Farewell then, Tony Warren, you served us well. They announced your death on Twitter – thus neatly spanning the two worlds you inhabited.
You brought the flat and raucous tones of the wildings south; displayed the wit and the wisdom of a thousand indomitable women – the underbelly of men who stoked the furnaces and consumed the Thwaites dark. You did more to heal the North/South divide than a bus load of politicians.
You made it possible for actors and actresses to find work without contorting themselves into the chiselled vowels, manicured diphthongs, and enunciated consonants that were the staple of broadcasting life.
The tortured articulation that flew out of our radios at five to six every night…‘Cumberland, Westmoreland, Lancashire and Cheshire, Yorkshire Pennines and East of the Pennines, Northumberland, Durham, North Derbyshire, North Nottinghamshire, and Lincolnshire…’ might have spoken of the rain expected to fall on our heads, of the winds to howl round our ears, but it was spoke in the strangulated voice of a foreign invader in the kingdom of Rheged.
Coronation Street made it so normal, so everyday, to betray through voice your heritage of cobbles and corsets, flat caps and ferrets, and scrag end of lamb for Sunday dinner, that within a few years the South was ringing to the flattened vowels of northern pop singers, and we had a Prime Minister who sounded as though he still had shares in a cotton mill.
Why there were even people south of Crewe Junction who knew what a Ginnel was.
That is a remarkable achievement.
Why wasn’t he Sir Tony Warren?