Geoffrey Hughes, actor, born February 2 1944; died of cancer, July 27, 2012, aged 68
The actor Geoffrey Hughes played many screen and stage roles in his career, including in Doctor Who, as Trinculo in The Tempest, and big-screen parts in films as different as The Bofors Gun and Carry On at Your Convenience. But he will always be best remembered for his stint as the Falstaffian ne’re-do-well Eddie Yeats in Cornonation Street between 1974 and 1983 – a role that effectively typcast him from then on as the archetypal “loveable rogue.”
I feel a particular affinity with the character of Eddie because, in the late seventies, my then-wife told me something along the lines of, “all your friends are like Eddie Yeats and Stan Ogden.” I knew exactly what she meant: at the time, many of my associates were boozy, jokey working class former members of the International Socialists who had just been expelled as part of the so-called “IS Opposition”, aka the “Higgins Group.” Several of these characters, like Eddie, were a bit dodgy. But most of them (also like Eddie) were essentially well-meaning “chancers” who neither knew nor cared much about legality and/or illegality, but who did know and care about the difference between good and evil. Like Eddie, they were invariably sentimentalists and failed romantics – men (and they were all men) whose hopes and dreams would never be realised and whose worldly-wise cynicism usually cloaked a profound generosity and decency… and sometimes great sadness too.
IS expelled them in 1975, as part of its purge of working class members. In truth, their expulsion – ruthless as it was – was probably warranted, but that’s another story. Certainly, no left-wing group would be able to accomodate such people these days (least of all the IS’s successor organisation, the SWP), which is a great pity.
Some of those guys gave me the best laughs and the truest friendships I’ve had in my entire life. I still, very occasionally, meet up with one or two of them, but increasingly rarely. Some, of course (like Higgins himself), are now dead. Whenever Eddie Yeats is mentioned I think of them. The death of Geoffrey Hughes brought back memories of those days, and those friends and comrades, with a degree of force and pathos that took me by surprise.
From the Times obit:
“On Coronation Street he [Eddie] moved in with Hilda and Stan [Ogden] as their lodger and the odd and sometimes awkward relationship between the three of them was one of the main attractions for many viewers. Eddie was forever turning up with dodgy goods for the residents. In one memorable storyline he delights the snobbish Annie Walker by procuring carpeting with her initials on it, until she discovers it came from the Alhambra Weatherfield bingo hall.”
Guardian obit here.
P.S: I should, perhaps, make it it clear that none of the above is intended to imply anything about Geoffrey Hughes’s political views, about which I know nothing. The Times obituary noted that “(He) latterly moved to the Isle of Wight, where he was appointed Deputy Lieutenant. He took an active interest in sailing and folk music and was involved in several charities. He is survived by his wife, Susan.”