Jack HOWARTH (1896-1984)

Jack Howarth This Is Your Life

programme details...

  • Edition No: 390
  • Subject No: 390
  • Broadcast live: Wed 20 Nov 1974
  • Broadcast time: 7.00-7.30pm
  • Venue: Euston Road Studios
  • Series: 15
  • Edition: 3
  • Code name: Hall

on the guest list...

  • Anne Kirkbride
  • Barbara Mullaney
  • Betty Driver
  • Bryan Mosley
  • William Roache
  • Doris Speed
  • Eileen Derbyshire
  • Graham Haberfield
  • Jean Alexander
  • Julie Goodyear
  • Ken Farrington
  • Margot Bryant
  • Neville Buswell
  • Stephen Hancock
  • Thelma Barlow
  • Betty - wife
  • John - son
  • June - daughter-in-law
  • Grant - grandson
  • Karen - granddaughter
  • veterans of the Lancashire Fusiliers - in audience
  • Sid - brother
  • Kay - sister-in-law
  • Cardew Robinson
  • Thora Hird
  • Johnnie Hamp
  • Merry Ray
  • Carson Ray
  • Filmed tributes:
  • David Lloyd
  • Peter Lever
  • Arthur Lowe

production team...

  • Researcher: Carol Lee
  • Writer: John Sandilands
  • Director: Robert Reed
  • Producer: Jack Crawshaw
  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
related pages...

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This is his life …

Irish magazine RTE Guide reveals some behind-the-scenes secrets

Thelma Barlow

Betty Driver

Johnnie Hamp

Thora Hird

Anne Kirkbride

Bryan Mosley

William Roache

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Screenshots of Jack Howarth This Is Your Life

Surprise Of Your Life book

Presenter Eamonn Andrews and producer Jack Crawshaw recall this edition of This Is Your Life in their book, Surprise Of Your Life...

Within moments of showing Jack Howarth The Book at the bar of the Rover's Return I was literally laughing on the other side of my face. For a man who gives you the impression of moving ever so slowly, his feet suddenly seemed to move like one of those toys that you wind up and then over accelerate. In the blink of an eye he had vanished.

All I could hear was the producer addressing me as you would a Labrador or a Red Setter or any good gun dog: "Go get him".

Having been in not dissimilar situations before, it was a reflex action that made me jump to the command and as I ran out of the studio, I wondered had we made a huge mistake?

Months had gone by since we first decided to have a go at telling the real story behind the grumpy exterior of Albert Tatlock.

One of our early schemes was to surprise Jack and do the show as an outside broadcast in Rochdale where he was born in 1896, when Victoria was Queen and one of the most familiar sounds in the Lancashire mill town was that of clogs on the cobblestones.

Jack's dad was a well-known singer and compere and when Jack left school he started work behind the scenes at the town's Theatre Royal.

When the First World War broke out 19-year-old Jack was quick to join the famous Lancashire Fusiliers and spent four years in the trenches of the Western Front. He survived to return to England, where he resumed his career in a touring troupe. Later, he switched to radio drama and for fourteen years was Mr Maggs in the long-running serial, "Mrs Dale's Diary".

Next, came films and in 1960 the offer of a role in a new television series, Coronation Street – a series that was to bring him fame throughout the world.

What better, then, than to surprise him in a role in which millions of viewers knew him best – as Albert Tatlock at the bar of the Rovers? And not all that far from Rochdale, after all.

Having got the all-clear from Jack's wife, Betty, we contacted the Street's former executive producer, Harry Kershaw, an old pal of ours who put us in touch with producer, Susi Hush, who agreed to let us gatecrash the pub.

Next on the agenda was to decide where to continue and spring our surprises. Granada's busy studios were all occupied and for security reasons we felt we couldn't return to Manchester's Piccadilly Hotel. There were too many people there who knew Jack and who knew us.

We hunted around and finally found a hotel on the outskirts of town which fitted the bill – the Alma Lodge on the road to nearby Stockport.

I am sure there are still some members of the staff there wondering what happened to that block booking that was suddenly cancelled two days before a somewhat mysterious group was due to move in.

The cancellation came after the threat of another industrial dispute which could have wrecked our plans. So, with an air of controlled panic, we managed to switch all the travel arrangements to re-route the guests to our London studios.

By now, though, we were technically committed to surprising Jack in Coronation Street itself. And that is how I came to take a dramatic day return trip to Manchester that was looking like a waste of time as Jack Howarth walked off that set.

It was 2.45pm and we had seats booked on a train leaving Manchester Piccadilly shortly after 3pm, which, with a bit of luck and the wind behind us, would get us back to London in time for our live show.

It is difficult to explain just how I felt when I caught up with Jack because, although subsequently I have got to know him rather well, at the time I couldn't quite penetrate his face.

Eamonn Andrews with Jack Howarth and Doris Speed

I thought he was angry. But he wasn't. He was trying to say he couldn't come on the programme because he was far too sentimental.

At that moment, his wife Betty joined us. Jack and Betty have been happily married for 45 years or more and there was no one in the world better fitted to assure him that all would be well.

She knew our plans and told him that she felt he was sure to enjoy himself. Between us, with no total agreements made, we got him to the station just in time to grab the seats researcher Carol Lee had been keeping.

Carol, Betty and myself never seemed to stop talking all the way to London in our attempts to assure Jack that he wouldn't regret it. And thankfully he didn't. As he wiped away the odd tear during the programme he whispered to me: "I told you so".

Jack Howarth This Is Your Life

Jack's last guest was Merrie Hamp, daughter of Granada producer Johnnie Hamp. Merrie lost her sight in a laboratory explosion at school. Jack had visited her in Spain where she had been taken for a series of eighteen operations to save a little of her vision. Later, he left his own sick bed to attend her wedding. Merrie and her American husband, Carson, flew 5,000 miles from their home in Texas to tell us just how much she thought of Jack Howarth.

After the programme, Jack walked from his seat, across the studio floor to the audience, which included many members of the Old Comrades Association, fellow veterans of Jack's regiment The Lancashire Fusiliers.

Jack, the former front line soldier, told them: "I didn't want to do this programme because I knew I would cry... Well there's nowt wrong with a good cry is there? I've enjoyed the show."

Roy Bottomley This Is Your Life book

Scriptwriter Roy Bottomley recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book, This Is Your Life: The Story of Television's Famous Big Red Book...

Cast in the original six episodes of Coronation Street, the character actor Jack Howarth told his wife it was 'some North Country thing about a corner shop'. Jack didn't think it would 'catch on'.

But he was still in it when Eamonn Andrews popped into the Rover's Return at opening time on 20 November 1974.

When Eamonn said, 'I'm taking you to London' Jack must have still been playing crusty old Albert, because he said with steely determination, 'Oh no, you're not, you know.'

It took a great deal of persuasion to get him to change his mind. Jack had spent four years in the First World War trenches in the Lancashire Fusiliers and if he wasn't for shifting, he wasn't for shifting.

He was delighted he surrendered that night, though, especially when he spotted old comrades in the front row of the audience and we played the regimental march.

In fact, afterwards, Jack and his wife, Betty, became such devoted fans of the programme they used to pop in to see us socially.

Granadaland website 20 January 2015

Leita Donn - Press Officer

Leita Dunn was Press Officer for Coronation Street from 1965 until 1987. As such she was responsible not only for getting stories into the newspapers but also for scotching some of the more absurd stories that appeared in the tabloids. She was a close friend to many of the actors.

Over the years we've had as our guests many of the members of the Coronation Street cast but there are some memorable actors and actresses we've never been able to have because they've long ago gone up to that great studio in the sky. I'm talking about those original cast members like Violet Carson who played the acerbic Ena Sharples, Pat Phoenix who was the fiery Elsie Tanner. Jack Howarth who played grumpy World War One veteran Albert Tatlock and Doris Speed who as Annie Walker the original Rovers Return landlady who liked to think herself a cut above the rest. They were all in Coronation Street from day one and each in their own way helped to establish it as the nation's favourite television programme. They started on December 9th 1960 and five years later on December 14 1965 I started my own career with Granada television. Two years after that I became Coronation Street's press officer, a post I held for 20 years. I worked very closely and they gradually became my second family so I have my own very personal memories of them.

So what was it like to work with great artistes like Violet, Pat, Jack and Doris and more important what were they really like off screen?

We had this standing joke, Jack and I, that we would elope to the Lake District together or at least spend a naughty weekend. But one or other of us would always have to dream up an excuse for why we couldn't actually manage it that week. But while all this was going on I was secretly colluding with Thames Television to prepare a This Is Your Life on Jack. At that time, the late Eamonn Andrews was in charge of the big red book and we arranged that for the pick-up, where the star is snared, Eamonn would pop out of the door of the gents in the Rovers Return and catch him while he was doing a scene in the pub, ostensibly for a special programme to be shown in Australia, a programme which could be made in what should have been in Jack's free time. The only characters in the scene besides Albert would be Annie Walker and the Rovers barmaids and the rest of the cast would have the afternoon off. Well that's what Jack was told and he wasn't pleased. What he didn't know was that this was merely a ruse to keep him in the studio so that Eamonn could catch him and there wasn't going to be any special programme for Australia. I decided to have a bit of fun with Jack. Knowing that Eamonn Andrews would be catching him later that day and whisking him off to Thames Television's studios in London, I waltzed into Jack's dressing room and announced 'Jack, it's now or never. You're free this afternoon after rehearsals and so am I so if you don't take me away to the Lake District today (dramatic pause) it's all off. This is your very last chance.' 'I can't go this afternoon' said Jack 'Just another of your excuses' said I. 'No, no' said Jack 'I'm working, I've got to stay and record something for Australia.' 'Then' said I 'I shall go to the Lake District without you' and I stormed out of his dressing room.

That afternoon the trap was sprung. Jack was doing his scene in the Rovers when out stepped Eamonn with his big red book and announced dramatically 'Tonight Jack Howarth This Is Your Life.' 'Oh no it's not' snarled Jack and he stomped off the set into his dressing room and slammed the door. His wife Betty who had been secretly waiting outside in the car ready to go with him to the station was hastily summoned and she charged after him into the dressing room, presumably to read him the riot act. Whatever she said to him must have worked because a few minutes later the door opened and much to everyone's relief a beaming Betty and a rather subdued-looking Jack came out and were whisked off to the London train. I didn't see this, I only learned about it later because by then I had disappeared to play my part in the proceedings. Unknown to Jack, the rest of the cast hadn't left the Television Centre, they were hiding away in a room near the car park and it was my job to wait until Jack was safely off the premises before rounding up the cast, sorting them into a series of cars and getting them to the station to catch the next train after Jack's. Obviously they couldn't go on the same train or it would have spoilt the surprise when later that evening Eamonn would say 'You thought the rest of your colleagues were still in Manchester but they're here to be with you tonight' and one by one they would all troop on and hug him. I did manage to get everyone safely onto the London train and I still have a souvenir of that day, the list of instructions which were issued to me by Thames television so that I could play my part in the cloak and dagger exercise. It reads 'Four cars will be waiting at the Goods Entrance to Granada to take everyone to the station. Fifteen seats have been booked on the train under the code-name 'Richard Saunderson.' On arrival at Euston Station you will be met at the Platform barrier by our drivers carrying black cards reading Thames in white letters. They will bring you to Thames television studios and you will be met on arrival.' We were and were whisked aside to Hospitality.

Among the other waiting guests who were to appear on the programme were twenty year old Merry Hamp, she was the daughter of Granada's head of Light Entertainment Johnnie Hamp and the reason she was there was to tell people of Jack's kindness to her. She had been blinded at school by a freak accident in the chemistry lab and had, during her teens, spent a long time at a special eye clinic in Spain. Jack went out to Spain on holiday and every day he would make a special journey to the eye clinic to visit her, cheer her up, read to her and generally keep her spirits up. When she related her story during the programme nobody could have failed to be moved including Jack. He was so touched that she'd flown in with her husband from their home in America specially to pay tribute to him. For one who hadn't even wanted to be the subject of This Is Your Life Jack actually enjoyed every minute of it, crying happily all the way through the programme. Afterwards there was a party and Jack called out to me 'You, you little tease you were supposed to be in the Lake District'.

Series 15 subjects

Jack Ashley | John Conteh | Jack Howarth | Chay Blyth | Bill Maynard | Richard O'Sullivan | Dick Francis | Arthur Askey
Jean Kent | Geoff Love | Ray Cooney | Queenie Watts | Harry Johnson | Leonard Rossiter | John Hanson | Denis Law
Ted Ray | Peter Butterworth | Nina Baden-Semper | Dickie Davies | Moira Anderson | Precious McKenzie | Mollie Sugden
Michael Bates | Willie John McBride | Petula Clark | Garfield Sobers