Bryan Mosley (25th August 1931 to 9th February 1999)

 

Presently Coronation Street seems to have lost its way; there's a lack of older characters and bone-dry humour. It focuses too much on the young folk who lack gravitas and don't carry an authentic sense of the North. For 38 years one of the solid bits of furniture in the drama was Alf Roberts, the honest amiable dependable shopkeeper. Bryan Mosley played the role of the corner-shop owner for so long you think he owned the place. Though playing Alf Robert was the role he'll be remembered for he was in eleven films and it's brill too see him pop up in one of them unexpectedly (you just think, "Blimey - that's Alf Roberts."). I can remember his final scene in Coronation Street when Audrey found her husband Alfie dead in an armchair after a New Year's Eve party.

 

Here I am at his grave in Shipley. I'd spent most of that Saturday roaming around Halifax and Bradford and sunlight was fading fast. Driving home I went via Shipley Cemetery to see if I could find him. I didn't want to get the car locked in for the night so I parked on the main road and sprinted down to the vast cemetery. Not a soul was there - not a living one anyway. Oddly he's not with others who were buried around the 1990s but at a random spot among much older graves.

 

He was born in Leeds in 1931 and, as a lad, modelled clothes in catalogues. He made his stage debut at just 10 years old as the back half of a pantomime cow in Cinderella. He went to Leeds College of Art and became a commercial artist but the Second world War interrupted life and he spent his national service years in the RAF as an air traffic controller. He trained at the Bradford Civic Theatre and Esme Church Northern Theatre School. Aged 25 he married childhood sweetheart Norma (who he met aged 12) and they'd have six children.

 

He was 31 when by the time of this first film in A Kind of Loving (in black and white but still excellent - I've got the DVD.) He went on to appear in many seminal Northern films like Billy Liar and Sporting Life. Probably his best moment came in the cult Tyneside thriller Get Carter where he's thrown off a car park. There were television parts, too - in Dr Who, The Saint, Z Cars and The Avengers.

 

He joined the Coronation Street in 1967 as a permanent fixture but had appeared in small parts before (he's the third-longest serving actor.) I liked how he often used the word "jiggered" for tired such as "Audrey, I'll do it later - I''ve just unloaded a box of lollies and I'm jiggered." He wasn't just a roly-poly grease-haired thin-lipped shopkeeper though and was a councillor and even mayor of Weathefield. This strait-laced shopkeeper was old-fashioned and his only concession to the modern world was when he turned the shop into a mini-market. Though he played a role which meant standing behind a shop counter Bryan was an accomplished stunt actor. He was highly skilled in stage fighting and a founder member of the British Society of Fight Arrangers. He was an accomplished swordfighter and trained Terence Stamp for his swordfight in Far From the Madding Crowd. Away from the cameras he was warm and jovial, a funny friendly man, well-rounded in manner and not just in the belly. There was no big-star mentality and everyone knew him locally around Nab Wood where he lived. He was a staunch Catholic and regularly attended his local church St Walburga's and St Mary's in Manchester when filming.

 

In his early sixties heart problems started to trouble him and Alf Roberts was written out of Corrie for a while. Eventually he was forced to retire against his will (he was miffed about older characters disappearing as the soap competed with Eastenders.) He made his last appearance on New Year's Eve 1998 when 18 million viewers saw him die of a heart attack. This happened in real life. Despite claiming to feel renewed after a visit to Lourdes he was in Shipley town centre one Tuesday and had just been to the bank to sort out money for a holiday in Venice when he collapsed in the street. A market trader called an ambulance and even though it arrived in four minutes life was nearly finished. The 67-year-old had suffered a heart attack so severe the medics couldn't save him as they rushed him to Bradford Royal Infirmary. His wife was by his side in the final minutes.

 

As usual I took a few photographs of the headstone before it got too dark. This is Nab Wood Cemetery and Bryan lived in Nab Wood itself so I'd guess he's regularly visited by the clan. Earlier that day I'd been to Bradford Royal Infirmary where he was pronounced dead. Oddly three years before his death Brian had supported the hospital's "Heartbeat" appeal and helped in raising 250,000 for its new coronary care unit. It was shame its equipment couldn't save him. His wife Norma joined her husband in the grave after over a decade apart. He'd appeared in 1863 episodes of Coronation Street which deserved a salute. I also saluted the grave of a marine called Raymond Parden who died in World War Two aged 18 (joined by his brother Lewis.)

 

 

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