Warren’s mischievous flamboyance was perhaps the result of his early induction into showbusiness. His grandfather had started the family’s performing tradition by becoming a champion clog dancer in Eccles, and his father George, a multilingual fruit importer from Manchester, carried it on. A former major in the Intelligence Corps during the First World War, Warren’s father supplemented the family income by playing the musical saw in his band the George Simpson Tonics Dance Orchestra.
How do you explain “champion clog dancer”, or even Eccles, to anyone not from the North?
And there was a time when the education system knew what it was doing:
Born Anthony McVay Simpson on July 8 1936 at Eccles, now Greater Manchester, Tony Warren was educated at Clarendon Road primary and Eccles grammar schools, where he was bullied for being “posh” and for “not liking rough games”. His remedy was to play truant and he stayed away “for almost a year, almost every day” by mimicking his mother’s voice on the telephone in calls to the school secretary. When he was finally traced to the local library, Tony’s headmaster asked him what he had been looking at and gave him a further reading list.
There was even a time when the BBC knew what it was doing:
Aged 12 he wrote to the producers of the BBC’s Children’s Hour to tell them that he was better than any of the child actors they were using. His subsequent audition earned him radio work which lasted through his teens, and brought him some theatre, film and television roles.
And this is wondrous:
Expelled from stage school for rabble-rousing, at 17 Warren ran away to London
How can you rabble rouse in a stage school?
This is a bit trite:
Warren was proud of having created Coronation Street, and of having fans of the calibre of the poet laureate Sir John Betjeman, who likened the soap to The Pickwick Papers. When the Queen – herself apparently a fan – visited the new Coronation Street set at the Granada studios in 1983, she asked Warren: “Where is the real Coronation Street?” He replied: “In the hearts and minds of your subjects, Ma’am.”
But a good innings overall, a very good innings.