YEP Says: Liz Dawn - Leeds lass made good must be remembered

Liz Dawn.
Liz Dawn.
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SHE was the ordinary Leeds woman who made good. Except Liz Dawn was far from ordinary.

She was a shop girl who became one of the best known faces on television as housewife Vera Duckworth whose battles with husband Jack swayed from comedy to tragedy, often in the same episode.

It is fair to say her kind will never be seen again. Liz - and Vera - were unique. And the girl born in the front room of a council house in Torre Mount, Burmantofts, never forgot her White Rose roots.

As she once said, playing foghorn-voiced Vera on Manchester-based Coronation Street may have made her a celebrity – but she always remained “a Yorkshire woman inside”.

But she was more than just an actress: she was also a mum, a charity worker and a national treasure.

Liz - or Sylvia Butterfield, to use her birth name - was born on November 8 1939 in what we might now call challenging circumstances. Her dad was in the Army and her mum didn’t have much money, but she later recollected she was raised with love and laughter.

From a clothing factory to Woolworth’s, she had ordinary jobs with little inclination of the fame which she later enjoyed.

A singer on the northern club circuit, she dabbled in acting to raise a few extra pounds which led almost by accident to Coronation Street in 1974.

But it wasn’t fame for fame’s sake which Liz wanted. It was fame to earn the power to make a difference.

In 1996, a new chapter opened for Liz when she launched an appeal to raise funds for a £260,000 refurbishment of the breast cancer unit at St James’s Hospital in Leeds. The target was reached within months but what became known as the Liz Dawn Cancer Appeal rolled on, eventually raising more than £1m.

She later met the Pope and the Queen and - just as importantly to a Leeds lass - she was made Lady Mayoress of her home city.

Liz, to use her word, was gobsmacked.

Later she retired. Not from public life, but from acting. She still found the energy for charity work. Now Liz has gone, her city must have a good think about how she should be remembered. A statue? A charitable trust to help working class women like her to succeed?

Whatever lasting tribute Leeds can come up with we can be certain Liz had earned it.