Dukinfield actress Kathy Staff is most fondly remembered for her brilliant portrayal of Nora Batty in the BBC TV sitcom Last of the Summer Wine.
She played the redoubtable café owner in her ever-present pinny and hair-curlers from the first episode in 1973 until 2008.
Nora’s famous wrinkled stockings and fierce demeanour hid a heart of gold. She won the undying affection of Compo (Bill Owen) in the series and the hearts of millions of viewers worldwide.
She was close to being a national institution!
Kathy Staff was born Minnie Higginbottom in Dukinfield in July 1928. She changed her name to Katherine Brant when she started acting in repertory companies in 1946. She adopted her final stage name when she married John Staff in 1951.
Before Last of the Summer Wine, Staff was well-known on TV screens as house-keeper Doris Luke in the ATV soap Crossroads. She played the role from 1978 to 1984 and returned briefly from 2001 to 2002.
She also appeared as Vera Hopkins in Coronation Street, Mrs Blewitt in Open All Hours and Molly Bickerstaff in the short-lived BBC sitcom No Frills in 1988. She was a regular on the Benny Hill Show too.
Staff played Thora Hird’s neighbour in the 1962 film A Kind of Loving and had roles in The Family Way in 1966, Little Dorrit in 1988 and Mary Reilly in 1996.
On stage, Staff starred in many pantomimes as well as various touring productions. She played Mrs Malaprop in Sheridan’s The Rivals and Madame Arcati in Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit. In the West End she appeared in the comedy When We Are Married and the farce Two into One.
Kathy Staff died of a brain tumour in December 2008. Her funeral took place at St. Mark’s Church, Dukinfield, where she sang in the choir. Her life is commemorated by a memorial screen at the church.