Manchester

Funeral for Coronation Street's Betty Driver in Manchester

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Media captionActress Helen Worth, who plays Gail in the soap, paid tribute to Betty Driver

Family, friends, colleagues and fans of Coronation Street star Betty Driver have turned out for her funeral in Manchester.

The much loved actress, who played the role of Betty Williams (Turpin) for 42 years, died on 15 October, aged 91.

She was the Rovers Return's longest serving barmaid and was famous for her homemade hot-pots.

Helen Worth, Gail McIntyre in the soap, told the congregation: "The Rovers will not be the same without her."

"How do we say goodbye to her? In the way she wanted us to do with a smile, remembering her infectious laugh, her perfume which announced her arrival, her love of life and everyone in it and celebrate with joy the glorious 91 years of Betty Driver."

Image caption Betty Driver appeared in more than 2,800 episodes

She said that Driver - who had appeared in 2,800 episodes - had wanted her funeral to be on a Saturday so "that all at Granada were to free to share her life, to remember her and to say goodbye to our dearest Betty".

Ms Worth said it was 37 years since "my dearest Betty" first called her "her child". It was a title she had kept happily ever since, she said.

"I always knew a hug was guaranteed and her last words to me when she was so ill, and it was such an effort for her to speak, were: 'I want you to be happy'.

"In fact, you know, Betty just wanted the whole world to be happy."

She said Driver was the "ultimate professional" and "knew everything there was to showbusiness".

Ms Worth added: "She never wanted it to end. Her place behind the bar at the Rovers was always kept open."

Those at the Street were her family and a trip to the canteen with Betty always took a very long time, she said.

'Bedrock' of street

The Rev Nigel Ashworth presided over the uplifting service, along with the Rev Lister Tonge - one of Driver's friends.

Driver had planned the service, choosing the music and the flowers. It was also her idea to screen the service in St Ann's Square for fans.

Bill Kenwright who played Betty's screen son Gordon spoke of his "second mother".

He told the congregation she was a "huge, huge star in variety" who was in the West End at 12, had starred in three films by the age of 18, and was a leading band singer in the 1940s.

She went on to become the "bedrock" of Coronation Street, he said.

Image caption Actress Betty Driver arrived at the Rovers Return in 1969

Kenwright said he had received letters from all over the world saying "'I am so sorry about your mother".

He said Driver - who was made an MBE in 1999 - would have been thrilled with the service.

"She would not quite know how to take it. She was a really shy lady."

Her personal assistant Charles Orr told the congregation he had been with Driver a few weeks ago when they came across "a gang of hoodies".

She beckoned them over and urged them to talk to her, she said.

"These lads, the hoods came off, the chewing stopped... it was just, I cannot begin to tell you, pure pure magic.

"Then came the mobile phones to take photographs and we had to get the pen to sign the foreheads. 'Can I sit on your knee?', 'No, you can't' came the reply, 'not the knee, but you can give me a kiss'."

He said they left the young men doing high-fives, calling their friends saying: "I've just met Betty Driver! I've just met Betty!"

A recording of Driver singing The World Will Sing Again which she sang in Europe and the Middle East during the war was played to the congregation. It was followed by a standing ovation.

'Beautiful person'

Speaking after the service, William Roache - who plays Ken Barlow - said: "She was there. You could feel her presence.

"And to hear her sing - people don't realise, this generation, and why should they, in the 50s and 40s she had such a beautiful voice.

"To hear that beautiful voice epitomised what a beautiful person she was.

"A very, very wonderful human being from which we can all learn and we are all better for having known her."

Ms Worth added the service was "just perfect" because it was a celebration of her life.

"I think there will be a send off to her on the Street in a couple of months' time," she said.

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