Leonard Swindley was manager of the Rosamund Street branch of clothing retailer Gamma Garments from 1962 to 1965, owned by Greek tycoon Niklos Papagopolous. Coming from a family of drapers, Swindley continued the proud tradition, operating with a firm belief that the customer is always right.
Swindley was also chairman of the Mission committee and lay preacher for the Glad Tidings Mission Hall in Coronation Street from 1960 to 1965, where he had frequent run-ins with caretaker Ena Sharples. His assistant both in the Mission and at Gamma was Emily Nugent, with whom he formed a close relationship which led to them becoming engaged to be married in 1964. Emily jilted Swindley at the altar but they were able to salvage their friendship.
1965 saw a big change for Swindley as he took on a job as assistant manager at department store Dobson and Hawks. In the following two years, he teetered on the brink of losing his job as his ineptitude at accomplishing the most simple of tasks, or perhaps just continual bad luck, put him at loggerheads with managers Ernest Parbold and later Wally Hunt. After being sacked from Dobson and Hawks in 1966, Swindley and Hunt travelled the country as professional speakers on the subject of Astrology.
1916-1960: Early life
Leonard Swindley was born on 9th December 1916, the son of Thomas and Eliza-Jane Swindley. The Swindleys were a family of drapers and Leonard was the third generation of the family to manage Swindley's Emporium, a drapers shop in Rosamund Street, Weatherfield which was established in 1897. By Leonard's time in charge, the shop's best days were behind it and the clothes they sold were behind the times. Nevertheless, Swindley did his best to keep the shop going, introducing a credit scheme in 1961 as a last resort, but when the bank refused him a loan he had no choice but to sell to Niklos Papagopolous, owner of a successful chain of clothing shops in Manchester. Swindleys was re-opened as Gamma Garments in 1962, with Swindley remaining manager but answering to Papagopolous.
1960-1965: Glad Tidings and Gamma
A devout Christian, Swindley was chairman of the Mission committee in Weatherfield and in 1960 regularly delivered sermons in the Glad Tidings Mission Hall in Coronation Street. His assistant was the ever-reliable Emily Nugent, who was also his assistant at the shop. Aside from preaching, Swindley's duties at the Mission included organising community ventures, both within and outwith the Mission. Among these ventures were an Over 60s club and a coach trip to Blackpool to see the illuminations.
By far Swindley's most difficult job was dealing with the Mission's caretaker and only full-time resident, Ena Sharples. It was Swindley's responsibility to take Ena's complaints and deliver any bad news to her on behalf of the committee, after which he would usually receive a tongue lashing from Ena in response. Although he tried to sack Ena in 1961 over the issue of her drinking at the Rovers Return Inn, he had to reinstate her as nobody else would take the position.
Swindley had managed his own shop as best as he could, but strived to go one step further when working for Papagopolous at Gamma Garments. Emily and shop assistant Doreen Lostock were often bemused by Swindley's attempts to boost business as he actually knew very little about modern fashions. The fact that his store's takings were the lowest of any Gamma branch concerned him and he was always fearing a surprise visit from Papagopolous. After a fall in sales in 1963, Swindley had to make Emily redundant but he was able to reinstate her. Later that year, he was promoted to Administration, although he quickly returned to running the shop as he didn't enjoy the senior position.
Swindley's other ventures included a membership at the Progressing Property Owners and Small Traders Party (PPOP). In 1962, Swindley was shortlisted as a candidate to represent the party at the Council elections, despite the fact that he stood no chance of winning. When his opponent failed to turn up for the crucial election meeting, Swindley was voted candidate and reluctantly threw himself into the campaign. He was not surprised when he lost by a wide margin, gaining only 405 votes.
In 1964, Swindley fought Laurie Frazer's plan to open a nightclub in the basement of Elliston's Raincoat Factory. He clashed with Emily when she processed an order for velvet curtains for Laurie when he was preparing the club, even though she knew Swindley would not want to do business with him. After confronting Emily about it and shouting at her, Swindley had a breakdown, requiring his sister Hilda Barnett to visit and take care of him. During his ensuing absence, Stuart Hodges took over his Mission duties. After hearing about Martha Longhurst's death, Swindley returned to the Street, fit as a fiddle.
Since establishing a working relationship with Emily, Swindley had grown closer to her, although they were still very formal with each other. In 1961, Swindley was shocked when Emily's father James Nugent spoke to him about his intentions towards Emily when they weren't even dating. The following year, Swindley was jealous when Emily dated Edwin Birtles, not that he admitted it. By 1964, shy Emily was starting to worry that she would never marry or have children and proposed to Swindley during a romantic meal. After some hesitation, Swindley accepted, and the date was soon set for 18th July. On their wedding day, Emily had a change of heart and refused to go through with the service, deciding that it was for the best as neither of them loved each other (they did not even call each other by their first names). Swindley understood Emily's decision and assured her she had spoken for him too, but he hadn't the courage to back out. Fortunately, they managed to save their friendship and continued to work together at Gamma.
In 1965, Swindley was promoted to Area Manager of Gamma Garments and Emily took over the running of the shop. He continued to visit the area to give Emily driving lessons, but on one lesson the car was stopped as Emily was driving the wrong way down a one-way street, and Swindley was fined as his licence had expired. Later that year, Swindley made a heartfelt decision to give up his position at the Mission, cutting his last remaining ties with Coronation Street.
1965-1966: Dobson and Hawks
In June 1965, Swindley started work as Assistant Manager at a branch of department store Dobson and Hawks. It was a step up from his position with Gamma Garments but Swindley quickly discovered the lesser side to his new position as Manager Ernest Parbold would often delegate difficult tasks onto him, and let Swindley take the blame when they inevitably went wrong. Swindley's job was also made worse by his own tendency to misinterpret his boss's instructions, such as when he hired catwalk models instead of plastic dummies to show off a new range of clothes in February 1966.
Fortunately, Swindley was a hit with the staff, who were used to a revolving door of Assistant Manager and conspired to do their best to cover up his mistakes so he could keep his job. He got on especially well with blonde Scot Miss Sinclair and canteen manageress Mrs Edgeley, who helped smooth his relationship with Mr Parbold and later Wally Hunt, who took over management of the store in 1966. Hunt quickly became wary of Swindley's incompetence and rarely gave him the benefit of the doubt when it came to handling responsibility. Even so, Swindley and Hunt usually ended up both facing the chop for either one's mistakes and in June 1966 they were sacked together when they were inadvertently responsible for the chairman of Dobson and Hawks, Lord Penge, being sued for £15,000.
1967-1980: Investigating the paranormal
After losing his job at Dobson and Hawks, Swindley got a new job as a professional speaker on the subject of astrology, spurred on by Hunt's interest in the subject. Unlikely partners Swindley and Hunt travelled across the country investigating supernatural mysteries. Swindley's life after that point is unknown, though he was still alive in 1980, as he sent a telegram to Emily congratulating her on her marriage to Arnold Swain.
Well-spoken and articulate, with careful thought put into the words and phrases he used to put his points across, Leonard Swindley could often appear pompous, especially to the residents of Coronation Street who were not as polite or as formal as he was. Even when things weren't going his way, he retained a composure and manner of calm, maintaining the dignity of a nobleman, rarely expressing any emotion in the extreme (and some not at all). As such, he found it difficult to unwind and socialising was difficult, and meeting women even more so.
One of Swindley's key attributes was his honesty. He was too principled to lie, and this led him to have a somewhat naive view of his fellow countrymen as he did not understand people who were more carefree than him, tending to take most people's comments at face value. His old-fashioned views on life and fashions did his job no favours.
- Aside from Emily Nugent, Leonard didn't socialise with the residents of Coronation Street and rarely visited the Rovers Return Inn pub. When he was set to marry Emily, he asked Len Fairclough to be his best man even though they were hardly friends. Len accepted.
- In 1980, Swindley sent a telegram congratulating Emily on her wedding to Arnold Swain, much to Emily's surprise.
- Leonard's other positions at Dobson and Hawks included welfare officer and book section manager.
- Although he had little success with women, Swindley was pursued from 1924 to 1961 by Miss Pemberton, who worked for him at Swindleys Emporium. In 1966, Swindley was horrified when his friend Jacob Elijah Burgess tried to set him up with spinster Agnes Bradshaw, as his own partner, Agnes's mother Vera, only agreed to marry him if he found someone for her daughter. Swindley managed to back out of the deal.
- Upon the death of his Aunt Veronica, Swindley was left ten shares in Dobson and Hawks, years before he worked there.
- In 1962, Swindley produced the play Lady Lawson Loses, by the Mission Hall players.
- In 2012, Emily Bishop mentioned Mr Swindley when she reminisced about where she was when President Kennedy died.
- Leonard was played by Arthur Lowe, who later found greater fame as Captain George Mainwaring in the BBC sitcom Dad's Army, which he appeared in from 1968 to 1977.
- Swindley's post-Weatherfield life is seen in sitcoms Pardon the Expression and Turn out the Lights, which were produced as spin-offs of Coronation Street in which Swindley was the focal character.
- In Coronation Street, Swindley often ended his off-the-cuff remarks with "...if you'll pardon the expression.", excusing him from any ill-meaning. The catchphrase was later used as the title for Swindley's spin-off.
- Leonard shares his birthday, 9th December, with Coronation Street itself, which began on that date in 1960.
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|Ken Barlow | Frank Barlow | Ida Barlow | David Barlow | Jack Walker | Annie Walker | Elsie Tanner | Dennis Tanner | Linda Cheveski | Ivan Cheveski | Harry Hewitt | Lucille Hewitt | Concepta Riley | Ena Sharples | Minnie Caldwell | Martha Longhurst | Albert Tatlock | Christine Hardman | Florrie Lindley | Esther Hayes | Leonard Swindley|