Elizabeth "Betty" Williams (née Preston, previously Turpin) was the Rovers Return Inn's longest-serving barmaid.
Prior to her marriage to Cyril Turpin, Betty had an affair with soldier Ted Farrell which produced an illegitimate son. Letting Ted return to his wife believing that she'd had a miscarriage, Betty let her sister and brother-in-law Maggie and Les Clegg adopt the child, who was named Gordon, and raise him as their own. It wasn't until 1975 that Gordon learned the truth about his parentage, after which he embraced Betty as his mother.
Betty arrived in Coronation Street in 1969 to help Maggie run the Corner Shop, installing herself and her policeman husband Cyril in the shop flat. To stop her sister from taking over, Maggie found her a job as a barmaid at the Rovers - a position in which she'd remain for the next 43 years, not counting multiple sackings, walkouts and retirements.
In 1974, Cyril died from a heart attack and Maggie embarked on a new life in Zaire with her second husband Ron Cooke. As a policeman's widow, Betty was well-endowed, but held onto her Rovers job for the company. For most of her years there, she worked alongside Bet Lynch, who ascended to landlady in 1985 and became a close friend of Betty's. While landlords, staff, and patrons came and went, Betty was as much a constant as her famous hotpot.
1920-1969: Early lifeEditBetty Preston was born at 6 Tile Street, Weatherfield on 4th February 1920. Betty started work in a mill after leaving Clackers Lane Elementary and Senior Schools. During the Second World War, she worked in a munitions factory, before spending some years working as a school meals assistant.
In 1950, Betty fell pregnant after a year-long affair with soldier Ted Farrell. Betty had met Ted during the war and they'd written to each other regularly until he was taken prisoner. After the war, he'd returned to his native Portsmouth but taken a job in Manchester, upon which he and Betty started seeing each other. On learning she was pregnant, Betty told Ted but he then admitted he had a wife and child in Portsmouth. He offered to divorce his wife for Betty, but when he returned home to sort out his affairs, Betty knew she'd never see him again.
As she was unmarried, Betty decided to give the newborn son - whom she named Gordon - to her sister Maggie and her husband Les. The Cleggs raised Gordon, who never found out the truth about his parentage until 1975 when his birth certificate was discovered.
1969-1974: Moving into Coronation StreetEditMaggie and Les had bought the Corner Shop in 1968.Betty followed them in June 1969, offering to help Maggie run the shop. She moved into the shop flat with her husband Cyril. Maggie greatly resented her bossy older sister trying to run her life and she quickly took advantage of Annie's holiday in Majorca (as winner of the perfect Landlady competition) by persuading Jack Walker to give Betty a job at the Rovers. Upon Annie's return, there was friction between no-nonsense Betty and Annie with her airs-and-graces. By Christmas 1969, Betty ended up sacked. She immediately got a job at The Flying Horse, and only returned to the Rovers after wringing an apology out of Annie.
In May 1970, Cyril returned home to the flat to find Betty being terrorised by ex-convict Keith Lucas (Cyril was his arresting officer), and furious at this, attacked Lucas with an iron bar, narrowly avoiding killing him. Cyril was hauled before a disciplinary committee, and the next month he was retired from the force on a full pension. He and Betty moved into 37 Hillside Crescent.
1974-1977: Family troubleEdit1974 was a bad year for Betty. In February, Cyril died of a heart attack, leaving Betty devastated. In July, her sister Maggie married Ron Cooke and emigrated to Zaire.
Gordon came back from his accountancy job in London to look after the shop and stayed with Betty. However, Betty ordered him back to London after finding him with his trousers round his ankles with a local girl. The shop was rented out to the newly-arrived Hopkins family. In December, Megan Hopkins was moving some furniture in the flat when she came across Gordon's birth certificate. He was born "Gordon Preston", and his mother was "Elizabeth Preston", his father unknown. After probing Minnie Caldwell about former residents in the area, Megan found that Elizabeth Preston was now Betty Turpin. When Maggie and Betty found out, they decided to tell Gordon the dark secret. In February 1975, Megan Hopkins tried to blackmail Gordon with the information, in an attempt to buy the shop at a reduced price, but the attempt failed and the Hopkins fled the shop and Coronation Street in the dead of night. Things picked up for Betty in 1975: she won Newton & Ridley's 'Personality of the Pub' competition in March. Later in the year, a drunken Gordon revealed the secret about his parentage, embarrassing Betty. She was left unable to face the pub's regulars for some time.
1977-1984: Annie, Bet, Betty and FredEditIn August 1977, Betty stormed out of The Rovers when Annie accused her of stealing £45, and suggested she consult a psychiatrist about her 'problem'. Betty was on the verge of taking the case to court when she was finally persuaded to return to the pub.
Apart from being proposed to by newly recruited potman Fred Gee (whom she turned down immediately), Betty then had a quiet few years serving in the Rovers - and so began a period of Annie ruling supreme over the tight Rovers staff unit: Bet, Betty and Fred. Also in this period, Betty began producing the now-famous hotpot as part of the Rovers food menu, which became a hit with the regulars.May 1982, Betty was mugged by Raymond Attwood from Ken Barlow's Community Centre Youth Club, and ended up in hospital with a broken arm. Ted Farrell, Betty's old wartime flame and Gordon's natural father, saw a newspaper article about the mugging and decided to pay her a visit. As far as Ted was concerned, they had been close, but when he moved down to Portsmouth and married a local girl that was the end of their friendship. Betty felt it better not to stir up the past upon Ted's visit, and they both parted with him thinking they were always "just sweethearts".
In May 1983, Betty acted as Bet's chaperone when they went out for a day with Fred Gee - and ended up paddling in the lake at Tatton Park as Fred's Rover 2000 (bought from Annie Walker) ended up in the lake. The Rovers staff finally arrived back late to find the pub in chaos, with Vera Duckworth helping out behind the bar.
1985-1995: Veteran barmaidEdit1985 dawned with a new boss for Betty, Bet Lynch, following Annie's retirement the year before.
The following year Betty spent a few months in London with Gordon, Caroline and grandson Peter while The Rovers was being refurbished after a fire. In January 1989, Bet's husband Alec Gilroy employed retired ventriloquist Charlie Bracewell as barman. However, after he interfered with Betty, he was quickly palmed off onto Stella Rigby at the White Swan.
More heartache occurred for Betty in 1992 when the Rovers was forced to stop selling food: its kitchen didn't meet food and hygiene standards. Over the years, the pub had become famous for Betty's hotpot, and latterly Betty had worked more in the kitchen than behind the bar. She was effectively redundant, and left the Rovers in tears. However, the Gilroys reluctantly agreed to refurbish the kitchen, and Betty returned.
In 1994, Alf Roberts again became mayor of Weatherfield and as his wife Audrey was reluctant to take part in civic duties, asked Betty to be his mayoress. Betty was flattered and agreed - following in the footsteps of Annie Walker, who was Alf's mayoress in 1973.
1995-1997: Marriage to BillyEditOn 8th May 1995, 50 years to the day, two old soldiers returned to the pub they celebrated VE Night in - the Rovers Return. Betty was surprised to see one of them was an old flame - Billy Williams. A few days later, Billy invited Betty to a tea dance and confessed that he had often thought about her over the years and that he had often written to her too. Betty told Billy that she too had written to him but neither of them received each other's letters. Billy also revealed that in one letter he had proposed marriage.
Betty turned down Billy's proposal, together with an offer to go on holiday together, but called on Billy when she was burgled in September 1995. Billy stayed the night, and arranged for a burglar alarm to be fitted, and then proposed marriage again, which Betty refused. However, next month she relented, and later in October they were married.
At the end of October, Jack and Vera Duckworth became the new owners of the Rovers, and when she returned from honeymoon, Betty was very surprised to find out who her new bosses were. It only took a few days for Betty to walk out of the Rovers yet again - this time because Vera asked her to become a cleaner as well as barmaid and cook the hotpots. Vera started her own hotpot, but soon had to turn to butcher Fred Elliott for supplies. Vera had to apologise before Betty considered returning to the Rovers.
In December, Alf and Audrey Roberts travelled down to Buckingham Palace for Alf's OBE. Audrey had a blazing row with taxi driver Don Brennan, resulting in Audrey being left at a motorway service station, and Alf travelling on alone. As he was being driven down the Mall, who should Alf see but Betty - who just happened to be down in London for the day, and so Alf was accompanied by his former mayoress when he received his OBE - much to Audrey's annoyance.
In 1997, Billy died, leaving Betty heartbroken.
1997-2012: Later years and deathEditIn 1999, Betty celebrated her 30th anniversary at the Rovers Return with a party, attended by all the regulars. Betty considered retirement in 2002, and decided to move to Wimbledon to be with Gordon and his wife Caroline. However, Betty spent most of the time left alone at home, and she felt resented by Caroline. This was exacerbated when Caroline gave Betty a brochure for an old people's home. Betty visited Weatherfield and discussed her fears with Blanche Hunt, who told her that she'd be better off looking after number one than pleasing others. Betty agreed, and the regulars welcomed her back to the Rovers. In 2009, while Rovers manageress Liz McDonald was in Spain, fellow barmaid Poppy Morales saw herself as being in charge. She disliked Betty working a certain amount of hours and for doing only what she felt like doing. Poppy attempted to fire Betty but was unsuccessful - owner Steve McDonald saw Betty's service as more invaluable, and Poppy was sacked instead.
There was a double celebration for Betty in 2010 - her 90th birthday and being hailed by The Weatherfield Gazette as the oldest barmaid in the north west of England.
In 2012, Betty had fallen ill. When her son Gordon came up to visit her, Betty had passed away peacefully in her sleep. He later went to tell her friends at the Rovers about her passing. Her portrait was placed on the wall of the Rovers by landlady Stella Price, allowing the residents to reminisce and for her memory to remain a constant presence.
- Betty Driver originally auditioned for the role of Hilda Ogden in 1964, but lost out to Jean Alexander.
- The following year, Driver got a role in the Street spin-off series Pardon the Expression alongside Arthur Lowe, reprising his Street role as Leonard Swindley. In an attempted stunt, Driver injured her back and retired shortly afterwards, running a pub in Derbyshire with her sister Freda.
- In 1969, Street producer Harry Kershaw offered Driver the role of Betty Turpin, the sister of already-established character Maggie Clegg. Driver accepted the role for what she thought would only be six episodes. She made her debut in Episode 881 on 2nd June 1969.
- Throughout 2008 and January 2009, Betty made irregular appearances as Driver's sister Freda suffered from long term ill-health, until her death in December 2008.
- Between February and August 2010 (with the exception of two episodes in May), Betty was absent from the show due to Driver's ill-health.
- Driver was admitted to hospital in May 2011 suffering from pneumonia. She died on 15th October, with Betty's last episode (Episode 7610) broadcast on 27th May. The character's death was handled on 16th April 2012.
- In May 2013, Sean Tully told Rita Tanner of the changes to the Rovers that were implemented by Gloria Price, asking "What would Betty say?", which suggested that they weren't in keeping with tradition.
- Rita Tanner had a copy of a photo of Betty to replace the one that was destroyed in the fire and gave it to Stella Price.
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