Geoffrey Hughes

Geoffrey Hughes
Geoffrey Hughes

Geoffrey Hughes has been associated with three massivly popular television series, “Coronation Street” where he played binman Eddie Yeats, lodger of Stan and Hilda Ogden from 1974 until 1983, “Keeping Up Appearances” as Onslow the lazy, feckless brother-in-law of Patricia Routledge’s Hynicth Bucket from 1990 iuntil 1995 and most recently as Twiggy friend of Jim Royle in the hilarious “Royle Family”.   He was born in 1944 in Cheshire.   His film roles include “Smashing Time” with Rita Tushingham and Lynn Redgrave in 1967 and “The Virgin Soldiers” in 1969 again with Lynn Redgrave and Hywel Bennett.   Geoffrey Hughes lives on the Isle of Wight.

His “Guardian” obituary by Anthony Hayward:

The actor Geoffrey Hughes, who has died of prostate cancer aged 68, played gormless Eddie Yeats in the ITV soap opera Coronation Streetfrom 1974 to 1983, and thereafter was typecast on television as a lovable rogue.

Hughes contributed enormously to the comedy that Bernard Youens and Jean Alexander – as Stan and Hilda Ogden – brought to No 13 Coronation Street. His character, Eddie, a former Borstal boy and Walton Prison inmate, helped Stan on his window-cleaning round and was forever involved in money-making schemes – hiring out a timid guard dog and selling Albert Tatlock’s allotment vegetables, dodgy watches and curtains run up by Hilda – before finding work as a refuse collector and becoming the Ogdens’ lodger.

“He was always a softy,” Hughes told the writer Daran Little in 1995. “His villainy had been opportunist nicking, or thinking of a good idea and it didn’t matter if it was actually legal or not.” Eddie was also responsible for the mountain mural, or “muriel” as Hilda called it, in the Ogdens’ living room – at one time graced with three ornamental flying ducks. In 1983, Hughes chose to leave Coronation Street, and Eddie was married off and moved to Bury. He made a brief return four years later for a hospital visit by Eddie to Hilda.

Later, in the long-running drama Heartbeat, set in the 60s, he was Vernon Scripps (2001-07), who dreamed up hare-brained get-rich-quick schemes and had a small share in his half-brother Bernie’s garage.

Hughes was a more objectionable version of Eddie and Vernon in the sitcom Keeping up Appearances (1990-95), written by Roy Clarke. He played Onslow, the workshy, beer-guzzling slob married to the social-climbing Hyacinth Bucket’s sister Daisy and living in a council house. The vest-wearing Onslow irked Hyacinth by occasionally leading her husband, Richard, astray and rebuffed his wife’s advances with the excuse: “I’ve got a headache.”

The formula was much the same in The Royle Family, in which Hughes appeared on and off as Twiggy (1998-2008), the former convict visiting Jim and Barbara Royle with stolen goods.

Hughes was born in Wallasey, Cheshire, and attended Abbotsford Road secondary modern school, in the Norris Green area of Liverpool. While working as a car salesman, he performed with Merseyside Unity theatre company, where he was spotted by the actor Tom Bell, who introduced him to an agent.

Hughes turned professional and joined the rep company at the Victoria theatre, Stoke-on-Trent. His first West End role came in 1964 in the Lionel Bart-Alun Owen musical Maggie May (at the Adelphi theatre), about trade union disputes in Liverpool’s dockland.

In 1966, Hughes made his screen debut in The Likely Lads and was soon working regularly on television. His first appearance in Coronation Street was in 1967, as Phil Ferguson, a thug who beat up Albert Tatlock. A big break came in 1968, when Hughes voiced Paul McCartney in the Beatles cartoon film Yellow Submarine and, a year later, he was one of the young recruits featured in The Virgin Soldiers, based on Leslie Thomas’s comic novel. He then played Dick in Curry & Chips (1969), the writer Johnny Speight’s controversial television sitcom set in a factory and starring a blacked-up Spike Milligan. It was axed by the Independent Television Authority after six episodes.

Hughes continued to take one-off character parts in both dramas and sitcoms – four alone in Z Cars (1968-74) – until fame came as Eddie Yeats. This led to a lead role in The Bright Side (1985) as the mild-mannered prison warden Mr Lithgow, constantly being wound up by an inmate’s wife played by Paula Wilcox. The sitcom made little impression on viewers, but Hughes is still remembered by Doctor Who aficionados for his subsequent role as Mr Popplewick at a trial of the Time Lord in the story The Ultimate Foe (1986).

Although he was cast to type in his later successes, Hughes still managed to fit in other screen work. He played a detective in the TV film The Man from the Pru (1990) and Trinculo in The Tempest (1992), and supplied the voice of Dirk, a cynical talking dog, in the sitcom I, Lovett (1993). In the BBC’s Liverpool Nativity (2007), he led the cast as the Angel Gabriel, directing events as they unfolded live in the city centre. He also took three roles (2007-09) in the teen drama Skins. Hughes’s other films included the big-screen version of Till Death Us Do Part (1968), The Bofors Gun (1968), Carry On at Your Convenience (1971), Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall (1974) and Confessions of a Driving Instructor (1976). In the West End, he appeared in Say Goodnight to Grandma (St Martin’s theatre, 1973), Run for Your Wife (Criterion theatre, 1984-85) and Semi-Monde (Royalty theatre, 1987-88).

During his time in Coronation Street, Hughes and his wife, Sue, had a smallholding in Northamptonshire and owned a nearby craft centre. Later, they moved to Newport, on the Isle of Wight, where they ran a wood supply company. In 2009, Hughes was appointed deputy lord lieutenant of the island.

He is survived by his wife.

• Geoffrey Hughes, actor, born 2 February 1944; died 27 July 2012.

The above “Guardian” obituary can also be accessed online here.

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