Bob Mason

'Coronation Street' actor and writer

The actor and writer Bob Mason had a unique claim to fame in television soap-opera history - he was the only person both to act and write regularly for
Coronation Street.

Robert William Mason, actor and writer: born Rochdale, Lancashire 29 July 1951; married 1994 Janet Heppell (two daughters, and one daughter deceased); died Cambridge 21 September 2004.

The actor and writer Bob Mason had a unique claim to fame in television soap-opera history - he was the only person both to act and write regularly for Coronation Street.

In 1976, he arrived in the fictional Weatherfield's cobbled terrace as Terry Bradshaw, the younger brother of the new corner shop owner Renée, worked for Len Fairclough and Ray Langton's builder's firm, and had a short romance with Gail Potter (now Platt). Renée, who evicted Tricia Hopkins and Gail from the flat above the shop so that Terry could live with her while retaining his independence, was upset when he decided to leave - after 49 episodes - and join the Army following Gail's confession that she did not love him.

But Bob Mason was back five years later, when he became a scriptwriter on the ITV serial (1981-89), penning 36 episodes during the period when it was first seriously challenged by a BBC soap, with the launch of EastEnders. He remains Coronation Street's only regular cast member to write for the programme.

Born in Rochdale, Lancashire, in 1951, Mason was just 15 when he won an ITV play-writing competition with To an Audience of Cork-Lined Ears, which became his first work to be performed on screen (1967). He subsequently joined Rochdale Youth Theatre Workshop and toured the North of England as an assistant stage manager, actor and writer with Century Theatre, before studying at the Central School of Speech and Drama.

On television, he starred in the director Mike Leigh's short, improvised play The Permissive Society (1975) and wrote two episodes of Funny Man (1981), which featured Jimmy Jewel in the touching story of a family music-hall act.

Mason's early writing for the stage included the pantomime Dick and the Beanstalk for the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool (1976, later performed at the Half Moon Theatre, London, 1987). During the 1980s, he did less acting and wrote stage plays such as Working Class Hero (Nuffield Theatre, Southampton, 1983, and Library Theatre, Manchester, 1984), about the plight of Lancashire handloom weavers and their champion, Samuel Bamford, at the time of the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, and Cleaning Windows (Oldham Coliseum, 1985), an insight into the bitter offstage relationship between the music-hall comedian George Formby and his domineering wife, Beryl. He also wrote and starred in the musical Sad Arthur's Trip Through the Seventies (Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, 1987), set on the eve of John Lennon's murder.

As well as being a member of the Coronation Street scriptwriting team at Granada Television, he contributed to some of that company's other productions, including episodes of the medical soap The Practice (1985-86) and the rock'n'roll drama series Studio (1983). He also found time to act in Trevor Griffiths's television play The Party (1987), set at the time of the 1968 Paris riots.

Mason returned to acting with a vengeance in the 1990s, although it is symptomatic of the power of television that he was at one time most recognisable as the man shouting, "Mother, you're covered!" in a commercial for the insurance company Direct Line.

But he had a good role as Morris Tollit, the black-sheep brother of Len (Bernard Hill), in the BBC comedy-drama series Once Upon a Time in the North (1994). In the whimsical tales of a Yorkshire family, he was the half- witted, hippy-like truck driver driven by a spirit guide named Geronimo. He also played the dreary bank manager, Gordon Dodsworth, pursued by a beautiful, gold-digging young woman, in the Channel Four sitcom Slap! - Love, Lies and Lipstick (1998).

Mason then acted Sergeant Eddie Slater, investigating tragedies and violent goings-on, in both series of The Lakes (1997, 1999). He was also seen as policemen in Between the Lines (1993), Backup (1995), The Bill (1996), Beyond Fear (1997), A Life for a Life: the true story of Stefan Kiszko (1998) and the Jekyll and Hyde film thriller Mary Reilly (1996).

As well as taking many character parts in popular television series such as Agatha Christie's Poirot (1990), Peak Practice (1995, 1998), Where the Heart Is (1997) and The Royal (2003), he had regular roles in the comedy dramas Teachers (2001) and Fortysomething (2003), and appeared on and off in Casualty (2001-03) as Jeff McGuire, a know-it-all ambulance manager who irritated everyone before he finally died of a heart attack. Last year, Mason appeared on screen as an English teacher in the film Calendar Girls.

Anthony Hayward

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