Tuesday, 8 January 2013

They don't Alf make them like this any more!

While Rita is my favourite female character, my favourite male character has to be good old Alf Roberts. To me, he was a brilliant character. Why? Because he was ordinary, down to earth and a true Northerner. And for Bryan Mosley, the actor who played him, playing ordinary was a great feat and I think that Alf is undermined as a character for that reason.

First appearing in 1961, Alf didn’t become a regular for another decade and would appear on the cobbles for the next 27 years or so. Originally a GPO sorter, he worked alongside Ken Barlow’s dad Frank. When he reappeared on our screens in 1971 he was by then a supervisor. Alf also involved himself in local politics and was a councillor for many years and twice served as mayor of Weatherfield in 1973 and 1994. He lost his seat in 1987 when he lost against Deirdre Barlow which caused him to have a heart attack. He reclaimed his seat in 1991 when he beat Deirdre in the election and remained in his seat until he retired in 1998.
But of course it is Alf the grocer that we all love and remember. While it was in 1979 that he officially stepped behind the counter, his association with the corner shop dated to the early 1970s when he helped Maggie Clegg out with some heavy lifting. He married shopkeeper Renee Bradshaw in 1978 and the following year he left the GPO to become a full-time shopkeeper, much to Renee’s chagrin. But within a year Alf was on his own when Renee was killed in a car crash and he had to soldier on alone, although he hired Deirdre as his assistant. For the next fourteen years, Alf would be the face of the corner shop and, in my opinion this was the golden era of the shop. The shop became self-service in 1985 and became Alf’s Mini Mart. Alf retired in 1993 after being pressurized by third wife Audrey and sold the shop to Brendan Scott but within a few months he bought it back after Brendan died. He sold it again in 1994 to Reg Holdsworth. It was really an end of an era.

Romantically, Alf led a busy life. He’d married Phyllis Plant in 1949, who was originally engaged to Alf’s brother Malcolm but Malcolm had died in a car accident caused by Alf and so Alf did his duty and married Phyllis. Although the marriage was a loveless one, Alf and Phyllis were married until 1972 when Phyllis died of cancer. He then started seeing Maggie Clegg and due to their closeness he asked Maggie to be his mayoress in 1973. She declined, and so Alf asked Annie Walker who was in her element. They kept their relationship going but when Alf proposed she declined. It has to be said that Alf was a bit miffed when Maggie later married Ron Cooke and immigrated to sunny Zaire.
In 1975, Alf became infatuated with a fellow GPO worker called Donna Parker. She moved in with him and into his bed and when she told him of her dreams to open a hair salon, he gave her £500. She then vanished. But she did repay him later. Renee Bradshaw entered his life in 1976 and after two marriage proposals they got married in 1978. But the marriage was cut short when Renee was killed in a car crash after visiting Grange over Sands in 1980. The Roberts had planned to run a sub-post office in Grange.

After a brief romance with Joyce Lomas in 1982, Alf married Audrey Potter in 1985. He’d proposed to Audrey in 1981 but she rebuffed. The second time, Audrey sought security and Alf was the perfect example and they married. While they were mismatched, they became one of the most popular Corrie couples. Through Audrey, Alf became part of the Tilsley/Platt family, something that he hadn’t felt before. The children called him ‘Granddad’ and he loved that.
But special mention goes to Alf’s secret love, as Doris Day used to sing. When his best pal Len Fairclough died in 1983, Alf took upon the duty of looking after Len’s widow Rita’s interests. He helped her out with the sale of Len’s yard and dealt with various financial matters that Len used to handle. Rita was naturally grateful but both Mavis and Deirdre noticed that Alf was keen on Rita. But Rita saw nothing in it and unwittingly encouraged Alf. Although she agreed to accompany him to a dance, when he asked her to go on holiday with him, she declined. And she told him not to meet up with her in Blackpool when she went on holiday there with Mavis and Bet. But she was startled when he proposed to her during the opening of the refurbished shop. She rejected his offer and told him she saw him as a good friend. Alf went on to marry Audrey but deep down, it was Rita he loved. He turned to her when he had marriage problems. And when Rita relocated the Kabin, he was on hand to help, much to Audrey’s annoyance. She once said: “Rita’s Alf’s idea of the perfect woman”. In 1993, a drunken Alf told Rita he’d leave Audrey for her. And when he’d sobered up, he said the same thing but yet again Rita rebuffed. In 1994, when he became mayor, Alf asked Rita to be his mayoress but Audrey threatened to spread rumours that they were lovers and Alf instated Audrey as mayoress. So, despite Alf’s romantic intentions, Rita saw as an old and dear friend. Even though he’s dead, Alf is still to this day a cause of conflict sometimes between Audrey and Rita even though they’re best friends. Audrey’s aware that Rita had a special place in Alf’s heart.
Due to Bryan Mosley’s ailing health in the late 1990s, Alf’s appearances became recurring. And during his final months, he was the shadow of his former self due to weight loss and looking frail and tired. In 1997 he only appeared in 23 episodes and in 1998 in 19 episodes. Alf was written out in 1999 when he died of a heart attack at Nick Tilsley’s 18th birthday party. Sadly, Bryan Mosley himself died only six weeks later.
Alf was a Corrie great. He was so great the Queen gave him an OBE!! While Corrie has had many battleaxes, sirens and gossips, it will only have one Alfred Sidney Roberts. And the wonderful You Tube showcases many Alf Roberts classic moments thanks to the golden episodes uploaded by MrMagister1. I just love watching him argue with Audrey or Percy Sugden, telling everybody about the importance of a corner shop or supping in the Rovers. As well as Len and Rita, he was also good friends with Annie Walker, Ken Barlow, Bet Lynch and Mike Baldwin. As his campaign poster supposedly said, he was the People’s Friend.
And I loved him saying “By ‘eck!”
So, let’s raise a glass and remember that Corrie legend Alf Roberts! A true Corrie great!

Do you miss Alf on the cobbles? Were you a fan of him?

* Thanks to Sam Taylor from Corrie4ever for the fab photo of Alf and Rita and of Alf in the Rovers.


Graeme N said...

Great profile of an undervalued Corrie character! For me, Alf and Audrey will always be one of my favourite Coronation Street couples. I'm glad Audrey still mentions him from time to time - and the portrait in her living room is a nice touch!

Tvor said...

I used to know a retired vicar from deepest Lancashire and he always said that Bryan Mosely had the most authentic Lanky accent of all the older cast. Of the newer generation, the fella that played Gary Mallet sound most authentic to his ears. Alf was lovely!

njblas said...

Very interesting to read the background to Alf's first marriage. Phyllis Roberts was one of those unseen characters (along with Nellie Fairclough, Mr Papagopolous and Minnie Caldwell's mother) who was frequently referred to but never appeared onscreen. While I do have a soft spot for dear old Alfeh, my favourite male Corrie character is definitely Fred, I say Fred Elliott. He was a true one-off!

Frosty the Snowman said...

Alf was a great character - stood for decency and trustworthyness - traits that the shallow Corrie characters of today just dont have. Cannot imagine him banging his sister in law.

Anonymous said...

Alf's Council and W.A.R.T.s work showed another side to his character as well as providing a source of stories. But that was when characters actually had something to do, other than hop in out of each others beds and disrupt weddings.

There was also Alf's legendary meanness which provided many a laugh and a souce of conflict with Audrey. They were a good couple. She livened Alf up and was a wife he could be proud to take to Council functions. Audrey needed the stability and grounding ALf supplied. They weren't together because thiers were the names drawn out of the hat.

To see the decline just think: Audrey/Alf then Dev/Sunita.

Anonymous said...

Alf was a great character and really brought out the best in audrey. Im glad you mehtion the wonderful mrmagister channel on youtube as he uploads some cracking episodes from granada plus- Micky

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