Family and friends of Coronation Street stalwart Chris Canavan have paid tribute to a ‘lovely character’ who lit up their lives.
The 84-year-old actor, who was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland and moved to Preston at the age of 11, was an extra in the hit soap from 1962.
The grandfather had been in the show for almost as long as William Roache, who plays Weatherfield’s longest running character, Ken Barlow.
His daughter Grainne, 55, said her father would be “greatly missed by everybody who knew him”. She said: “He always worked so hard throughout his life to provide for his children.
“He was devoted to his grandchildren - he was so proud of everything they did.
“They have such happy memories of him because he was always telling them such lovely tales about Coronation Street, Preston Playhouse and his life in the Merchant Navy.
“He told some fantasies as well because that’s what he was like! He was a classic storyteller.”
Chris was the first customer in both the old and new version of the shop on the cobbles, the Kabin.
The majority of his work saw him in The Rovers, but he was also spotted in Roy’s Rolls and was a guest at Rita and Dennis’ wedding.
Son Dermot, 48, said his father played characters including The Mouse Catcher, Dusty and a window cleaner - the latter his real life job outside of acting.
He said: “His first appearance was within a year of Coronation Street being on.
“In those days actors could come back and play several characters, a bit like Roy Barraclough, who was a very good friend of my dad’s at Preston Playhouse - my dad got him his Equity Card.
“He was a builder called Dusty who worked on a construction site owned by Len Fairclough and Ray Langton and he was a mouse catcher when the Ogden’s had mice.
“He actually had a window cleaning business. He loved it and he was still cleaning windows until last year.
“He didn’t climb many ladders at that age but I think he used to go and chat to all the shopkeepers. It kept him active.”
A Coronation Street spokesman said the cast and crew were ‘very saddened’ to hear of Chris’ death.
She said: “He was a lovely man who was a pleasure to be around on set.
“He will be missed by everyone here at Coronation Street.”
Don Stephenson, chairman of Preston Drama Club, met Chris in the 1950s.
He said: “He was a character, a lovely character. He was full of life, right up until being in his 80s.
“He had a wonderful personality. He would give anecdotes on Coronation Street - he was very proud.”
Adrienne Hurley, Chris’ neighbour and a member of Broughton Players, said his death was a ‘terrible shock’.
She said: “It is very, very sad. We have lived next door to each other for 27 years.
“He lived here all his married life - he lost his wife shortly before we moved in here. He had a good long life but there was a lot of sadness.
“He was very jolly and twinkly. He had a good, loud belly laugh, I used to hear it through the lounge wall.”
Alex Tagg, from Preston Playhouse, said: “He was a very friendly character.
“He used to say he left home in the early hours of the morning to be on set and they were awfully long days.”
Chris’s acting career began after he married his late wife Maureen.
He trained at a drama school in Southport and despite taking over a window cleaning firm, continued with his passion for acting in his spare time, joining Preston Drama Club and Broughton Players.
He was in a play directed by Roy Barraclough, which won prizes at Skipton Festival, and caught the eye of a TV insider.
Chris went on to secure parts in programmes for both Granada and the BBC, including Prime Suspect, The Liver Birds and Brideshead Revisited, with the legendary Sir Laurence Olivier.
In an interview with the Evening Post last year, he said: “Acting is a way of life. Performing was in the family.”
Dermot said his father also began directing the stars of tomorrow in his later years.
Ahead of Chris’ funeral, at St Mary’s Church, Fernyhalgh Lane, Fulwood next Tuesday at noon, the family asked for donations rather than flowers, to be made to the Playhouse ‘Raising the Roof’ fundraising campaign.
Dermot said: “He loved the Playhouse, it was like a second home.
“Even recently he was saying ‘I will have a word with them and see if I can get in another play’.
“He just absolutely loved it.”