My mum and dad used to shop at Morrisons in Dukinfield every Thursday. Sometimes they saw the actor Roy Barraclough who was often in the café ear-wigging conversations. “Saw Alec again today,” my mum would say meaning Alec Gilroy the devious landlord of the Rovers Return in Coronation Street. He lived nearby in Stalybridge.
Here I am at the crematorium in Oldham where he was turned into ashes. Though known for being in the Cissie and Ada routines with Les Dawson and Alec Gilroy from Coronation Street he spent many decades perfecting a broad canopy of radio theatre and television roles.
He was born in Preston in Lancashire in 1935, the son of Florence and Phil Barraclough, his dad a goalkeeper for Fleetwood Football Club. For ten years he worked as a draughtsman in the daytime and played amateur acting roles in a local theatre group in the night time. He got a part time job as an entertainer at a Butlin’s holiday camp on the Isle of Wight. This lead him to him, aged 27, to the job of assistant stage manager running and appearing in productions for the New Theatre in Huddersfield. After many years treading the boards he made his first television appearance aged 34 in Yorkshire Television's first soap opera Castle Haven. Though it only lasted a year it gave Roy the chance to appear in cameo roles on television in The Lovers, Rising Damp and George and Mildred. The camera liked the small balding benign chap.
Things improved one day. While having a meal in Yorkshire Television’s canteen he was asked to stand in for an actor who had not turned up to appear on the first series of The Les Dawson Show. This led to a working relationship and the Cissie and Ada comedy routines, Roy playing “Cissie Braithwaite”. She was drawn from one of Roy’s aunties who always thought she was slightly above the rest of the family. From 1972 to 1973 Roy appeared in the memorable children's series Pardon My Genie as the ironmonger Mr Cobbledick and gained a legion of fans.
Occasional appearances in Coronation Street as the sleazy grumpy theatrical agent Alec Gilroy heralded his most well-known role. He joined the soap in 1986 and stayed for twenty-two years before leaving in 1998 aged 63. Retiring wasn’t optional. He continued to appear in various situation comedies and plays such as Mother's Ruin (1994), Last of the Summer Wine, Casualty (1999), Peak Practice (1994, 2001), A Thing Called Love (2004) and Funland (2005). Of screen he often appeared on stage in musicals, high dramas, Christmas shows and pantomines.
Aged 71 he was awarded appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to drama and to charity in the region of North West England. He continued to act and in 2009 he played the vicar in the BBC1 drama All the Small Things and from 2012 to 2013 and he played Maurice in Last Tango in Halifax. His last role was in 2016 when he played Mr Grainger in a reboot of Are You Being Served?
In later life he said Coronation Street had become humourless, the quality had suffered and it had drifted away from what it used to be. He died on 1st June 2017 aged 81 following a short illness at the Willow Wood Hospice in Ashton-under-Lyne which he’d raised lots of money for. I visited the hospice which is near home to take some photos and as I ran my eyes over the brickwork I wondered if I’d end up in there taking my last breaths here alone (I don’t have any spawn.)
Far left….Roy as Cissie…
The road leading to Willow Wood Hospice…