“Kevin… fire!”

Thursday, July 12, 2007 by

I love Sally Webster, and I’m sure the greatly talented but hugely unnoticed Sally Whittaker is equally as loveable. The celebrations of her 40th birthday in – where else? – the Rovers Return marked a significant moment in the lifespan of one of British soap’s most consistent residents. She is one of Coronation Street‘s must-sees.

Especially for the fans, Kevin made sure he mentioned in his speech the memorable first meeting between the two in January 1986 when, while driving Brian Tilsey’s breakdown van somewhere unspecified, he drove through a puddle and soaked an 18 year old puffball-skirted, highlighted fashion victim of the era, who gave him such merry hell through the window when he stopped to apologise that he offered her a lift home to get changed. And love blossomed…

Her first big role was to be the eagle eyes of a dawn-breaking Street when she spotted that the Rovers was on fire. Kevin is remembered as the hero who climbed a ladder and dragged Bet to the window (and better still ran the length of the street with dressing-gowned Percy Sugden carrying the ladder), but ultimately he only got in because Sally was looking the right way. He was too busy trying to bite chunks out of her neck…

Typically of long-serving Street characters, Sally has worked just about everywhere available on Coronation Street itself. She answered phones in the old yard, then had a job in the Rovers, until walking out in a strop when her lunchtime shifts were given to the returning Betty; she childminded for Gail and others at their homes; she worked in the corner shop for Alf Roberts, then did Kevin’s admin for a while in the garage before taking on her current position at Underworld. All she needs now is to become Steve McDonald’s latest recruit at StreetCars and the full set will be hers.

She’s lived at No.13 (or 12A, as Hilda Ogden briefly tried to call it) since Hilda’s lodger Kevin met her, initially with the timeless and kindly Mrs Ogden, who didn’t like her at first (only because she adored Kevin’s posh ex, Michelle Thingy) and then as long term leaseholders and finally owner when Hilda did her disappearing act to Derbyshire. There was that period where she left Kevin and moved in with Greg Kelly above the corner shop, but of course, this was soap…

Sally Whittaker has developed her namesake from ambitious, gobby teenager to ambitious, arrogant middle-aged mother with splendid gusto. She’s had to deal with fallouts, marriages, remarriages, domestic violence, wayward kids, business failures and hurt pride, and has always come through the test. When Johnny Briggs left Coronation Street, he called her “the best actress on the programme, and yet nobody notices” – and I think that sums her up. Here’s hoping she’ll be celebrating her 80th in the Rovers in 2047, and Kevin, aged 84, will still be on about that big dirty puddle.


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