auditioned for a Cadbury’s cookie commercial, directed by Alan Parker in the late sixties, she was soon inundated with offers. She appeared in the James Herriott movie Who’d Be A Vet and played Larry Grayson’s neighbour Dot in a long running sitcom before landing a role in Colin Welland’s play Leeds United. One of her lesser known roles was as one of the alien voices in the Cadbury’s Smash advertisements in the 1970s!
She began her career on Coronation Street in 1974, in a recurring role as a factory worker until her husband Jack, (played by William Tarney) first appeared in 1979. By 1983 her role had become concrete and the rest as they say is history, as the nation watched the ups and downs of the Duckworth family life; who could ever forget those flying ducks!
During her time on the soap Liz found time to publish her autobiography “Vera Duckworth – My Story in 1993” and in 2000, she was chosen as the Lady Mayoress of Leeds. In October of that year she was awarded an MBE for her services to charity, having helped raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for hospitals in the Manchester and Leeds area. She is married to husband Donald Ibbertson and has four children.
By her own request, because of ill health, on 22 July 2007, the producers of Coronation Street announced that Liz was to be written out and her final appearance would come in January 2008, when Vera Duckworth died in her sleep, thus ending 34 years of the popular, iconic character. Liz stated that the hardest thing about leaving Corrie was saying goodbye to Bill Tarmey (who played her on screen husband Jack), with whom she is best friends. Liz won the Special Achievement Award at the 2008 British Soap Awards for her 34-year long portrayal of her iconic character.
Liz Dawn’s last visit to Queen Mary 2 was particularly special, as she was celebrating her 70th birthday. So at a special dinner on board, the chefs prepared a special surprise, by presenting her with a birthday cake. But this wasn’t just any cake as the pastry team had created a replica of the “Rovers Return”; the pub where Vera Duckworth not only worked but will have enjoyed a fair few drinks over the years.
What an amazing career and of course we all wish her Many Happy Returns. I’ll be back tomorrow with my regular post with some pictures of Queen Elizabeth that have just arrived from the ship yard in Italy. Cheers for now, Alastair