Wallasey actor Geoffrey Hughes made almost an entire career out of playing lovable rogues.
He started off as binman Eddie Yeats in Coronation Street – always ready with a dodgy deal – and then became Britain’s favourite layabout Onslow in Keeping Up Appearances.
After that he was small-time businessman Vernon Scripps in Heartbeat and Jim’s great mate Twiggy in The Royle Family.
When he wasn’t dreaming up hare-brained schemes in one of his soap or sitcom roles, Hughes was an accomplished stage and film actor. He once appeared as Trinculo in a BBC version of The Tempest.
His films range from playing Larry in Spike Milligan’s 1973 movie Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall to parts in Carry On at Your Convenience and Confessions of a Driving Instructor.
He was also the voice of Paul McCartney in the Beatles’ 1968 cartoon film Yellow Submarine.
Born in Wallasey in February 1944, Hughes grew up in Liverpool. He went to Ranworth Square Primary School and then Abbotsford Secondary Modern School in Norris Green.
Like many actors of his generation, he learned his craft in repertory theatre. Hughes honed his talents at the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, before moving to London’s West End.
His first London production was the musical Maggie May, which premiered in 1964. The music and lyrics by Lionel Bart were based on a book by Alun Owen.
Maggie May focused on trade union disputes in Liverpool, portraying the life of prostitute Margaret Mary Duffy and her sailor partner.
On stage, Hughes appeared in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Run for your Wife. He also played Pistol in Shakespeare’s Henry V and often appeared in pantomime.
In 1974, Hughes made his Coronation Street debut as builder, binman and small-time entrepreneur Eddie Yeats. He turned up at Minnie Caldwell’s house asking for lodgings after doing a stretch for burglary in Walton prison.
After trying to date barmaid Bet Lynch, he got into a number of scrapes as Stan Ogden’s side-kick, becoming like a son to him and his long-suffering wife Hilda.
Stan was played by Bernard Youens and Hilda by the brilliant Liverpool actress Jean Alexander. The trio enjoyed some of the funniest, and most poignant, scenes in British soap history.
These often involved items Eddie brought into the house – the colour TV that turned out to be just a tinted screen and the wallpaper for Hilda’s mural, or ‘muriel’ as she termed it, being two of the best.
Eddie left the Street in 1983 after meeting his future wife Marion Willis (Veronica Doran) on CB radio. His call name was Slim Jim and hers was Stardust Lil.
Hughes played Onslow in the popular Roy Clarke BBC sitcom Keeping Up Appearances from 1990 to 1995. He habitually dressed in a vest and kept a dog in a rusty Hillman Avenger outside his house.
Onslow was the complete opposite of his aspirational sister-in-law and main character Hyacinth Bucket, beautifully portrayed by Birkenhead actress Patricia Routledge. Her name, of course, was pronounced bouquet!
In spite of his appearance, Onslow was also a bit of a philosopher on the quiet. His favourite reading material was A Brief History of Time and the Racing Post!
Hughes played Vernon Scripps in Heartbeat from 2001 to 2005, taking over the lovable rogue spot from Bill Maynard’s Claude Greengrass.
Among Vernon’s many business schemes in the series were a taxi firm, courier service, hotrod racing and even a marriage bureau.
As well as his major roles, Hughes made guest appearances on many TV programmes. They included Z-Cars, Doctor Who, The Likely Lads, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and Dad’s Army.
Hughes died of pancreatic cancer in July 2012 at the age of 68.
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