Bert moved to Coronation Street with his wife and son in 1979. Though a dedicated, hard-working man, Bert spent much of his time in the Street on the dole after being made redundant from Fosters' Foundry. At home, Bert could usually be found playing peacemaker between Ivy and Brian, usually in matters involving Brian's girlfriend (and later wife) Gail Potter.
Bert's later years were marked by declining health, including a minor stroke which cost him his job at Longshaw's Foundry which he had followed more than a year of unemployment. He died in 1984 after spending five months in a psychiatric hospital in Southport.
1935-1980: The Tilsleys move in
Bert Tilsley was born on 8th June 1935 and married Ivy Nelson in 1956. Despite their closeness Bert and Ivy only had one child, Brian, born in 1958. By the 1970s, the Tilsleys lived a settled life in Weatherfield, with Bert working nights at Fosters' Foundry and Ivy at the Mark Brittain Warehouse and later Baldwin's Casuals in Coronation Street.
Bert and Ivy had a congenial marriage; Ivy believed in the institution of marriage as she was a devout Catholic and loved Bert, while Bert, despite often bowing to the wishes of his strong-minded wife, knew how to bring out Ivy's softer side and could use that to get her to back down. One instance where Bert knew he was fighting a losing battle came in January 1979 when Ivy set her heart on buying 5 Coronation Street, across the Street from the factory. Bert was happy where they were but put in an offer of £7,000 on the house, which was accepted.
At this time, Brian was twenty years old and was seeing Gail Potter. Bert knew that Brian needed his freedom but had to work to convince Ivy that Gail was the right woman for Brian; Gail wasn't Catholic and had lost her virginity to a married man, Roy Thornley. When Ivy told Brian about Roy, Bert stepped in and helped Brian and Gail come to an understanding, but this caused a rift between Brian and Ivy and resulted in Brian moving out of No.5. The issue wasn't resolved until Bert and Gail each convinced their other halves that they should all live together at No.5 - for cost reasons, if nothing else. Bert also shamed Ivy into begging for forgiveness for her selfishness. Brian and Gail married in November and Bert put a lock on their bedroom door so the couple could have privacy.
The four got on surprisingly well under the same roof, although it was seen as a temporary arrangement and in April 1980 Bert angered Ivy by encouraging Brian and Gail to buy a £16,000 house - more than they could afford. Bert and Ivy also sought space and decided to go on holiday to Benidorm with Jack and Vera Duckworth, but Ivy gave their holiday money to Brian and Gail to pay a deposit on the house when they came up short. They eventually settled on Buxton Close and moved out in August that year, by which time Gail was pregnant. Bert's grandson Nick was born on 31st December.
1980-1982: On the dole
At the end of the year, Bert was made redundant from Fosters' as the factory was shut down. Bert signed on and started job hunting, but quickly realised his prospects weren't good - he was too skilled for labouring jobs and jobs within his trade were hard to come by, and his age also counted against him.
In February 1981, Bert was offered a three-month contract as a fitter in Holland, having looked into getting a job in a country where his employment prospects would be greater, but turned it down after deciding that he couldn't live away from Ivy. To spare Ivy's feelings, Bert told her that he hadn't got the job.
The year was a difficult time for Bert. His only paid work included a brief stint at the Builder's Yard, delivering newspapers for The Kabin and decorating No.1, and to make matters worse his dole was cut in June, as he'd been claiming for six months. He also had to cope with domestics at home as he made Brian see sense after falling out with Gail and, in May, convinced Jack Duckworth to face Vera when they were estranged, as she had dumped herself on Ivy in the meantime. In August, he applied for a job as a van driver for Baldwin's Casuals, but was turned down as Mike Baldwin was against employing couples.
In September, Bert was investigated by the DSS for illicit earnings. This caused much friction in the Street - Bert had only not declared his earnings at Ivy's urging and blamed her for the investigation, and as Len and Ken both denied employing Bert, they were putting themselves at risk. Eventually Bert signed a statement admitting illicit earnings, deciding to face the truth and live with being stigmatised as a fraud.
As Bert prepared for his court appearance, he continued applying for jobs and in January 1982 landed the perfect job - a fitter at Longshaw's Foundry - but he was due to appear in court on his first day. Rather than make an excuse to his bosses, Bert told the truth, and was relieved when they admired his honesty and kept him on. In court, Bert was fined £90 and was required to repay £200 dole money - but at least he was working again.
Ultimately, Bert would be working for less than a year. In December, he broke his arm at work and took sick leave to recover. In March 1983, he saw a doctor and a specialist over his arm and was informed that he might have had a mini stroke, and could have a stroke at any time. A result of this was that he could never work with machinery again, and consequently there was little to no work available for him. Brian let him help out by sweeping up at his garage, but while Brian was away Bert, desperate for more important work, tried to make himself useful by blowing up a tyre. When he did so, the gas pressure exploded and Bert was knocked out.
Rushed to hospital with head and chest injuries, Bert was put on a life support machine and fell into a coma. When he awoke, Bert was confused but returned home, only to disappear days later while babysitting Nicky. Bert later turned up in Bristol, where he was arrested for loitering in a shopping precinct and later admitted to hospital before Ivy was informed of his whereabouts. His condition was serious - he failed to recognise Ivy and was later moved to a psychiatric hospital in Southport, where he died in January 1984. Ivy was with Bert when he died.
- Bert was a Manchester United and Mantovani fan.
- In 1980, he competed for the Rovers in a barbershop quartet with Eddie Yeats, Alf Roberts and Renee Roberts.
- Bert Tilsley first appeared in Episode 1881 on 29th January 1979, eight years after the character's wife Ivy was introduced. Producer Bill Podmore wanted to give more screen time to Ivy and decided to move her family into the now vacant No.5, creating the characters of Bert and Brian.
- In a continuity error, the already long-established Ivy had spoken of her family several times in her previous eight years in the series, and a husband, Jack Tilsley, had actually appeared in Episode 1534 (29th September 1975), played by Bert Gaunt (in some earlier episodes, Ivy's husband was named Arthur). The name change to Bert was due to Vera Duckworth's oft-referenced husband also being called Jack. In his 1990 memoirs Coronation Street: The Inside Story, Bill Podmore joked that he made Ivy a bigamist and claimed that Gaunt sent him a telegram saying that if Ivy didn't mind, he would just call round now and then to claim his conjugal rights.
- Bert Tilsley was Peter Dudley's fifth role in Coronation Street, after a waiter in 1967, a delivery man in 1968, Dougie Bowker in 1973 and Donald Anderson in 1978.
- Dudley was twice charged with importuning during his time in Coronation Street. In 1983, following a trial at which the jury failed to agree on a verdict, he suffered a stroke and lost the use of his left side. This was written into the programme, to explain why Bert was similarly afflicted. Before Dudley's retrial could take place, he suffered a second stroke and died. His character was killed off in January 1984.
First and last lines
"Aye." (First line)
"Yeah I will in a bit love, I think I'll just have a little doze." (Final line)