Growing up I can remember watching The Liver Birds in the seventies. We lived over the shop we owned and on Saturday nights I can remember my folks sitting on the big bendy couch in front of the fire watching The Liver Birds. I only have to see the opening and it takes me back to those halcyon days - the link is here …
It was written by Carla Lane (real name Romana Barrack) and though she left her hometown of Liverpool to become a sitcom scriptwriter (writing Butterflies and Bread among others) she returned in later life and died here in this nursing home.
On Sunday morning I made my way to Mossley Hill which is one of the posher districts of Liverpool. It was on a quiet road lined by huge detached houses set back in their own grounds behind mature trees. Some of the bigger homes had been turned into nursing homes. I helped an old man in a car who was looking for a certain road. I passed him my phone for a few minutes showing the Google maps (glad he didn’t drive off with it) and he said, “Anyone with any money in Liverpool lives in Woolton, Sefton Park or Mossley Hill.” I had long stroll up some side streets, saw some charming mansions and decided he was probably right.
Carla was born and grew up nearby in the West Derby district, attending a convent school and winning a writing prize aged seven. She considered herself quite thick and left school aged 14. She worked at a baby linen shop for £1 a week and later on the cosmetics counter in Bon Marché, the upmarket Merseyside department store. She met her husband when she fell over in front of him at the local ice rink. In those days folk married early and Carl married at 19 and bore two sons (the marriage didn’t last.)
She loved writing stories and was in her early thirties before reaping success with friend Myra Taylor whom she had met at a writer’s workshop. They sent some comedy sketches to BBC and instead of the usual rejection letter the boss of comedy there asked them to write a half-hour script. This became a pilot episode of The Liver Birds broadcast in April 1969. The first series was written but didn’t do well however the series became the most popular of the era. Carla considered herself unattractive and Sandra - the more refined and prettier one of the Liver Birds - was an incarnation of ideal herself. Success had taken its time to arrive and Cara was 45 by the time she was writing the series alone.
Through the 1970s and 1980s she was one of the most successful comedy scriptwriters in the country (I preferred the Solos series.) The Liver Birds ran from 1969 to 1878. Carla divided her time between London and Liverpool. She was by then divorced but having a surreptitious liaison with a TV producer to whom she referred as “Him”. This relationship formed the basis of her next successful sitcom Butterflies (1978-83)
I think she was one of the first famous vegetarians I read about and away from television land she was a strong campaigner for animals. She was often seen armed with a megaphone leading protests at ports fights against the export of live animals for slaughter abroad (many died from thirst or suffocation before reaching Spain.) She bought Broadhurst Manor, a 35-room Tudor pile in 25-acre estate set in Sussex countryside and converted into an animal sanctuary. Here 13 staff took care of 800 animals. She also bought St Tudwal's Island East, an island south of Abersoch (Bear Grylls owns the other main island) to protect its wildlife. She returned her OBE to then-prime minister Tony Blair in protest against animal cruelty.
After operating Broadhurst Manor as an animal sanctuary for 15 years she sold it for £3.6 million. She only lived in five rooms and said there were rooms she never went into. She returned home to Liverpool in 2009 aged 81 obviously knowing the end was nigh. Cancer had been diagnosed and she was latterly confined to a wheelchair. She died one Tuesday morning aged 87 and the funeral service was held at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral in Toxteth.
Carla owned St Tudwal’s islands (east – top of pic.) Bear Grylls owns the other one…
The nursing home is on a quiet road in the Mossley Hill district of Liverpool…