Anne Reid was born in Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1935. She achived national fame in the UK for her performance as Val wife to Ken Barlow in “CoronationStreet” who was electrocuted by her hairdryer. Her film debut was in 1958 in “Passport to Shame”. She has had a steady career as a character actress but in the past ten years she has become very prolific in major roles both on television and in film e.g the film “The Mother” with Daniel Craig in 2003.
Anne Reid was the envy of older women everywhere when she played Daniel Craig’s lover in The Mother. She also starred in Coronation Street, and more recently as Mrs Thackeray the cook in Upstairs Downstairs. Now 75 and an MBE, she has one son and lives in central London.
I was born in Newcastle in May 1935, but my family moved to Redcar when the war started and this is me, aged eight, at White House School.
My nursery school was called John Emmerson Batty – wonderful name, wasn’t it? Then came White House primary, where my lasting memory was performing, as Juliet, the last act of Romeo And Juliet with a girl called June Laverick, who went on to become a well-known actress.
All my family were journalists – and indeed, so was my late husband, Peter Eckersley. My grandfather wrote a column in the Bolton Echo; my uncle was on the Manchester Evening News. My father, Colin, was a special correspondent in the Middle East for the Daily Telegraph and my three brothers followed the tradition.
When I was 11 my life changed completely. My mother flew out to join my father abroad and I was sent away to boarding school – to Penrhos College in North Wales.
I don’t remember being unduly worried at all. I must have been quite a strong character, but it must have been horrendously hard for my mother to leave me behind.
She left before term began so couldn’t even accompany me to school. My tin trunk and I were put on a train by one of my brothers and off I chugged towards the unknown.
Happily I adored Penrhos, and the odd thing was that we had a brother-school nearby called Rydal, where William Roache went – something I found out only when I joined the cast of Coronation Street.
I was so happy at school and I made it my home as I no longer had a family home in England. I saw my parents only once a year during the summer.
I either flew to the Middle East or spent time with them in London. When that happened they lived at the Imperial Hotel, Russell Square.
Strangely enough, the flat I live in now is not far from the hotel. I was very average at school. I passed my exams, but I don’t think I shone. The school offered elocution lessons with a Miss Monica Beardsworth, and my father had me enrolled to iron out my North East accent. That’s how I discovered acting.
I never got into the school plays, but the elocution lessons opened another door because, as part of the training, I started doing bits of plays with my teacher.
I remember when I was about 12, learning the lines of a play and thinking, ‘I know how to make this interesting. I know how to act. I can do this better than other people.’ You do know when an inner talent gives you that ease. It’s not a remarkable thing – just a knack that has given me a very nice life.
In the end Miss Beardsworth wrote to my parents saying, ‘I think Anne is talented and she should take up acting. I’d like to get the forms and send her to RADA.’
My grandmother had been on the stage in variety choruses, so my father agreed with the idea at once. And that’s how it all happened. Not everyone at the school agreed with the diagnosis.
My French teacher, Miss Clark, was astonished when I told her, aged 12, that I was going to be an actress.
She said, ‘Oh no. You’ll never make an actress. You’re not the type.’ I don’t think she was being intentionally unkind, but these things stick in your mind, don’t they? She obviously thought I wasn’t flamboyant enough.
People, at that time, imagined that an actress should be vivid and flamboyant, but I don’t believe acting is about that. It’s about being a blank canvas and being able to play lots of different characters.
I always wanted that diversity, and the great thing is that, since I did The Mother, my life has changed dramatically. I’ve had such variety, from Ladies Of Letters to playing Barbara Cartland in the story of her life.
It was a wrench to leave Penrhos at 16. I loved it so much. I was in the school choir and we always had choir picnics in the mountains of Snowdonia.
For a long time after I left, I used to dream I was back at school. I was very content there and it was traumatic to be thrust out into the world. Though I had travelled a lot, I was still very naive – a schoolgirl in high heels and earrings.
I did enjoy RADA, but I wish I’d been more worldly-wise. I didn’t make the most of it and I didn’t even know what an agent was. I didn’t know anything about the business and hadn’t even been to the theatre much. It took me a long time to grow up.
I don’t know if I have quite managed it, even now. I always played the character parts at drama school – the sort of roles I play now, but of course that doesn’t really equip you to find jobs when you come out. I didn’t know how to play a juvenile lead.
I was a stage manager for a long time and worked in repertory theatre, but gradually things began to happen. My first TV job was doing sketches with Benny Hill.
My parents came back to England in 1960, just before I went into Coronation Street playing Valerie Tatlock.
My father enjoyed that enormously – he loved the fact that I was famous. It was only after he died that I left the Street. Then I married, became pregnant and gave up acting for about 12 years, and started again in 1986. Since then everything has turned out wonderfully well.
Yvonne Swann Marchlands starts on Thursday, ITV1 at 9pm.
The above “Mail Online” article can be accessed online here.