One critic once wrote when reviewing Geoffrey Lancashire's work, "If Geoffrey Lancashire didn't exist, he would have to have been invented."
Geoffrey Lancashire was born, fittingly enough, in Oldham, Lancashire on 12 March 1933, the only child of two council-office workers. Having passed his 11-plus examination he won a place at Oldham Municipal High School for Boys where he was encouraged to write by his English teacher.
On leaving school Lancashire pursued a career in journalism working for the Oldham Evening Chronicle in Union Street. Later, he and Roy Bottomley - also destined to join Granada - started a paper of their own, the Oldham Mirror.
Following his National Service, during which time he learned to speak Russian, he returned to reporting on a freelance basis. When Sidney Bernstein's Granada won one of the first Independent Television franchises in the UK, Lancashire offered his services writing broadcast links and continuity announcements.
He joined Granada in May 1956, just nine days before the network began broadcasting. The department he joined also employed the likes of John G. Temple, Jack Rosenthal and Tony Warren, the latter of whom created Coronation Street, and it was thanks to Warren that Lancashire got his breakthrough as a scriptwriter. He ended up writing over 200 episodes for 'Corrie' and at the same time he also contributed to Granada's output with a six-part adaptation of Howards Spring's Shabby Tiger as well as numerous other adaptations and his own play Purple Twilight.
In 1970 Lancashire joined forces with a former flatmate, John G. Temple, to create a comedy series, The Cuckoo Waltz. Both writers had previously shared a two-up, two-down terraced-house in Oldham. But the inspiration for The Cuckoo Waltz was down to another friend and writer, Jack Rosenthal. Geoffrey had married Hilda and they had started a family when Rosenthal moved in to the Lancashire home as a temporary lodger, as Hilda Lancashire told Television Heaven: "Jack Rosenthal moved into the Lancashire home for a few weeks when his first marriage broke up... and stayed for three years..."
The Cuckoo Waltz starred David Roper, Diane Keen and Lewis Collins. This was followed by Foxy Lady another starring vehicle for Keen, and a collaboration with Jack Rosenthal produced The Lovers starring Richard Beckinsale and Paula Wilcox. Sadly, a series he and Temple wrote six episodes for was lost when Southern Television had their franchise taken away from them in the 1980s.
Among Lancashire's other credits were contributions to the BBC series' United and All Creatures Great and Small, although he was notorious for delivering his scripts at the eleventh hour. In the 1980s Lancashire suffered a debilitating stroke and, coupled with the break-up of his marriage, his health deteriorated. Although he and Hilda never divorced, Lancashire lived alone in Oldham and suffered three further strokes before moving into Denville Hall, the actor’s home in North London, just three months before his death, aged 71, on 3 October 2004.
Following in her father's footsteps, Lancashire's daughter, Sarah took a starring role in Coronation Street as Raquel Wolstenhulme and went on to be one of the series all-time favourite characters. His former partner, Temple (himself an ex-'Corrie' producer) says that Lancashire was cheered by Sarah's success and even though suffering from ill health in later years his passion for television never diminished. "I will always remember their fond friendship, his good humour, our shared love of cricket and his loud, distinctive laugh in the studio audience." He wrote: "Geoff created 'real' characters and placed them in credible, recognisable situations. He wrote lines that exuded wit, warmth and charm, with wry understatement that defied you not to laugh. And they played so beautifully, that rarely did a word have to be altered or a comma moved."
Published on March 24th, 2020. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.