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'Coronation Street's Betty Driver 1920-2011: Obituary

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Betty Driver In Pictures

© ITV/Rex Features

Elizabeth Mary Driver was born on May 20, 1920 in Leicester. The daughter of a policeman, her family moved to Manchester when she was two, where by her own admission she experienced an unhappy childhood.

Driver and her sister Freda were never given any affection by their mother Nellie, and she was pushed into becoming a child star at the tender age of eight after her mother discovered she could sing. "I was the meal ticket for the entire family," she later revealed.

At 12, she was touring the UK and attending different schools every week. When Driver reached 14, she secured the leading role in the revue Mr Tower of London. George Formby later cast her in Boots! Boots!, but her scenes as a cabaret singer were left out of the final cut at the insistence of Formby's wife, Beryl, who didn't want to be upstaged.

By the age of 21, Driver finally had control of her own earnings and became a big band singer. She toured with the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA), regularly entertaining the troops during World War Two. She shared a dressing room with a young Julie Andrews at the Coventry Hippodrome on the night the city was was bombed by German forces.

Driver recorded her first song, 'Jubilee Baby', at the age of 14 and went on to release a number of successful records. However, an operation on her vocal chords prematurely ended her singing career.



She continued to tour after the war and featured in her own live BBC radio show A Date With Betty. Bob Monkhouse, an up-and-coming writer at the time, wrote many of her scripts.

Driver married South African singer Wally Petersen In 1953, but the couple separated in 1960 due to his womanising ways.

In 1964, the actress was asked to audition for the part of Hilda Ogden in Coronation Street. She was unsuccessful (Jean Alexander got the part), but was soon cast in Coronation Street's comedy spinoff Pardon the Expression. Driver left the show after injuring her back while filming with Arthur Lowe.

She quit showbusiness and began running a pub with Freda. In 1969, Driver was persuaded to come out of retirement to play the role of policeman's wife Betty Turpin (later Williams) in Coronation Street for three months. Over 40 years later, Driver was still in Weatherfield making Betty's famous hotpot in the Rovers Return - despite being unable to make the dish in real life.

She became one of the most loved characters on British television, having starred in over 2,800 episodes of the soap, and was named a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the Millennium New Year's Honours list in December 1999.

> Coronation Street's Betty Driver dies aged 91
> Coronation Street stars pay tribute to Betty Driver
> Betty Driver's 80-year showbiz career - Pictures

Watch Betty Driver's final appearance in Coronation Street on May 27 2011 below (starts at 18:30):

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