Ivy Joan Brennan (née Nelson, previously Tilsley) was the God-fearing mother of Brian Tilsley and mother-in-law of Gail. A long-term employee at Baldwin's Casuals, Ivy was a resident of 5 Coronation Street from 1979 to 1994.
Prior to living in the Street, Ivy had been employed at the Mark Brittain Warehouse and between 1976 and 1989 she was a machinist at Baldwin's denim factory, also serving as shop steward and supervisor at various times. She was never afraid to speak her mind and frequently stood up to Mike on behalf of her colleagues, including Ida Clough and best friend Vera Duckworth. After the factory was demolished, Ivy continued in the rag trade at Ingram's Textiles before ending up at Bettabuy supermarket.
1979 saw Ivy, her husband Bert and 20-year-old son Brian move into No.5 and Brian fly the nest to marry Gail Potter. Bert's years in Street were mostly spent out of work and in 1984 he died from a stroke in a psychiatric hospital. As a widow, Ivy's attentions were focused on Brian's family, including her grandchildren Nicky and Sarah Louise who Ivy doted on. A staunch Catholic, Ivy disapproved of Brian and Gail's decision to separate and ultimately divorce. After Brian was killed in a stabbing in 1989, Ivy continued to meddle under the guise of protecting his memory, notably attempting to thwart Gail's second husband Martin Platt's plans to adopt Brian's children.
Ivy herself was married again, to taxi driver Don Brennan in 1988. In 1991, Ivy's unreasonable behaviour drove Don into the arms of barmaid Julie Dewhurst. Don left Ivy after surviving a suicide attempt but patched things up to help Ivy beat the bottle when she turned to drink. As their unhappy marriage continued, Ivy eventually went to stay at a religious retreat and in 1995 she died there after suffering a stroke.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Ivy's ghost
- 3 Personality
- 4 Relationships
- 5 Hobbies and interests
- 6 Background information
- 7 First and last lines
- 8 Appendices
- 9 See also
- Note: This biography uses the revised version of Ivy's backstory as established from 1978 onwards. As such, the character of Jack Tilsley and all storylines relating to him are omitted. As those storylines are still considered to have happened within the overall narrative, they are presented later in the article in the section labelled Jack Tilsley.
1936-1971: Early life
Ivy Nelson was born in Rochdale on 8th April 1936 to Jim and Alice Nelson. Her sister, Sheila, settled in Calgary, Canada, and raised a family there, maintaining written correspondence with her sibling back home.
Ivy only saw her father smile once, when he won the pools, and the prize of a paltry 4/- 11d soon put paid to that. His marriage was much like Ivy's would be, with Jim being severely henpecked by Alice and increasingly, as she grew up, by Ivy herself. From her mother, Ivy inherited her proud Catholicism and family values, with Alice raising her daughter with the belief that the route to happiness was to have as many children as possible.
In the 1950s, Ivy left her family's Rochdale home and moved to Manchester. Factory work became her bread-and-butter, being employed at a cloak factory and pickle factory at various points. Ivy worked hard by day and partied hard by night, dancing along to the likes of her favourite singer, Elvis Presley. In 1955, at the Palais she met Bert Tilsley, an RAF serviceman and Teddy Boy on the monkey run with his mates, and they started seeing each other. Six months in, Bert decided that Ivy was the one for him and proposed. They were married in 1956, living with Bert's parents for a while before taking up residence in Inkerman Street, Weatherfield.
The birth of their only child, Brian, in 1958 occurred after three miscarriages and came with a sting in the tale. Like Ivy, Bert wanted a big family. Ivy, seeing it as her duty to give him children, saw the miscarriages as a punishment from God and promised Him that she would stay away from the dance floors and pubs on Saturdays so that she could attend two masses on Sundays. In 1958, she fell pregnant once more and prayed for a healthy baby. Six months in, Ivy was admitted to hospital where the baby's position meant that delivery took place by Caesarean. The boy, who they named Brian John, survived, but Ivy was told that she would never be able to conceive again.
The apple of his mother's eye, Brian was raised in the Catholic faith but was not himself religious, much to Ivy's disappointment. Ivy and Bert, though they had wanted more children, accepted that it was not to be and did the best they could with Brian.
1971-1978: The factory years
In 1971, Ivy left the pickle factory and was taken on at the newly built Mark Brittain Warehouse in Coronation Street as a checking assistant, working under the supervision of Elsie Howard. Edna Gee, a workmate from the pickle factory and Ivy's drinking buddy at The Red Lion, followed her there, and the pair were inseparable throughout Ivy's four years at the warehouse.
Having proved herself to be a reliable and efficient worker, Ivy found herself liaising more with management and relaying the general mood in the checking room, while remaining firmly on the side of the workers. In 1974, now employed in the packing department, Ivy was one of the ringleaders in the staff's fight for union representation, successfully lobbying for a union by threatening to bring the girls out on strike.
A year later, a fire started by Kevin Marsh took hold in the warehouse during working hours. The building was evacuated and the fire brigade called, but Edna could not be found. Ivy led the search for her best friend alongside Edna's husband Fred, and was deeply saddened when the fire was put out and Edna's body was found in the stockroom, where she'd gone for a cigarette break after Ivy pulled her up for her shoddy work.
Due to the fire damage, the Mark Brittain corporation withdrew from Coronation Street, all of the staff were laid off and the building lay derelict for a year. Finally, in October 1976, Mike Baldwin set up Baldwin's Casuals on the site and advertised for machinists to sew denim. Ivy applied and was taken on alongside Marie Stanton and Vera Duckworth, an old colleague from the warehouse, with Elsie again working above Ivy as supervisor. Ivy immediately proved that time hadn't dulled her fighting spirit by threatening a strike in order to get the girls' pay day changed to Thursdays, in her first of many battles with Mike.
In March 1978, Elsie took a leave of absence from the factory, leaving the position of supervisor vacant. Ivy, Vera and Ida Clough all vied for the job, but Mike was loathe to promote any of them and instead appointed Ivy as senior machinist on £5 extra a week.
1979-1982: Poison Ivy awakens
In 1979, following her separation from Ray Langton, Deirdre put 5 Coronation Street on the market. Ivy was interested in buying the property - the most modern house in the street at the time - and offered Deirdre £7,000 for it. Bert, though less enthusiastic, bowed to his wife's wishes, and once Deirdre accepted they sold their Inkerman Street home. Moving in, Ivy installed a cocktail cabinet in the living room and christened the house with Vera.
Brian was twenty years old and employed as a mechanic. He spent his spare time in the gym, riding his motorbike, and seeing Gail Potter, a young woman from Dawson's Cafe. Within four months, Brian and Gail were engaged. Ivy, feeling that Gail did not respect the close relationship between mother and son, found reasons to declare her an unsuitable wife, firstly because she was C of E and then because of her 1976 affair with a married man, Roy Thornley. Brian, satisfied that Roy has misled Gail into believing he was a bachelor, moved out of No.5 in anger when Ivy continued to bring subject up. Ivy was distraught when Bert, a calming influence in the household, warned his wife that her selfishness was ruining their marriage. She immediately made reparations with Brian and Gail, and they accepted her offer to live with them after they were married while they saved up for a house of their own. The couple also agreed to have a Catholic wedding to appease Ivy, marrying at St. Boniface Church in November.
Back at the factory, Ivy had been supervisor in all but name following Elsie's recent departure. When Elsie decided to return, Ivy put her foot down, telling Mike that the girls wouldn't stand for Elsie coming and going as she pleased. This caused Elsie to be passed over, leading her to row with Ivy in the Rovers, calling her a "tin-pot busybody". Ivy had also been unofficial shop steward, a position which came under threat when Mike brought in a new supervisor, Pauline Stringer, who insisted on holding an election to fill the role. Ivy emerged triumphant, defeating Ida Clough with 17 votes to 14. When Pauline left the factory, Mike created the position of working manager and offered it to Ivy for £10 extra a week - she happily accepted, and let Ida be shop steward after all.
In the meantime, one home was proving too small for two families. Gail didn't like Ivy mothering Brian, while Ivy felt that she was being made to feel guilty whenever she did anything for her son. Brian and Gail set their hearts on a £16,000 house, with Ivy giving up a holiday with the Duckworths in Benidorm to help the couple make up the deposit. When Gail announced that she was pregnant, the Tilsleys were faced with a choice of either lowering their sights or remaining at No.5, as they couldn't afford to raise a child and buy the house. A major row erupted when Gail's mother Audrey Potter suggested that Gail could have an abortion. Ivy slapped Brian across the face when he offered it as a solution, reminding him of what she'd gone through before he was born, and the idea went no further.
The house Brian and Gail ultimately settled on was 5 Buxton Close, which upset Ivy as it was two bus rides away. Nevertheless, Ivy made sure that she saw at least as much of them as Audrey did. Finally, on New Year's Eve, Gail gave birth to Nicholas John Tilsley, or "Nicky" as he was usually called, and Ivy now had two great loves of her life.
Nicky's birth would prove to be the bright spot in a difficult year for the Tilsleys. Just before their grandson was born, Bert had been made redundant from Fosters foundry, where he'd worked for years. His age and skill level meant that he was turned down for labouring work and had to wait until a job in his trade became available. As a result, he spent months out of work. When he did some decorating for the Barlows, Ivy told him not to declare it to the DSS in case his dole was cut off - this backfired when Bert was reported and investigated for illicit earnings. Eventually, his conscience won out and Bert signed a statement admitting to earning money while on the dole.
Adding to their woes, the factory staff were put on a three-day-week and Brian was in court for unlawfully wounding robber Ronnie Burgess after Brian intervened in a robbery at Fourways Garage. His exoneration in November 1981 marked the beginning of a turnaround for the family as the following January Bert landed a job as a fitter at Longshaw's Foundry and with the factory through its slump, the Tilsleys were back on an even keel.
1983-1985: Bert's death and George Wardle
Over a period of twelve months, Ivy watched her husband slowly decline. In March 1983, while off sick with a broken arm, Bert was seen by a specialist who warned him that he could have a stroke at any time. This lost Bert his job as he could no longer operate the machinery, and with no other prospects, he was reduced to helping out at Tilsley's Garage, Brian's new auto repair shop. Four months later, he was injured in a gas explosion there which left him in a coma. When he awoke, he wasn't the same man and showed signs of brain damage. He was allowed home, but just days later he went missing while babysitting Nicky, eventually surfacing in Bristol where he was arrested for loitering in a shopping precinct.
With Bert institutionalized in Southport, Ivy told the neighbours that he was having special treatment, as it was the only way she could face them. As the months went on, his condition did not improve and it became clear that he would never come home. In the meantime, a cash-strapped Brian and Gail sold their house and moved back in with Ivy when she offered them rent-free accommodation to stop Brian from selling the garage. In January 1984, Ivy and Brian rowed over Ivy letting widower Arthur Whittaker walk her home from the bingo so that she wasn't mugged of her £20 winnings. The spat was interrupted by a call from Southport informing the Tilsleys that Bert was near death. Ivy, who had been informed that his condition was terminal some months earlier, went to say goodbye to Bert and was by his side when he died.
Ivy continued to see Arthur after her Bert's passing, angering Brian for whom Bert's death had come out of the blue. His opposition made Ivy even more determined to keep Arthur in her life, valuing his friendship at such a difficult time. However, when Arthur started to become possessive, Ivy showed him the door, saying she wasn't ready for a relationship.
A more serious proposition came in 1985 when George Wardle started at Baldwin's Casuals as a van driver. George was another widower, and a Catholic, of the same parish as Ivy. They became friends when Vera volunteered Ivy to wash and iron St. Luke's junior rugby team's kits for George, who coached the team. George brought out a more audacious side to Ivy; once, when the team's van broke down before a match, she used her master key to take the firm's van without permission. The vehicle ended up covered in graffiti and Ivy got a black eye after arguing with one of the opponent's mothers. With George facing the sack, Ivy took full responsibility for the misuse of the van and Mike took the repair costs out of their pay packets.
In June, Ivy and George went on holiday together to the Isle of Man, sleeping in separate bedrooms. Both were ready to take the next step and when George proposed, Ivy accepted. As the engagement dragged on through the autumn months, Ivy pushed George to set a date for the wedding. She was stunned when he admitted that he'd lied about being a widower and was in fact divorced. As George was still a married man in the eyes of the church, Ivy saw no future in their relationship and broke off the engagement. They tried to continue seeing each other as friends, but Ivy longed for more, despite herself. When George began seeing factory worker Pauline Walsh, Ivy convinced herself that if she gave up the church, George would take her back. However, when she put the proposition to George, he was adamant that their romance was over.
1985-1988: From Tilsley to Brennan
In the meantime, living with Ivy was taking its toll on Brian and Gail's marriage, particularly when Brian decided to put their £3,000 savings into the garage instead of towards a house. When he and Gail split up and Brian showed more interest in clubbing than his family, Ivy was outraged and refused to put a roof over his head. This gave him the shake-up he needed to make it up with Gail. The Tilsleys then bought 33 Hammond Road, and for the first time Ivy was alone at No.5.
Brian and Gail's marital issues continued to dominate Ivy's life in 1986 and 1987. When Ivy's nephew Ian Latimer visited from Australia, he and Gail had an affair, leaving the identity of her unborn child's father uncertain. Ian, unaware of the pregnancy, went home to Australia leaving the Tilsleys' marriage in tatters. Ivy let Brian move back home, but made no secret of her disapproval of his decision to divorce Gail and his subsequent relationship with Liz Turnbull. When Brian absented himself from the birth of Sarah Louise in February 1987, refusing to believe that she was his, Ivy tore a strip off her son for his behaviour, causing him to leave No.5 and move in with Liz. Two years of bitterness came to an end when, having tried to take Nicky away to Ireland, Brian got cold feet and brought him back to Gail. Ivy was overjoyed at the couple's reconciliation and their eventual re-marriage in February 1988.
Wanting to let her hair down, in September 1987 Ivy let Vera take her out to a club, The Pink Flamingo. By coincidence, Don Brennan was her taxi driver there and back. Ivy was taken aback when Don later called on her and asked her out for a drink, and even more so when they made up a foursome with the Duckworths and he wasn't put off.
At the factory, production switched from denim to curtains, resulting in a 20% reduction in the basic rate. Ivy also lost her position of supervisor to Connie Parker, who was experienced in curtain manufacturing. Having upped the rate by 5% as a concession and fired Connie once the first order of curtains was completed, Mike reinstated Ivy as supervisor.
Ivy was onto a good thing with Don. He was a widower with three grown children, and got on with Brian. When he asked Ivy to marry him, she accepted. The day before their June wedding, the factory girls gave Ivy a send-off by getting drunk in the Rovers in the afternoon, resulting in Mike docking them all half a day's pay by coming back late. The nuptials took place at St. Luke's, with Brian giving Ivy away and Gail serving as her matron of honour. Ivy and Don settled into a marriage of friendship, if not passion.
1989-1991: Brian's death and battles with Gail
In February 1989, Ivy and Don were woken up during the night by Alf Roberts, who passed on the devastating news that Brian had been fatally stabbed outside a nightclub in Manchester. Overnight, Ivy's world changed. She'd always treated Brian as her little boy, and with his death she saw it as her mother's duty to protect his memory. Acting as Brian's eyes and ears, Ivy maintained a close, sometimes adversarial, relationship with Gail as they moved on with their lives.
Their first battle was over Brian's funeral. Ivy was deeply hurt when Gail buried him as a Protestant, refusing her request for a Catholic funeral on the grounds that he wasn't religious. Fuelling Ivy's anger was the fact that Gail had told Brian she wanted another divorce the day before he was killed. While she never explicitly blamed Gail for Brian's death, she found it difficult to support a woman who in her view had treated her son so terribly. Conflicted, Ivy went to confession at St. Luke's where Father Donavan helped her rid herself of her hatred. His offer to say a mass for Brian allaying her fears over him going to Heaven, Ivy was able to make her peace with Gail.
Another big change in Ivy's life occurred in August that year when Mike sold the factory to a builder, Maurice Jones, who razed the building to the ground to make way for a new development of houses and shops. Although the workers were successful in getting redundancy pay after a hard-fought battle with Jones, Ivy spent five months on the dole.
It was Mike who came to her rescue in January 1990 when, having taken an order for travel bags from Peter Ingram, he asked his old machinists to make up the kits from home as outworkers. Ivy agreed on less than favourable terms, with Mike pocketing most of the money Ingram paid for each bag. When Ingram ordered another thousand units, Ivy and Emily Bishop took up Don's suggestion of forming a workers' cooperative, dealing directly with Ingram and cutting Mike out. This resulted in a furious Mike offering the travel agency a cheaper deal than they had with Ingram's Textiles, making the bags at a loss just to win. Having always had a grudging respect for Mike, Ivy vowed never to work for her old boss again.
Meanwhile, Ivy was scandalized when Gail started seeing Martin Platt, a man ten years her junior. She and Audrey were united in opposing Gail's "affair", convinced that it was harming their grandchildren. However, when the relationship did not fizzle out as expected, and Martin proved himself a loving and committed step-father to Nicky and Sarah Louise, the grandmothers backed down. Tempers flared up again in May when Gail announced that she was pregnant with Martin's baby; Ivy was appalled to learn that Gail had considered an abortion, and demanded that she marry Martin as their child wasn't worthy of Brian's name. Similar outrage was directed at the couple when Martin decided to give up work and become a house-husband, and similarly ignored. Ivy began to feel as if she had no control over her grandchildren's lives.
In June 1990, Ivy returned to full-time work when she gained employment as supervisor at Ingram's Textiles. The job lasted until the following May when the manager Jackie Ingram sacked her for gossiping about her and Mike, who were set to marry. Ivy then had a short spell at the Corner Shop as a favour to Alf before Reg Holdsworth poached her for Bettabuy supermarket, where she worked as a general assistant from July onwards.
Gail and Martin's son David was born on Christmas Day 1990, and the following September the couple announced their plans to marry, with Martin adopting Nicky and Sarah Louise and all three children changing their surname to Platt. Ivy saw Brian being written out of history and reacted swiftly to protect her son's legacy, making a new will leaving No.5 to Nicky on the condition that his surname was still Tilsley. In the meantime, she attempted to extend her influence over her grandson by taking him to St. Luke's for the first time and getting him to join the church football team and become an altar boy. With Nicky too young to realise what Ivy was really up to, Martin stepped in and physically dragged the boy off the pitch, forbidding him from setting foot in church again.
Ivy got her chance to scupper the adoption several weeks later when she happened to call at the Platts' and see social worker Kathy Green there. Setting up an appointment with Kathy, Ivy told the social worker that Gail and Martin's marriage was unstable due to the age difference and Gail was using Martin to change her children's surnames in order to bury her guilt over Brian's death. Her attempt at sabotage was unsuccessful, and the next day Martin became the children's legal father. For the sake of remaining a part of her grandchildren's lives, Ivy swallowed her pride and buried the hatchet with the Platts.
1991-1993: Marital collapse
While Gail and Martin came out of the dispute stronger than ever, the same could not be said of Ivy and Don. Ever since Ivy wrote up the new will, Don had been increasingly frustrated with her inability to let go of Brian and Bert and her total disregard for him, being prepared to leave him with nothing upon her death for the sake of her dead son. He'd also objected to the way she'd treated Gail and Martin, and had warned them about her plans to derail the adoption. By the time it was over, Don was totally disillusioned with his marriage and could barely tolerate being around Ivy. Telling her what he thought of her, Don left Ivy and moved into a bed and breakfast. Ivy was devastated to learn that Don had found someone else, barmaid Julie Dewhurst. Realising she'd driven him away, Ivy begged Don to come back to her and convinced him that her priorities had changed when she suggested moving away. Though they ultimately stayed in Coronation Street - Ivy changing her mind about moving when the Platts bought No.8 - she'd done enough to save her marriage.
The following June, Don crashed his cab while doing 70mph on a country road. He was seriously injured, and had to have his lower right leg amputated. When Julie Dewhurst visited Don in hospital, Ivy suspected that they'd resumed their affair and confronted her at her flat. While an affair wasn't taking place, the truth was just as painful; Don had been pursuing Julie and promised to leave Ivy for her, but Julie had turned him away; in fact it was her rejection which led Don to drive recklessly, causing the crash.
Ivy hoped that Don's brush with death would bring them together but the opposite happened. Blaming his wife for costing him his leg, Don discharged himself from hospital and moved into Wentworths Guest House, a bed and breakfast. After two months there, he left having specifically told his landlady not to give Ivy his new address. In the meantime, Ivy was being asked to baby-sit less and less due to the Platts taking in a lodger, Carmel Finnan, who helped out with the kids when required. Feeling lonely and unwanted, Ivy started drinking heavily, spiking her orange juices with vodka in the Rovers.
For a long time, Ivy refused to acknowledge that she had a drink problem and accused Gail of looking for an excuse not let her see her children when she tried to help her. At Bet Gilroy's Tupperware party, Ivy got into a drunken argument with Gail which ended with her marching over to No.8 to tell the kids what she thought of their mother. Seeing her grandchildren afraid of her, Ivy came to her senses and broke down in Gail's arms. By now, Ivy's friends were very worried about her and Vera, obtaining Don's address from Jack, went to see him and begged him to return to his wife before she drank herself to death. His conscience getting the better of him, Don returned to the street and took Ivy home after she was refused service in the Rovers for being too drunk. He planned to stay at No.5 for only one night, to make sure Ivy was okay, but when it became clear that Ivy would go back to the bottle if he left, he accepted her offer to move back in - as a lodger, sleeping in a separate bedroom.
Back to her normal self, Ivy continued to harbour hopes that she and Don would be a proper married couple again. Don meanwhile lived a bachelor's life. In 1993, Ivy was stunned to discover that Don was behind mystery phone calls which had spooked local hairdresser Denise Osbourne. Don had fallen for Denise and was frustrated that he was still tied to Ivy. When he went to his daughter's house to convalesce after the confrontation with Denise, he failed to return. Ivy feared that he would try and kill himself again and reported him to the police as a missing person. She was stunned when, a week later, he appeared at the house and asked if they could start afresh, forgiving each other's past transgressions. Ivy agreed, elated as her wish was granted at last.
In 1994, Don moved back into Ivy's bed and everything seemed to be going well for the couple. When, six months later, Ivy left her home to stay at a religious retreat, her friends and family didn't think much of it, knowing how important her religion was to her. However, when Gail paid her a visit there, it was clear that Ivy had found herself there and had no intention of ever returning to Coronation Street. Don, his tortured history with Ivy on his mind, was satisfied that she was happy being closer to God and saw it as the best solution for them both.
Moving on with his life, in 1995 Don began seeing doctor's receptionist Josie Clarke. In the summer, he decided that it was time to divorce Ivy and saw a solicitor to have the papers drawn up. When word reached his wife at the retreat, Ivy was inconsolable, and within days she suffered a fatal stroke.
After her passing, Ivy's will bequeathing her house to Nicky came into effect. Now fourteen years old, Nicky changed his surname back to Tilsley to meet the conditions of the will and inherited No.5. A battle then erupted between Don and the Platts which, after much bitterness, ended with Don having to buy his own house back from his step-grandson. In leaving the house to Nicky, Ivy had used her death to accomplish what she always tried to do in life: put her family first, and just like when she was alive, her actions succeeded only in souring the relationships of the very people she loved.
Ivy's conduct in her final years meant that she was not remembered with affection by most of her loved ones. The ramifications of her actions were felt as late as 2006, when Sophie Webster found her old diary in No.5's loft while playing with Chesney Battersby-Brown. While Sophie used the diary harmlessly, fooling several residents into thinking that she was psychic by referencing events Ivy had written about, David Platt then got hold of it and read about his step-gran's bitterness towards Gail and Martin, and the fact that Gail had intended to have an abortion when she fell pregnant with him. David then wrapped the diary as a Christmas present and gave it to Gail, reading passages aloud to his whole family and their dinner guests, the Websters, ruining the special occasion.
One of the more unusual posthumous mentions of Ivy occurred five months after she passed away, in January 1996. While upstairs in No.5, Vera became convinced that she'd seen Ivy's ghost on the landing and, worried that her friend was not at peace, tried to get in touch with her spirit. With Vera refusing to listen to reason, Don humoured her by getting a friend, Eddie Baines, to pose as a Catholic priest and perform an exorcism to drive away Ivy's spirit. Vera fell for the prank, but when Jack snapped a rosary from Eddie's bag at the Rovers and Vera turned icy cold, she took it as a sign that Ivy had merely moved from No.5 to the pub. Ivy's ghost remained a hot topic for a few weeks, with Jack attempting to use the "haunting" to pull customers in and even claiming to have seen Ivy's ghost himself to ensure that the papers ran with the story. Eventually, Josie set Vera straight about the fake exorcism and Vera threw a pint at her husband for cheapening her best friend's memory.
Ivy entered Coronation Street as a backtalking factory gossip in the early 1970s. Her working life was spent on factory and shop floors, notably Baldwin's Casuals. In whatever job she found herself, Ivy did what was asked of her to the best of her ability and in return, she expected openness from her bosses and fair treatment of the workers.
At Baldwin's, she kept one eye on her machine and one eye on Mike, and wasn't afraid to bring any issue to his door. Her assertiveness made her a natural leader among the girls, with her sense of fair play making her the ideal candidate for supervisor, a position she held for the majority of the factory's lifespan. An early sign of Ivy's knack for people management was seen in 1974, when she reported one of her fellow Mark Brittain Warehouse staff to Ken Barlow for a bad standard of packing, but refused to name them unless the problem persisted.
She had close ties with the unions, and briefly served as shop steward at Baldwin's until she gave the role up to Ida Clough. Ida found Ivy too soft for the job; in 1985, Ivy refused to back a mooted strike when Mike employed blackleg Henry Wakefield as a van driver. When Henry was hounded out of the street, Ivy apologised to his friend and landlady Hilda Ogden for letting the girls bully him and they drank to Henry's return.
Ivy applied herself just as tirelessly in her personal life, but unlike at work where she was liked and respected, Ivy's family struggled to maintain good relationships with her and she became increasingly isolated from them as the years went on. Some, such as Audrey Roberts, saw Ivy as staid and puritanical and couldn't relate to her on that basis, while others, particularly Don Brennan and Gail Tilsley, found her closed-minded and judgemental. Ivy's views - aired frequently and without apology - were heavily influenced by her Catholic religion and the family values imprinted on her by her mother Alice.
Raised to treasure the unbreakable bond between a mother and her children, Ivy gave her only child, Brian, all the love and support she could muster and then some. After he flew the nest, Ivy was unable to let go of him and was never far away throughout his and Gail's marital dramas, typically nagging her son to do right by his marriage vows. Even after his death in 1989, instead of treasuring her relationships with her two grandchildren, Ivy became obsessed with Brian's legacy, living her life as a shrine to him. Her love for her son led her to take steps to prevent Martin Platt from adopting Nicky and Sarah Louise, her warped logic nearly causing her to become estranged from her own grandchildren. When she she drove Don away with her selfish behaviour, Ivy was left with nothing but the ghosts of Brian and Bert, and feeling empty and unloved she finally started to focus on the living.
A resident of Coronation Street from 1979 to 1994, Ivy lived in peace with her neighbours, even if she counted few of them as friends. Her holier-than-thou attitude meant that she was someone tolerated by most, and the feeling was usually mutual. A typical example of her fractious relationship with her neighbours occurred in her first week living in the street. Ivy had incurred the wrath of Hilda Ogden by refusing to engage Stan as window cleaner and then, when Stan disregarded this, watching him clean the windows and then not paying him for the work. Hilda retaliated by throwing a bucket of dirty water over the Tilsleys' windows. The families eventually made up at the Tilsleys' housewarming.
Ivy was a small, stout woman with short hair, usually dyed blonde. In 1971, she sported a large boufant with curls, which she said was all her own hair. Over the years, it varied in length and colour, ranging from red to dark brown to white. By the time she left the street in 1994, she had gone back to blonde.
Ivy was a devout Catholic and a life-long church-goer. Her religion informed many of her actions over the years, including her rejection of divorcee George Wardle in 1985, her battle with daughter-in-law Gail over how Brian should be laid to rest in 1989, and her departure from Coronation Street to find solace in 1994. Ivy lived according to what she believed to be God's will and had a crucifix and photograph of the Pope hanging from her parlour wall.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Ivy was a member of the St. Luke's congregation. Her second wedding took place in the chapel in 1988 and she held priests Father Donavan and Father O'Rourke in high esteem, with them helping her - with varying degrees of success - to accept and move on from Brian's death and learn to be a more forgiving person. In fact, her devotion to her religion meant that they were often the only people who could reach Ivy when she was at her most vulnerable.
Ivy had two crises of faith during her years in Coronation Street. The first concerned her romance with George Wardle in 1985. Infatuated with George, Ivy offered to give up her religion in order to marry him; as a divorcee, he was still a married man in the eyes of the Catholic church. In the event, George broke off the relationship instead, leaving Ivy heartbroken.
The second crisis took place in 1990. For a laugh, Vera Duckworth had started attending sessions at the Weatherfield Spiritualist Church. When she reported to Ivy that the medium had made contact with someone called Brian, Ivy's curiosity got the better of her and she went to a meeting to see for herself, going against her long-established Christian beliefs. In her desperation to hear a message from Brian or Bert, Ivy bought into the medium's spiel and kept going along until he spoke to her. A week later, she got her wish when the medium gave her a message concerning "Martin", "Elizabeth", a young man in a uniform, a busy hospital, and a car crash. Ivy interpreted this as a warning from Brian that Martin Platt was going to have a road accident and warned him to be careful. However, her "assistance" was looked on as another attempt by Ivy to use her beliefs to control Gail and Martin's lives, and Martin refused to heed the warning. Vindicated when Bet Gilroy confided in her that her son Martin Downes had died in a car crash in 1975, Ivy fell deeper into Spiritualism, telling Don that she could now hear the spirits herself. She then began passing messages onto the neighbours from their loved ones, including one from Ernest Bishop to Emily. Don, begging his wife to be normal again, was relieved when she told him that Bert had got in touch and told her to stop meddling. She then gave up the Spiritualism and went to see the priest to confess her sins.
- Note: This section reflects Ivy's original backstory prior to 1978, when the character of Jack Tilsley was removed from Coronation Street history. As storylines involving him are still considered to have happened within the overall narrative, they are presented here, separate from Ivy's "true" history.
Ivy and her husband Jack Tilsley were wed in April 1953. They had no children together, much to Ivy's regret. It was a comfortable marriage, based on not living in each other's pockets; Ivy would do the cooking and cleaning but when she went out, it was nearly always with the girls from the Mark Brittain Warehouse. Only once were she and Jack seen in public together in Coronation Street, when they stopped by the Rovers with Edna and Fred Gee while out celebrating Edna's 40th birthday in 1975.
At home, Ivy tried to be the best wife she could, using her dinner break at work to go home and vacuum as Jack didn't let her do so at tea time due to it interfering with the television. In fact, their relationship was so amicable that Ivy wished they argued more, opining that a rowing was a healthy way to clear the air. Her only complaint was that Jack wasn't more masterful. In 1970, Jack tried to talk Ivy into moving to Canada, but she chose to remain in Weatherfield among her friends.
Ivy briefly left Jack in 1972 when she caught him in the house with his fancy piece, Cheryl Crowther. Sharing her troubles with Elsie Howard, her supervisor at the warehouse, Ivy moved herself into 11 Coronation Street after Elsie offered to help her in any way she could. Ivy became more entrenched in her position when, having been persuaded by Elsie to move back home, she found Cheryl still ensconced there. George Harrop, a warehouse storeman with a soft spot for Ivy, invited her to live with him and Ivy went as far as letting him kiss her in public. However, Ivy turned him down and returned to Jack instead, telling the Howards that she missed having someone to talk to who didn't interrupt his own gags.
Edna Gee was a similarly aged workmate of Ivy's at the Mark Brittain Warehouse. Both women were assigned to the checking room when the warehouse opened in 1971, manning adjacent workstations. Having known each other for some time beforehand, Ivy and Edna were always together and could usually be found gossiping about the bosses, particularly staff supervisor Elsie Howard. Off duty, Ivy and Edna's Saturday night ritual was an evening at The Red Lion pub, and they were known to get up on stage, such as in January 1972 when they sang Now is the Hour together.
On occasion, Edna's penchant for gossip went beyond the boundaries of friendship. In May 1972, while separated from her husband, Ivy was resided temporarily at 11 Coronation Street with Alan Howard - a married man. When she found herself on the receiving end of Edna's vicious tongue, Ivy responded by knocking her friend into a rail.
As the hardest worker in the packing room, Ivy was given the task of ensuring that the other girls were following the proper procedure. One person whose work did not meet the required standard was Edna. In October 1975, Ivy pulled her friend up after receiving three complaints about her output in a single month, and was angered when Edna reacted by going off for an unauthorised cigarette break. Minutes later, a fire broke out in the warehouse which caused the building to be evacuated. With Edna unaccounted for, a distraught Ivy helped Edna's husband Fred search for her, and was devastated when Ken Barlow broke the news that she'd been found dead inside the warehouse, having never made it out.
Vera Duckworth was Ivy's neighbour, workmate and bingo partner for over twenty years. At first glance they seemed like polar opposites - Vera was loud and brash, while Ivy was solemn and thoughtful - but on the battlefield that was the sewing room of Baldwin's Casuals, the women were equals against their common enemy, namely their tyrannical boss Mike Baldwin.
Their relationship dated back to at least 1974, when Ivy and Vera were employed at the Mark Brittain Warehouse. Two years later, when Baldwin's opened on the site both secured jobs as machinists. The women remained with the firm until its closure in 1989, the only constants from beginning to end apart from Mike himself. Most of the chit-chat on the factory floor was carried out by Ivy, Vera and the third member of their triad, Ida Clough, who joined them in 1978. Vera, the factory loudmouth, dominated the conversation but on union matters she would generally fall behind Ivy, as the most trusted person to go up against Mike. One area where they differed was in their application. Ivy, a hard grafter, backed the management over Vera when her colleague got into trouble for arriving late for work after someone had clocked her in in March 1979, causing Vera to cry betrayal.
Ivy and Vera were neighbours in Inkerman Street and then, from 1983 onwards, in Coronation Street. Outside work, they drank and played bingo together, sometimes socialising as couples along with Bert and Vera's husband Jack, and going on couple's holidays together to the likes of Benidorm. In 1980, the women were part of a delegation from Baldwin's Casuals who were chosen for an exchange visit to Weatherfield's twin town, Charleville. Determined to enjoy themselves, the women left an official dinner to join a rave-up with a load of ex-paras, ending up playing football with a gendarme's helmet. When the women returned home, the Town Hall received a complaint about their behaviour, leading to a Gazette reporter, Les Carter, sniffing around at the factory, much to Ivy and Vera's embarrassment.
Their close friendship meant that Ivy was occasionally drawn into the Duckworths' arguments. In May 1981, when Jack found out that Vera was seeing another man and threw her out, she temporarily dumped herself on the Tilsleys. Ivy was furious when Vera used her home to entertain the man in question. A year later, it was Jack's turn to be given the boot when Vera learned that he had gone out with Bet Lynch. Thanks to Bert playing the good samaritan, the Tilsleys ended up lumbered with him. It fell to Ivy to be the adult in the room, giving some marriage guidance to both Vera and Jack and convincing them that they needed each other.
Major fall-outs were few and far between, and any that did occur were usually due to something their family members had done. In June 1984, when Jack refused to pay for repairs to his taxi that Brian had already carried out, Brian kept the vehicle at Tilsley's Garage, causing Vera to row with Ivy for supporting Brian. Later, Ivy's second husband Don Brennan became a good friend of Jack's, and they sometimes went out gambling together. When in 1988 the men went to the casino and Jack lost £30 of Vera's housekeeping, Vera held Don responsible, causing a rift between both families. Ivy, feeling that Jack was old enough to get himself into trouble, refused to let Don be blamed. Even though Don agreed with Ivy, he considered it not worth falling out over and accepted liability, flattering Vera until they all agreed to forget about it.
Ivy and Vera worked together again at Bettabuy supermarket from 1991 to 1992. During this period, Vera watched her friend's life spiral out of control, with the drinking and Don leaving her. Distraught over Ivy's decline, Vera paid a visit to Don having obtained his new address from Jack and begged him to go back to his wife and help her beat the bottle. Her meddling helped bring Don back into Ivy's orbit, leading to their eventual reconciliation.
Although Vera undeniably wound Ivy up at times, her unwavering support for her friend even as Ivy's family turned against her meant a lot to Ivy. When Ivy passed away in 1995, Vera was one of only two beneficiaries, receiving £200 and a necklace from her friend and the rest of Ivy's estate going to her grandson Nicky Platt.
Mike Baldwin was Ivy's boss at Baldwin's Casuals from 1976 to 1989. From opposite sides of the desk, they clashed many times over the years.
A skilled machinist, Ivy was one of Mike's best workers. She took an interest in the running of the factory, which was both a curse and a blessing to Mike; as a cocksure Cockney who saw himself as king and the factory as his kingdom, Mike considered himself accountable to no-one. In Ivy, a trade unionist with enough popularity to bring the girls out on strike, he had a natural adversary.
An early skirmish between the pair took place in September 1977. When Mike started his girlfriend Terri Clayton in packing, Ivy worried that her slow work would affect the girls' bonuses and got the staff to scare her off. In 1978, when Mike sacked cleaner Hilda Ogden for cutting up her broom after he refused her request for new equipment, Ivy championed her reinstatement, convincing the girls that none of their job were safe if they let Mike get away with it. During a two-week strike by the machinists, Ivy thwarted an attempt by Mike to bring in workers from Cottams, informing their union rep about the strike in order to win their support. Eventually, Mike admitted defeat and gave Hilda her job back.
In 1980, Mike promoted Ivy to supervisor, a job she was already doing in all but name. Even so, he was careful not to let Ivy think that she was indispensable, initially hiring Pauline Stringer instead and only turning to Ivy once Pauline had walked out. In 1988, when the factory switched to making curtains, Mike pulled the same stunt again, demoting Ivy to machinist, bringing in Connie Parker to oversee the transition, and then sacking Connie in order to re-appoint Ivy.
Ivy's role as a bridge between Mike and the staff meant that she was occasionally used as a sacrificial lamb. In 1981, when Johnson's, a major customer, went bust, Mike told Ivy and Ida Clough to give him twelve names to lay off. When the staff voted to go on a three-day-week instead, Ivy put the suggestion to Mike of selling the Johnson's order on the market. Mike booked a stall and sent the girls out in pairs to sell the gear, which helped keep the factory afloat until orders picked up.
Mike developed a grudging respect for Ivy, finding her to be an effective supervisor with a strong work ethic. In 1979, he trusted her enough to loan her the £500 deposit she needed to buy No.5, and earlier that year when Mike was hospitalised following the Rovers lorry crash he asked Ivy to keep an eye on novice manager Steve Fisher, coming out of hospital when Ivy relayed Steve's poor management decisions to him. While Ivy did not have the same respect for Mike, she appreciated that he had at least kept her in a job for thirteen years.
In 1990, after the factory was sold to Maurice Jones and demolished, Ivy was recruited by Mike as a home worker, making up travel bags for Ingram's Textiles. This was an attempt by Mike to get back into the rag trade after losing most of his money in a property scam. As such, he would do anything it took to stay in business. When Ivy and the other home workers made their own deal with Peter Ingram, cutting Mike out, he responded by going to the travel agency which had the contract with Ingram's and offering them a cheaper deal, making the bags at a loss rather than let his old employees beat him. Ivy's employment woes continued when she applied for the position of supervisor at Ingram's Textiles and Mike - himself trying to work his way up the ranks at Ingram's - refused to give her a reference. Fortunately, Alma Sedgewick convinced Mike not to be spiteful and he changed his mind. By Summer of that year, Mike was work's manager and with Ivy as supervisor, the pair were back in something resembling their old positions. With Ivy's dismissal by Jackie Ingram early in 1991, she left the firm and never again worked with Mike.
Ivy met her first husband Bert Tilsley while out at the Palais with her friends in 1955. Bert, an RAF serviceman and Teddy Boy, thought that Ivy had more about her than her empty-headed friends and asked her out. For their first date, he took her along to band practice and within a year, they were married and eager to start a family of their own. However, following three miscarriages they had only one child, Brian.
Ivy and Bert's marriage was loving, but there was no doubt as to who was in charge. Ivy organised Bert, like she organised everybody else in her life. Bert, the peacemaker of the family, preferred to leave the arguing to his wife, son and daughter-in-law, content to give sage advice and only getting directly involved as a last resort in order to calm the waters. Ivy, called "my sweet" by Bert, respected her husband but respected the institution of marriage more, giving Bert the support she felt a wife ought to.
One of their biggest disagreements was over Brian and Gail's burgeoning relationship in 1979. Bert liked Gail straightaway, but she wasn't the wife Ivy wanted for Brian and when they told them they were engaged, Ivy asked them not to announce it publicly and give her time to digest the news. Bert, aware that his wife was plotting to split them up, was pleased when Brian defied Ivy and offered to pay for the engagement party, which he then convinced Ivy to attend. Later, when Ivy's opposition to the partnership caused Brian to move out of the family home, Bert told Ivy that her selfishness was ruining their marriage. Ivy realised that she was turning her family against her and begged Bert for forgiveness.
Another difficult period for the Tilsleys was Bert's spell of unemployment in 1981. Ivy, despite being a proud woman, never wavered in her support of her husband when he was out of work for a year. When he finally got a job at Longshaw's Foundry, starting on the same day as a court appearance, Ivy insisted that he tell his employer that he had to attend a funeral, and was furious with him when he risked his new job by telling them the truth. Fortunately, his honesty did not cost him his new job.
Brian Tilsley was Ivy and Bert's miracle child, born after three miscarriages. As her only chance to have grandchildren, "our Brian" was heavily mothered by Ivy. While his upbringing was not overly strict, like Bert he would often bow to Ivy's wishes in exchange for a quiet life, allowing her to dominate the pair of them.
As Brian came of age, he drifted away from his Catholic religion and took up motorcycling. Although these were bitter pills for Ivy to swallow, she accepted that Brian was now an adult and beyond her control. When he became engaged to Gail Potter, it was another matter entirely; Ivy wasn't yet ready to lose her twenty-year-old son, and certainly not to someone with a chequered past like Gail, who had once had an affair with a married man, Roy Thornley. Acting to protect her son, she encouraged Brian and Gail to take some time before going public with their engagement, hoping that the relationship would fizzle out in the meantime. Brian dutifully agreed but when he saw how much this upset Gail, he changed his mind and they decided to make Gail's 21st birthday party a double celebration, announcing their upcoming nuptials to their friends and neighbours.
Further attempts by Ivy to stall the engagement only soured her relationship with Brian further. In the summer of 1979, when Ivy insinuated that Roy Thornley was one of many men, Brian packed and walked out, saying he couldn't live with her anymore. It was only then that Ivy altered her behaviour and started treating Gail like a member of the family.
Gail and Brian lived with Ivy and Bert until August 1980 when they had saved enough for a deposit on a house. The younger Tilsleys, plus Ivy's grandson Nicky, had a second spell at No.5 between October 1983 and June 1985 when they accepted Ivy's offer to live there rent-free and sell their home at 5 Buxton Close. It was a compromise, especially on Gail's part, as Ivy struggled to see Brian as a married man with a family of his own and continued to treat him as the golden boy. In 1980, when Brian and Gail fell out because of overspending, Ivy challenged Gail, assuming that she was at fault only to discover that it was actually Brian.
Brian's behaviour in the later years of his marriage saw a shift in Ivy's attitude towards him. After being married for six years, Brian and Gail still did not have a home to call their own, which was was causing them to row. When Gail walked out over Brian's wasteful attitude towards money, taking Nicky with her, Ivy demanded that Brian put things right. Her nagging had the opposite effect, causing Brian to start spending his evenings clubbing to get away from her. Ivy realised that she had made things too comfortable for Brian at No.5 and told him to leave. Without this security blanket, Brian was forced to mature and return to Gail.
Later, when Gail had an affair with Ian Latimer, Brian left her and moved back home. Ivy, as someone who believed in the sanctity of marriage, couldn't bring herself to support Brian's petition for divorce. Even after the papers were signed, in her eyes he and Gail were still married. When Brian moved on with new girlfriend Liz Turnbull, and refused to acknowledge Gail's newborn daughter Sarah Louise as his, Ivy's relationship with him sunk to an all-time low. Knowing that Ivy would never accept Liz being in his life, Brian left No.5 to live with his new partner. Ivy, unable to sleep with worry, was elated when a short time later Brian and Gail finally buried the hatchet and re-married.
Ivy's relationships with men in the wake of Bert's death in 1984 were met with varying degrees of approval by Brian. Arthur Whittaker came into Ivy's life shortly before Bert passed away, and though he only offered Ivy friendship, Brian was against his mother having anything to do with him. In 1985, Ivy became engaged to George Wardle, who was received similarly badly by Brian. During one argument, Brian called his mother a slut, causing Ivy to slap him. In both cases, Ivy refused to let Brian stand in her way, though she eventually broke off the relationships for other reasons. In 1987, she met her eventual husband Don Brennan, who was the first man her in her life since Bert that Brian got on with. Reflecting on his own marriage troubles, Brian encouraged Ivy to grab the chance of some happiness and was delighted for them when they tied the knot in 1988.
In 1989, Alf Roberts delivered the terrible news to Ivy and Don that Brian had been killed in a stabbing outside a nightclub in Manchester. Having lost her little boy, Ivy saw it as her mother's duty to see that his children never forgot him and were raised as he would have wanted.
Gail Potter first fell into Ivy's orbit when they were employed at the Mark Brittain Warehouse, Gail as a secretary and Ivy in packing. In 1976, they worked in different corners of the Baldwin empire, Ivy in the factory and Gail at The Western Front department store. In these instances, Ivy took little notice of Gail, though they briefly interacted at the 1976 staff Christmas party when they compared notes about the men they were after.
Their significance to each other grew in January 1979, when Gail discovered that her new boyfriend Brian was Ivy's son. Ivy first learned of their budding romance when she went round to No.5, then Deirdre Langton's house, to enquire about buying the property. Instead, she caught Brian and Gail - baby-sitting Tracy - kissing on the sofa. Thinking Gail flighty and immature, Ivy assumed that the relationship would not last and waited for Brian to dump her. When in April they got engaged, she had to become more proactive; first she encouraged them to wait, then she opposed the marriage on the grounds that Gail wasn't Catholic, and finally she brought up Gail's old affair with married man Roy Thornley, which happened before she met Brian. Eventually, Ivy had to accept that the wedding would go ahead with or without her blessing, and she wished them well.
The first year of Gail's marriage saw the newlyweds share Brian's parents' house. Suddenly, two women under the same roof were competing for Brian's affections, and Gail had to work hard to make sure she was treated as Brian's wife and not as a lodger. She began to stand up to Ivy, earning the woman's respect but at the cost of harmony in the household. When Gail and Brian moved into 5 Buxton Close, Ivy told her daughter-in-law that marrying her was the first sensible thing that Brian had ever done.
The birth of Nicky marked another change in Gail and Ivy's relationship. Possessing strong ideas about how children should be raised, Ivy became more interfering and antagonistic towards Gail. In 1982, when Brian went to work in Qatar for five months, Gail felt a need to get out of the house and got her old job back at Jim's Cafe, arranging for her friend Jackie Moffatt to baby-sit Nicky. Ivy, feeling that Gail's place was at home, rowed with her before reporting her conduct to Brian behind Gail's back. In June of that year, shortly before Brian's return, Nicky went missing while in Jill Mason's care, and the police were called. Ivy heard Nicky cries emanating from No.7 and got Eddie Yeats to smash a window to get in. Finding out that Gail had been at the Farrier's Arms with Les Charlton at the time, Ivy tore into her daughter-in-law for her dereliction of duty to both her husband and her son. Gail denied being unfaithful to Brian, making no apology for her conduct which was her way of coping with Brian's absence.
From 1985 onwards, Gail and Brian's marriage became more fragile, culminating in Gail's affair with Ian Latimer and the Tilsleys' divorce. Throughout their troubles, Ivy's priority was for their marriage to survive at any cost, and occasionally this entailed siding with Gail against Brian, such as when Brian reacted to his split from Gail by reverting to a bachelor lifestyle in April 1985 and again when he attempted to leave the country with Nicky in July 1987.
With Brian's death in February 1989, a battle erupted between Ivy and Gail caused by Gail's decision to give her husband a non-Catholic funeral, with Ivy telling Gail that she wished she'd died instead. By now, the meek and mild youth who was eager to please her mother-in-law was gone, replaced with a hardened matriarch who would slap down Ivy when she showed any hint of interference.
Having lost her main ally in the Tilsley household, Ivy now faced the real possibility of being cut out of her grandchildren's lives if she didn't tow the line. For her sake, she tried to do better, but her duty to Nicky and Sarah Louise eventually overrode any other concerns. When Gail returned to work after only three months, Ivy offered her money to stay at home, but Gail insisted that she had her own life to lead. In September of that year, Gail embarked on a relationship with Martin Platt, a man ten years her junior. Ivy saw this as a sign that Gail was more interested in herself than her children, and teamed up with Gail's mother Audrey Roberts to make Gail see the damage she was doing. Gail, believing that Ivy was using the children as an excuse to control her life, only became more determined for her relationship with Martin to succeed. When Ivy called Martin an animal in the Rovers and hit him over the head, Gail banned her from seeing the kids. This shocked Ivy into changing her tune, accepting Martin as long as Gail continued to respect Brian's memory.
Over the next two years, Gail and Martin made what seemed to Ivy to be a series of bizarre and unnatural life choices. First, in April 1990, Gail fell pregnant and made plans to abort the child so that Martin wouldn't feel tied to her. Martin himself changed her mind, and in December they welcomed a son, David Tilsley. The following year, Martin became a house-husband so that Gail could return to work. All of these drew heavy criticism from Ivy, particularly Gail's decision to give David Brian's name. However, Ivy now had no leverage against Gail and she was never listened to. When Gail and Martin were married in September 1991, Martin applied to adopt Nicky and Sarah Louise. This meant that they would change their surnames to Platt, something Ivy could not allow. For once, Ivy was in a position to spoil their plans; when she found out that social worker Kathy Green was involved with the case, Ivy met with her and badmouthed the Platts, and Gail in particular.
Her intervention failing to prevent the adoption, Ivy was relieved when Gail asked to start afresh with her; despite everything that had happened, Gail wanted the children to know their grandmother. Ivy managed to stay out of trouble with Gail from then until her death in 1995.
Gail's mother Audrey Potter was a regular thorn in Ivy's side. Apart from being Nicky and Sarah Louise's grandmothers, they had nothing in common and kept each other at arm's length.
In the early years of Brian and Gail's marriage, Audrey was unmarried and financially dependent on her boyfriends. In times of need, she would turn to her daughter. Ivy, drawing comparisons with Elsie Tanner, regarded Audrey as a bad role model and resented the fact that she had to share her son's family with her. Her disdain was mutual, with Audrey considering Ivy a narrow-minded busybody, but with some effort they were able to stand each other's company.
Occasionally, Ivy would cross the line and actively try to marginalise Audrey's role in the Tilsleys' lives. When Audrey took charge of the wedding reception, Ivy kept muscling in with the excuse that she wanted to push the boat out for her only son's wedding, firstly by booking the Co-op hall and then, when Audrey changed the venue to the more affordable Rovers and refused to take any money from Ivy, got Annie Walker to lay on the most expensive spread she could. A year later, when Audrey made plans to visit Gail along with her partner Les Boden at the same time Ivy and Bert had been invited over for Sunday lunch, Ivy made out to Audrey that the couple were out for the day so that they could have the Tilsleys to themselves. When Audrey and Les popped over on the off chance, they caught Ivy there, exposing her lie, causing the mothers to row and Gail to temporarily ban Ivy from the house.
In 1985, Audrey married Alf Roberts and moved to the street, becoming a neighbour of Ivy. The women continued to tolerate each other; during the Tilsleys' marriage troubles, they both wanted Brian and Gail to stay together, but could not bring themselves to team up to unite them. Audrey, who could only handle Ivy in small doses, was horrified in 1991 when Alf, recently elected as councillor, hired Ivy to work at the Corner Shop alongside her. The appointment triggered a marriage crisis for the Robertses, as when Ivy persuaded Alf to stay open later in the evening, Audrey had her hours increased, causing her to issue her husband an ultimatum: either Ivy went or she did. To her amazement, Alf backed Ivy and Audrey stormed out in a temper, swearing never to return. The spat dragged on for a few weeks, with Ivy eventually getting sick of being caught in the middle of the Robertses arguments and going to work at Bettabuy instead.
As the years went on, Audrey continued to avoid Ivy whenever possible. In 1988, when Audrey suddenly went off to Canada, the Tilsleys put out the story that she had gone to visit her sister. Ivy - knowing full well that Audrey didn't have a sister - felt insulted that she was expected to believe such an obvious lie, and following some detective work she learned that Audrey had another child, Stephen Reid, born before Gail. Later that year, when it was the Robertses turn to have the family over for Christmas, Audrey and Alf went away to a hotel rather than spend the day with Ivy. Ivy was amused when the Robertses came back on Boxing Day with food poisoning.
Nicky and Sarah Louise Tilsley
Ivy's grandchildren Nicky and Sarah Louise were born in 1980 and 1987 respectively. They were as dear to her as Brian, and she never begrudged being asked to baby-sit. Indeed, she frequently complained that she wasn't asked enough.
While Brian was alive, Ivy was content to let the Tilsleys raise their children how they liked, trusting her son's instincts as a father. She didn't even mind that the kids weren't raised as Catholics; Nicky had, at least, been baptised, while Sarah Louise was secretly christened with water while Ivy was babysitting. She also accepted that Sarah Louise was her grandchild long before Brian did, though this was partly because she did not want to face the possibility of her being Ian Latimer's daughter.
Ivy's attitude shifted in 1989 after Brian was murdered. As Gail moved on with her life, Ivy saw it as her duty to look after Brian's children as he would have wanted and to ensure that they never forgot him. When in 1991 Gail's second husband Martin Platt decided to adopt Nicky and Sarah Louise, Ivy, feeling her control over her grandchildren slipping away, took Nicky to St. Luke's Church for the first time and got him to agree to become an altar boy in order to join the church football team. Too young to see that he was being manipulated, Nicky became passionate for St. Luke's and proudly took possession of his cassock, as a beaming Ivy looked on. Inevitably, this led to conflict between Ivy and the Platts, with Martin marching onto the pitch and dragging Nicky home, ending his St. Luke's craze before Ivy fully got her claws into him.
Although Ivy's attempt to block Martin's adoption of Nicky and Sarah Louise failed, this proved only a temporary setback for her. Upon hearing of Gail and Martin's adoption plans, Ivy changed her will making Nicky her main beneficiary on the condition that he changed his surname back to "Tilsley" (leaving out Sarah Louise due to the fact that she would eventually marry and change her name anyway). As Nicky got older, she would often tell him about Brian and how important the Tilsley name was, causing the boy to grow up idolising his birth father and constantly undermining Martin's authority over him.
When Ivy passed away in 1995, Nick, now 14, obliged his late gran by reverting to Tilsley in order to inherit No.5. In death, Ivy had showed who really mattered to her, treating everyone else in her life as collateral damage.
Weatherfield Cabs driver Don Brennan became Ivy's second husband in 1988. More a companionship than a romance, their relationship nonetheless started out loving before becoming increasingly acrimonious as the years passed. The fact that the marriage survived until Ivy's death could be attributed more to Ivy's aversion to divorce than to feelings of love on either side.
Don met Ivy at a happy time in her life, just after Brian and Gail had reconciled in September 1987. Almost four years after Bert passed away, Ivy was ready to love again. She was astonished when Don, her cab driver from a previous night out, took the initiative by calling on her and asking her out for a drink. A widower himself, and a Catholic, Don seemed ideally suited to Ivy. She agreed to go out with him, and they began a nine-month courtship.
Ivy enjoyed her time with Don. In January 1988, she agreed to help him at his market stall as a plant after he bought a load of exercise wheels to sell, overcoming her reluctance when Don showed her a receipt to prove that the wheels weren't stolen. Four months later, while helping her decorate No.5, Don asked Ivy to marry him. Ivy knew that Don wasn't perfect - he was a gambler, for instance - but they were good for each other and so she accepted. Prior to the wedding, Ivy was introduced to Don's cranky mother Bridget and daughter Margaret Bell, surviving her future mother-in-law's barrage of questions and grievances. Fortunately for Ivy's marriage, Bridget did not grace the Brennan household again. Marrying at St. Luke's church, Ivy placed Bert's wedding ring on another finger before putting on Don's ring. The couple then had their honeymoon in Corfu.
The first three years of the Brennans' marriage saw the couple at their most harmonious; even during difficult times such as Brian's death, Don was a tower of strength to Ivy. However, she continued to disapprove of his gambling. In December 1988, Don started a card school at No.5 with Mike, Jack and Alan Bradley and lost his cab to Mike at poker. After bailing Don out by paying Mike the cash equivalent out of her savings, Ivy told Don that he now owed her the money, wanting to make sure that Don knew what his greed had cost him.
Just over a year later, in January 1990, Don's cab was stolen from outside a bookies while the cabbie was inside putting a bet on. To spare himself the lecture, Don told Ivy that he'd been in a public toilet when the taxi was nicked. His lie was exposed while Don was at the police station being questioned alongside his wife; the joyriders had committed a hit-and-run and the police suspected that Don was in fact the driver and had made up the story about his car being stolen in order to pin the blame on someone else. Don caused Ivy further worry by going missing one evening, secretly lying in wait for the joyrider, Joe Egerton, at the Brierley Gardens Estate. He successfully apprehended the lad, but his roughhandedness resulted in him being charged with GBH and fined £50. Although she didn't like Don's deceptive behaviour, Ivy saw her husband as the injured party and stood by him.
By July 1991, Don was openly gambling again. When he won money from Phil Jennings at a card school, Ivy was appalled to learn that Phil had borrowed money from Deirdre Barlow to stake himself in the game, which caused her to feel that she'd taken money out of her neighbour's purse.
Another source of friction between husband and wife was Don's propensity for holding grudges, especially against Mike Baldwin. Don often needled Mike for treating his workers like dirt, and didn't understand why Ivy stuck it out. Even after Mike sold the factory, Don seized any opportunity to wipe the grin off his face. In 1990, when Ivy went back to work for Mike making up travel bags for Peter Ingram, Don suggested that the workers form a cooperative, deal with Ingram directly and cut out the middle man. A few weeks later, he was handed another chance to get one over on Mike when he learned that the business partnership with Ingram he'd been bragging about didn't exist, and he was actually just a salesman of Ingram's. Don gleefully set everyone straight in the Rovers, upsetting Ivy amongst others, as she'd been planning to see Mike about getting her a job at Ingram's Textiles. Mike did ultimately help her, overlooking her husband's act of spite.
In November 1990, Don befriended Marie Ramsden, a struggling single mother who was living in squalid conditions with her son Jamie after leaving her deadbeat husband Eddie. Feeling sorry for her, Don gave Marie money and free taxi rides to make her life a little easier. At first he was reluctant to tell Ivy about Marie, presuming that she would encourage her to return to Eddie, but when a grateful Marie offered to have sex with him, he told Ivy everything, demonstrating to Marie that his intentions were honourable. In fact, Ivy was equally concerned about Marie and invited her and Jamie to spend Christmas at No.5. Grateful for their hospitality, Marie accepted but on the day in question, Ivy became too bossy and Marie, feeling the Brennans were getting too involved, asked them not to contact her again.
The souring of the Brennans' marriage began in earnest the following year, triggered by Ivy's unsuccessful attempt to block Martin Platt's adoption of Nicky and Sarah Louise. Don offered his wife no support in her endeavour, finding her behaviour reprehensible and siding with the Platts throughout. Her obsession with the Tilsley name led Don to question how much their marriage meant to Ivy, and he started going out drinking and gambling to get away from her. When Ivy found racing tickets in his pocket and launched into a sanctimonious rant at Don over his gambling, Don replied that she'd turned into a mean, selfish, stupid, pompous, vain and ignorant old woman, admitted that he'd been having an affair, and left her. Incredibly, Ivy was subsequently able to convince Don to give their marriage another go, begging him for a chance to show that she'd seen the error of her ways.
The Brennans' reconciliation only staved off the inevitable. Ivy, for her part, had met her promise to Don, making an effort to be less judgemental and not to be ruled by the ghosts of her past. However, it made little difference to Don, who was married to a woman he no longer loved. 1992 saw him leave Ivy again following a traumatic suicide bid. After having his right foot amputated, Don told Ivy to stop visiting him in hospital and moved into lodgings upon being discharged. Ivy, feeling unloved and unwanted, used alcohol to quell her feelings of emptiness. Her drinking problem eventually became so serious that Don moved back into No.5 as a lodger just to help her stay dry.
The unusual arrangement continued through 1993. Ivy never gave up hope that Don would agree to a full reconciliation, but her attempts to treat them as a couple only angered him; when Alf Roberts put the corner shop up for sale, Ivy suggested to Don that they buy it with his compensation money. He told her that their lives were no longer together, leaving her tearful and humiliated. They socialised separately, and he stymied her attempts to use the grandchildren to make them seem like a couple. Ivy finally got her way that Christmas when Don, wishing to repent his own sins, asked Ivy to stand by him, promising never to put her through pain again.
Their marriage was dealt a final blow in 1994 when Ivy went on an extended stay at a religious retreat. As it was already on a knife edge, Don refused to wait for Ivy, and began a relationship with receptionist Josie Clarke. A year later, with Ivy still AWOL, Don filed for divorce. She suffered a fatal stroke just days later.
It was after Ivy's death that Don discovered where he truly ranked in his wife's priorities. When her will was read, Don was left with nothing, and their marital home bequeathed to Nick on the condition that he changed his surname back to Tilsley; in spite of her promises to change and be a better person, Ivy had never let go of the Tilsley name, bowing out with a gesture that secured her late husband and son's legacies at the expense of her present husband's future. Forced to buy back his own house from Nick, Don embarked on the next chapter in his life free of Ivy but more embittered and cynical than ever.
Hobbies and interests
Saturday nights were Ivy's time to let her hair down. Her usual was the bingo with Vera Duckworth.
Before moving to Coronation Street, her local was The Red Lion, where she and Edna Gee spent many an evening putting the stresses of the working week behind them. This could involve drinking, chatting up men, or taking to the stage and belting out a song. It was with Edna that she sang Now is the Hour at the tavern in 1972, though her favourite number was "She's a Lassie from Lancashire". After Edna passed away, she typically performed with Vera, with the friends entertaining the OAPs at the Community Centre with their Hylda Baker routine in 1977 and, seven years later, dressing up as tramps and singing "We're a Couple of Swells" at the Rovers talent concert.
The Tilsleys never had pets, and in 1989 when Don Brennan took greyhound Lucky as compensation for an unpaid taxi fare, Ivy insisted that the dog had to go. She warmed to the animal when Lucky came last in his first race and Ivy, teaming up with Audrey Roberts, decided that she liked the challenge of training the underdog. She was devastated when Don sold Lucky and her five pups to Mickey Lee to avoid the mother and her litter from being separated.
Creation and casting
Ivy debuted on 14th June 1971 as a subordinate of Elsie Howard at the newly-established Mark Brittain Warehouse. In that episode, she was credited as "Ivy Tyldesley", with the change to "Tilsley" occurring four episodes later. In her early appearances Ivy was mostly a background character, typically seen gossiping with her workmate Edna Gee in the warehouse's checking room. The role remained part-time for most of the 1970s, with the character limited to factory-related storylines both at the warehouse and later at Baldwin's Casuals.
The director of Ivy's inaugural episode, Paul Bernard, cast Rotherham-born Lynne Perrie after seeing her in Ken Loach's award-winning 1969 film Kes, where she played the part of the feisty, neglectful mother (The Coronation Street Story, Boxtree Ltd, 1995). Although her career had mostly been spent on the cabaret circuit, Perrie had recently broken into acting, and continued to appear in other productions during her early years in Coronation Street. Her singing talents would occasionally be used in the Street, including an occasion in January 1972 when, on a girls' night out, Ivy and Edna got on stage to sing Now is the Hour.
As the focus shifted away from the warehouse, Ivy vanished, with a lengthy absence between April 1972 and August 1974. Another gap followed the 1975 warehouse fire storyline, in which the factory burned down and Edna was killed off. In 1976, Ivy was brought back to work at Mike Baldwin's new denim factory Baldwin's Casuals, where she became part of the Greek chorus in the sewing room alongside Vera Duckworth and, later, Ida Clough.
The many husbands of Ivy
In 1978, producer Bill Podmore decided to enlarge Ivy's role in the show, moving her family into No.5. Podmore: "Lynne Perrie injected a touch of magic into the role which appealed to me. I decided the character should be developed." (Coronation Street: The Inside Story, Macdonald and Co, 1990). Peter Dudley was cast as Ivy's long-suffering husband Bert, and Christopher Quinten as their teenage son Brian. The clan rapidly expanded to include a daughter-in-law, Gail, and a grandson, Nicky, turning Ivy from a solitary character into one of the programme's key matriarchs.
Coupled with the introduction of Ivy's family was a rewriting of her backstory. In her early appearances, Ivy had stated that she and her husband Jack (previously Arthur) had no children. Jack had gone on to appear in two episodes in 1975, played by Bert Gaunt. Perrie: "I was married to three different men in three different weeks! I said I must be the most promiscuous woman on the Street. There was a [Arthur], then a [Jack], and finally a Bert!" (The Coronation Street Story) Bill Podmore was aware of the contradiction, but chose to ignore it, with Bert being treated as a new character and Ivy's "old" history never being mentioned again. Podmore: "Her original husband, Jack, though rarely seen, was played by an actor called Bert Gaunt. There was no death or divorce; he simply faded away.... Bert Gaunt took a very professional attitude to the break-up of his screen marriage, and simply sent a light-hearted telegram saying that if Ivy didn't mind, he would just call round now and then to claim his conjugal rights." (Coronation Street: The Inside Story) For the purposes of this Wiki, Bert and Jack are listed as distinct characters, and Ivy's history with Jack, and her life with Bert and Brian, are both considered to have "happened", despite the inherent contradiction. However, to avoid confusion, any pages which mention Ivy's "old" history carry a note explaining the situation.
The death of actor Peter Dudley in 1983 meant that Ivy became a widow the following year. Writers struggled for a while to come up with storylines for Ivy which did not revolve around Brian and Gail, and decided to marry her off again. Perrie, who thought that Ivy worked better when she was single, was not keen on the idea (The Coronation Street Story). Geoff Hinsliff joined the cast as Ivy's new husband Don Brennan. Podmore: "The idea popped up at a script conference that love could blossom between the widowed Ivy and her cheerful cabby. We tested the romance for three months, and I asked Geoff how he felt about plans for a marriage." (Coronation Street: The Inside Story)
Ivy and Don were meant to marry in a modest, registry office service. The change to a church wedding happened at the behest of Lynne Perrie: "Ivy is always going on about her religious beliefs and, being a Catholic myself, I thought it absolutely must be a church wedding." (Coronation Street: Celebrating 30 Years, Boxtree Ltd, 1990) Perrie and Hinsliff had different ideas about how affectionate their characters should be with each other. Hinsliff: "Lynne was for a very romantic relationship. She was for screen lovers and frankly I thought they were far too old for screen lovers... I saw them as Darby and Joan, a relationship based on companionship, not sex." (The Coronation Street Story) The portrayal of the Brennans' marriage aligned very much with Hinsliff's view, with little warmth evident between the couple. One storyline Perrie did enjoy from this time period was one involving the Brennans taking in Lucky the greyhound. Perrie: "We have kept greyhounds on and off for fifteen years, so, when one came into the storyline in June 1989, it was great fun." (Coronation Street: Celebrating 30 Years)
Aside from the change in backstory, Ivy's personality had also altered significantly since her introduction. Originally more of a good-time girl and factory gossip, Ivy grew into a more straight-laced character over the course of the 1970s, and in 1979 her staunch Catholicism was established. Her clashes with daughter-in-law Gail over "our Brian" - in which viewers were typically expected to side with Gail - positioned Ivy as one of the programme's most antagonistic characters. Her brash precedence for speaking her mind and constant interfering led fans and the media to nickname her "Poison Ivy." Perrie enjoyed this role, stating in an interview: "I was always strong. I used to let Bert think he was the boss, but he wasn't. I thought, "This part is good, I can work on this." And I did. I started to love "Poison Ivy" because it meant that people either believed in me or hated me, which is far better than being just a nondescript person." (The Coronation Street Story)
However, the actress often wished to be given more comedy to perform. Podmore: "Before joining us, Lynne Perrie appeared in cabaret not only as a singer but also as a very talented comedienne. But, as she has constantly reminded me, Ivy hardly ever utters a comic line. She seems to be constantly caught up in heartbreak and tragedy... Such plots don't lend themselves to the comic repartee Lynne would love to tackle, and I can't imagine that my departure is going to make much difference to the fortunes of the luckless lady she plays." (Coronation Street: The Inside Story)
After Brian was killed off in 1989, Ivy remained a thorn in Gail's side, now using grandchildren Nicky and Sarah Louise as justification for her meddling. Writer John Stevenson: "Nicky and Sarah Louise were Brian's children, and so Ivy felt she had a perfect right to keep an eye on those children that were her grandchildren, which of course she did, but she did it in such a ham-handed and offensive way that she tried Gail's temper all the time." (The Corrie Years: The Feuds, ITV Productions, 2012)
Lynne Perrie's dismissal
On 5th February 1994, Lynne Perrie had cosmetic surgery to give herself fuller lips. Perrie had the procedure without consulting producers, putting her future in the programme in jeopardy. Within weeks, Perrie had been dismissed from Coronation Street, making her final appearance in Episode 3676 on 25th March.
Despite the tabloids widely reporting that Perrie had been fired because of the surgery, producer Carolyn Reynolds insisted that this was not the case, and that the feeling among the writers was that the character had simply run its course: "For quite some time we had had difficulty in storylining Ivy; she seeemed to go down very narrow routes in terms of stories. There was a lot of soul-searching and discussion, and eventually it was decided that it was time to move away from that character. When an actress has been working on a show for that length of time it's obviously something that you discuss and debate at great length before making such a move. At the same time, though, the show must go on. So I met with Lynne Perrie and we had a long discussion about it and it was agreed that she should leave Coronation Street." (The Coronation Street Story) However, she conceded that the surgery hadn't helped: "With collagen implants, if that was the only issue, you look at things differently and say, 'Well how does this have an impact on the show?'" (50 Years of Coronation Street: The (very) Unofficial Story, JR Books, 2010) Reynolds' version of events tallies with Perrie's own.
The seriousness of Perrie's actions were echoed by the actress's colleagues, including writer Adele Rose: "She did look very peculiar and it did affect the reality of her character." Geoff Hinsliff: "How would you explain this look? She didn't look like her - which is the one thing you owe the programme." However, Hinsliff notes the personal struggles the actress was going through at the time: "There a whole saga with Lynne. Drink was the problem." Reynolds also alludes to this: "There were other issues at the time to do with what Lynne was going through." (all quotes from 50 Years of Coronation Street: The (very) Unofficial Story)
Perrie herself blames body issues: "I've always been trying to fight age. If I'm going to do something, I do it in excess... I wasn't happy with myself. Looking back now, I can realise that I was always looking for something, and I didn't know what I was looking for. When you get on stage and you get all these people clapping, and you go out as Ivy, and really you lose yourself. You lose your own identity, and you do get caught up in it." (Seven Days That Shook Coronation Street, Channel Four, 2002)
Ivy did not receive an on-screen exit, and was later revealed to have gone to a religious retreat. She passed away from an off-screen stroke on 23rd August 1995, 17 months after her final appearance.
First and last lines
"Hello" (Final line, to Martin Platt).
List of addresses
|Rochdale||8th April 1936 to 1950s|
|Inkerman Street||1956 to 12th February 1979|
|5 Coronation Street||12th February 1979 to 1994|
|Retreat||1994 to 23rd August 1995|
|Unknown||Pickle factory||Until 1971|
|Checking assistant||Mark Brittain Warehouse||May 1971 to early 1970s|
|Packer||Mark Brittain Warehouse||Early 1970s to 6th October 1975|
|Machinist||Baldwin's Casuals||13th December 1976 to 5th April 1978|
|Senior machinist||Baldwin's Casuals||5th April 1978 to 2nd June 1980|
|Shop steward||Baldwin's Casuals||2nd April to 4th June 1980|
|Supervisor||Baldwin's Casuals||2nd June 1980 to 5th December 1983|
|Machinist||Baldwin's Casuals||5th to 14th December 1983|
|Supervisor||Baldwin's Casuals||14th December 1983 to 13th January 1988|
|Machinist||Baldwin's Curtains||13th to 20th January 1988|
|Supervisor||Baldwin's Curtains||20th January 1988 to 30th August 1989|
|Outworker||N/A||29th January to 2nd February 1990|
|Machinist||Workers' cooperative||5th to 12th February 1990|
|Supervisor||Ingram's Textiles||4th June 1990 to 8th May 1991|
|Assistant||Corner Shop||10th May to 5th July 1991|
|Assistant||Bettabuy||8th July 1991 to 1994|