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Obituary: Geoffrey Hughes

Geoffrey Hughes

Obituary by Jack Foley

GEOFFREY Hughes, the popular British TV star, has died at the age of 68, his agent has confirmed.

Best known to millions of Coronation Street fans as binman Eddie Yeats, Hughes was also a mainstay of British comedy with roles as Twiggy in The Royle Family and Onslow in Keeping Up Appearances.

The actor passed away “peacefully in his sleep” on Friday night (July 27, 2012), following a “long, courageous battle” with prostate cancer, his family said.

Born on February 2, 1944, Geoffrey attended Ranworth Square Primary School, in Liverpool, until the age of 11 and then then moved on to Abbotsford Secondary Modern School in Norris Green, Liverpool.

He developed a passion for acting at an early age and began his career in repertory at the Victoria Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent but didn’t have to wait long before making his way to London and hitting the West End.

His first production was Maggie May, a musical by Lionel Bart and Alun Owen, but he also appeared in West End productions of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Say Goodnight to Grandma, The Secret Life of Cartoons and several seasons of Run For Your Wife.

Despite eventually branching more into television roles, the actor never lost his passion for the stage and recently played ‘Pistol’ in an open air production of Henry V at Barnwell Manor. He also regularly appeared in Christmas pantomimes.

And despite being known for three signature roles during the latter part of his career, he was a diverse talent with roles in dramas such as Z Cars and Boon, as Trinculo in an all filmed version of The Tempest for the BBC and providing the voice of Paul McCartney in The Beatles’ cartoon film Yellow Submarine.

He also ventured onto the big screen on several occasions, appearing in the films Till Death Us Do Part, The Virgin Soldiers, Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall and Carry On at Your Convenience.

But in 1974, he became a firm household name when he was cast as binman Eddie Yeats in the long-running soap opera Coronation Street, a role he enjoyed for the next nine years and which continues to be fondly remembered as a golden era for the soap.

After departing Corrie, he also enjoyed memorable stints on Doctor Who, as well as five years on Keeping Up Appearances and several stints on The Royle Family.

While outside of the arts, he led an active personal life pursuing interests in sailing, golf, cricket, rock music, trees and beer. He was also the Honourary Squire of Dartington Morris Men and, in 2009, was also appointed Deputy Lord Lieutenant for the Isle of Wight, providing the official link between the island and royalty at formal events.

That same year, Hughes revealed that he had beaten prostate cancer after a lengthy battle but suffered a relapse in August 2010 when he collapsed in his home and was re-diagnosed.

He had been battling the cancer ever since then, eventually succumbing on Friday night. Doctors said he passed away peacefully in his sleep.

Among the first to pay tribute was a spokesman for Coronation Street, who said: “We are very sad to hear of the death of Geoffrey Hughes.

“He created a legendary and iconic character in Eddie Yeats who will always be part of Coronation Street. Everyone connected with the programme sends our sincerest condolences to his family.”

And former co-star William Roache, who plays Ken Barlow, said: “I am so sorry to hear about Geoffrey. He was a warm, lovable actor, with great comedy timing. He will be greatly missed, one of the Street’s memorable characters.”