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.

Biography

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Early years

Ivy Nelson was born on 8th April 1936 to Jim and Alice Nelson. In 1956 she married Bert Tilsley and after three miscarriages gave birth to only son Brian in 1958.

Ivy initially worked at the Mark Brittain warehouse. She and fellow worker Edna Gee spread rumours that new supervisor Elsie Tanner was having an affair with personnel manager Dennis Maxwell. In spite of this incident, Elsie and husband Alan Howard allowed Ivy to stay in their home in 1972, when Ivy's husband cheated on her. Ivy began a relationship with storeman George Harrop, and was the subject of her own set of rumours when Edna told people that Ivy was infatuated with Alan. The Howards were relieved when Ivy returned home.

In 1975, the warehouse burned to the ground, costing Edna Gee her life, and Ivy her job. Ivy soon began working for Mike Baldwin at Baldwin's Casuals.

Ivy's family troubles

In 1979, Ivy began to focus more on the love life of her son, Brian, who soon married Gail Potter.

There was always tension between Ivy, a devout Roman Catholic, and her daughter-in-law Gail, as Gail initially did not want to convert to the Tilsley family religion, and Ivy felt Gail did not respect the close relationship between mother and son. Matters were made worse when Ivy's husband Bert, who was a calming influence, was institutionalized and died. She did not approve of Gail returning to work and placing her children with a child-minder.

Ivy tried to accept Gail, and when Brian tired of married life and separated from Gail, Ivy took her daughter-in-law's side and ordered Brian to return to his wife. However later Gail had an affair with Brian's cousin Ian Latimer and fell pregnant; Ivy never forgave her. Even when the baby was proven to be Brian's, Ivy still harboured some doubts as to the child's paternity. Due to this doubt (in spite of a DNA test), Ivy never fully accepted Sarah-Louise as her granddaughter and most of her affections went to Nicky.

Relationship with George Wardle

In 1985, Ivy began dating George Wardle, the new van driver at Baldwin's. They both went to the same church, where George coached a junior league rugby team. Ivy used her master key to drive the work van to the match, which ended in violence, with graffiti on the van and a black eye on Ivy. Mike took the repair costs out of their pay packets. After a trip to the Isle of Man, George proposed to Ivy, but she eventually turned him down when he said as a divorcee, he could not marry in the church. A month later, she changed her mind, and begged him to take her back. This caused her son Brian to label her a "slut." In spite of her pleas, George began dating another woman. Ivy's pain nearly caused her to leave the church.

Marriage to Don Brennan

In 1987, Ivy met Don Brennan one night when he drove her home in his taxi. Like Ivy, Don was Catholic and a widower, and the couple settled into a marriage of friendship, if not passion.

Brian's murder

In 1989, Ivy's life changed forever when her son Brian was murdered. Ivy turned more and more to religion, and spent more time interfering in Nicky's life, thus causing tension with Gail. Ivy also began to obsess over preserving the memories of both Bert and Brian, which resulted in Don feeling left out.

Further upheaval occurred when Mike Baldwin's factory was demolished. Ivy began working at Ingram's Textiles and then, in 1991, the Bettabuy grocery chain.

Ivy was scandalised when Gail married Martin Platt, who was many years her junior. She was also bitter that Gail changed Nick and Sarah Louise's surname from Tilsley to Platt. After a confrontation with Martin at the football pitch (where Ivy had gotten Nicky a position on the team in exchange for Nicky becoming an altar boy at her church), Ivy reported Martin and Gail to Social Services. Don forced Ivy to apologise.

Marital collapse

In 1991, Don began an affair with a barmaid, Julie Dewhurst. When Julie broke up with him, Don crashed his car in a suicide bid and had to have his lower left leg amputated. Ivy was devastated by his adultery and began drinking heavily, losing her job at Bettabuy. Don reconciled with her, but insisted he stay in a separate bedroom. Eventually, Don could take no more of Ivy and left her.

Exit and death

In early 1994, after the final collapse of her marriage, Ivy went on a long-term retreat in a convent, where she had a stroke and died. Her grandson Nick blamed Don, as Don had gone to ask her for a divorce three weeks before her death. Ivy's will also caused a lot of trouble in the family, as she had left Don and Sarah Louise nothing while leaving Nick her house under the condition that he changed his surname from Platt back to Tilsley. Nick agreed, and the name change went through although he allowed Don to remain in the house on the condition he paid rent.

Personality

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Relationships

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Hobbies and interests

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Other information

  • A few years after Ivy's passing, Vera was sure she saw Ivy's ghost on the landing as she was in No. 5 and had gone upstairs to use the toilet. Ivy's granddaughter Sarah Louise then became convinced she'd also seen Ivy. Don solved the matter by hiring a fake exorcist to drive away Ivy's spirit.
  • In December 2006, Ivy's old diary was discovered in the loft of No. 5 by Sophie Webster, who confided in her friend Chesney Battersby-Brown about the find. Sophie and Chesney used the diary to fool several residents into thinking she was psychic by referencing past events written in the diary. David Platt read the diary with much amusement along with Maria Sutherland until Maria read a particular passage containing information about Ivy's bitterness toward Gail and David's father, Martin, and the fact that Gail had intended to have an abortion. David then wrapped the diary as a Christmas present and gave it to Gail. He subsequently read passages aloud to his whole family and their dinner guests, the Websters.

Background information

Creation and casting

Ivy with Vera Duckworth in an early appearance in 1974

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

1979: Bert and Brian Tilsley join Ivy as the Tilsleys move into Coronation Street

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 lighthearted 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)

Poison Ivy

"Poison Ivy" in the 1980s

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 seeemd 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

"I didn't." (First line, when asked by Elsie Howard if she had passed a garment when going through checking at the Mark Brittain Warehouse).

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"Hello" (Final line, to Martin Platt).

Appendices

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See also

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