Obituary: Ivan Beavis

Anthony Hayward
Friday 27 February 1998 00:02 GMT

AS ONE of Coronation Street's celebrated original cast, Ivan Beavis portrayed the widowed bus conductor Harry Hewitt for four years, facing the prospect of bringing up his tearaway daughter Lucille following the death of her mother in a car crash, before finding happiness by marrying the Rovers Return barmaid Concepta Riley.

Often seen propping up the bar of television's most famous pub with his friend Len Fairclough - played by Peter Adamson - Harry was one of the Street's most popular characters and a role that Beavis found difficult to shake off after leaving the programme. "Harry was a something and nothing character and, because of that, everyone liked him," the actor explained.

Acting had not been the Liverpool-born star's first choice of career. After serving for three years in the Fleet Air Arm (1943-46) at the end of the Second World War, Beavis joined the accountants Price Waterhouse's Manchester office, before becoming company accountant for Industrial Models. After contracting TB he was admitted to a sanitorium in Shropshire for six months.

While convalescing back in Manchester, he took up amateur dramatics, working with such companies as the Little Theatre Guilds Unnamed Society. He made his stage debut as an ageing gardener in Man About the House but was soon taking leading roles. Eventually, he turned professional.

After arriving unannounced to see the Granada Television casting director Margaret Morris, he made his television debut in the popular situation comedy The Army Game, which made stars of Bill Fraser and Alfie Bass. He followed it up with roles in other Granada programmes such as Skyport, Knight Errant Limited, Biggles and On Trial.

Harry Elton, who produced Biggles, was instrumental in encouraging the writer Tony Warren to create a serial based on his knowledge of life in a working-class Northern backstreet. It eventually became Coronation Street, with Margaret Morris as its first casting director. Beavis was cast as shy widower Harry Hewitt and made his debut in the second episode of the serial, screened on 14 December 1960, five days after most of the original cast had been seen in the historic first broadcast.

The serial was an immediate hit and one of Harry's first dilemmas was the return of his 11-year-old daughter Lucille (Jennifer Moss), who wanted to live with him after a year in a council orphanage, following the death of her mother in a car crash. In 1961, Harry found new love with barmaid Concepta Riley (Doreen Keogh), they married and had a son, Christopher. When, in October 1962, the baby was kidnapped, it gave Coronation Street its most dramatic storyline to date and a then-record 21 million viewers.

Two years later, Harry and Concepta were written out by axe-wielding new producer, Tim Aspinall. The couple returned briefly in 1967 for Elsie Tanner's second wedding, but another major drama saw Harry crushed to death after the reception when bricks used to jack up Len Fairclough's broken-down old van gave way as he was trying to repair it.

Although forever remembered as likeable Harry, Beavis acted in many programmes after leaving the Street. They included episodes of popular series such as Z Cars, Crown Court, Special Branch, The Liver Birds, No Honestly, The Onedin Line, The Enigma Files, Juliet Bravo, Shine on Harvey Moon, Truckers, Paradise Postponed, The Bill and Casualty.

On stage, Ivan Beavis acted in the West End and appeared with the Royal Shakespeare Company as Leonato in Much Ado about Nothing, Agamemnon in Troilus and Cressida, Lovewit in The Alchemist and Montague in Romeo and Juliet. He also toured New Zealand with Pat Phoenix (Coronation Street's Elsie Tanner) in Gaslight.

Anthony Hayward

Ivan Beavis, actor: born Liverpool 22 April 1926; married 1956 Kathleen Atkins (one son, one daughter); died 24 December 1997.

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