Manchester: Stars gather to bid farewell to Coronation Street actress Betty Driver

Manchester: Stars past and present from Coronation Street gathered together today to pay tribute and say farewell to their much-loved colleague Betty Driver who died a week ago.

Known to millions in her role of Betty Williams (Turpin) for 42 years in the ITV1 soap, she became the longest-serving barmaid in the history of the Rovers Return and her trademark lunchtime hot-pot became a famed dish.

Her popularity with her TV audience was also reflected today as several hundred members of the public came to view the funeral service on a specially erected big screen outside St Ann’s Church in Manchester city centre.

The actress died on October 15 aged 91 after being in hospital for the previous six weeks.

She appeared in more than 2,800 episodes of Coronation Street and was made an MBE in the Millennium New Year’s Honours list.

Last year, when the soap celebrated its 50th anniversary, she insisted she would never retire from the show.

She said at the time: “I love working. I can’t retire, I won’t retire - I never, ever will.”

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Driver had originally auditioned for the role of Hilda Ogden in 1964 after a 36-year-career in radio, television and the stage.

She was then persuaded to come out of retirement in 1969 to audition for the role of Betty instead.

Among those arriving at the church in St Ann’s Square were Street stars Julie Goodyear, Bill Tarmey, William Roache, Alec Barraclough and Michael Le Vell.

Speakers scheduled for the service were her closest friend and personal assistant Charles Orr, Street actress Helen Worth and theatre impresario Bill Kenwright who played her Betty’s screen son Gordon.

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