30 March 2012

Coronation Street: Percy Sugden

Eee, 1989 - what a year! The Berlin Wall came down, Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, the Game Boy was released in America, and in Coronation Street Mrs Phyllis Pearce (Jill Summers) crept up on Mr Percy Sugden (Bill Waddington) in the Rovers Return and said, without any ado:


Percy (furious): "I wish you wouldn't do that! I'm a coiled spring, y'know! I act very quickly and very aggressively when startled!"

Phyllis: "Ooh, I wish you would!"

Introduced in 1983, the Coronation Street character Percy Sugden took over the role of community centre caretaker in the show, and rapidly proved himself to be a well-meaning pain in the neck. Whilst First World War veteran Albert Tatlock was happy to sit in the Rovers, cadging or perhaps nursing a rum (if he was lucky), Second World War veteran Percy charged around the neighbourhood, "organising" people and events, sticking his nose in left right and centre and generally getting people's backs up.

Percy was actually quite a lonely men, a widower, with only his budgie, Randy, for company. He was delighted when his favourite niece, Elaine Prior, visited him in 1984, but saddened to see her leave again - after her wedding to local man Bill Webster.

Percy did attract one admirer - Phyllis Pearce, she of the foghorn voice - but he would have cheerfully had his toe nails pulled out rather than marry her.

Forced to retire in 1988, Percy was miserable at leaving the Street, and was taken pity on by that fine Christian lady Emily Bishop, who invited him back to lodge with her.

The character of Percy was played with great zest by Bill Waddington.

Percy was always convinced that he was doing right, and acting for the best. His most famous comment was probably: "When you've made gravy under shell fire, you can do anything!"

According to Bill Waddington, some people on the Granada Studios Tour expressed fear that Percy might come out and tell them off whilst going around the outdoor set!

One of my favourite Sugden sagas took place in 1988.

A chance remark by Emily Bishop set the story rolling. Trying to sleep in the front bedroom of No 3, Coronation Street, she was sometimes disturbed by next door neighbour Don Brennan, arriving home in his taxi in the early hours of the morning. The sound of the car engine and the slamming of the car door often drew her from her slumbers.

It was never a good idea to say anything much at all about anything to Percy Sugden, Emily's new lodger at No 3. Especially when it came to problems. But when Emily let slip her night time difficulties in passing, he immediately set out to remedy the situation.

Percy had often noticed that Don's parked taxi overlapped from the space outside his own house into Emily's parking space, and so he immediately painted "NO PARKING" on the pavement, with two lines to mark out No 3's parking space.

On hearing of the problem he was causing, Don was sympathetic, and promised Emily he'd be quieter.

He and Ivy were, however, both annoyed and amused to see Percy's pavement etching, and Don said he'd get his own back...

The next morning, Emily emerged from No 3 to find a gaggle of factory girls outside, all laughing at the pavement! Percy's "NO PARKING" had been crudely altered to "NOSY PARKER". Emily was furious. She hadn't even been aware that Percy had daubed the pavement in the first place. She called him outside. "We've been vandalised!" squawked Percy.

Emily insisted that Percy removed the offensive lettering from her pavement immediately. Percy was, as always, sympathetic - and, in fact, quite outraged on Emily's behalf: "I can understand you being upset. There's no truth in this at all. You're no nosy parker, not in my book - and if anybody ever said you were..."

Emily could hardly believe her ears: "This is not aimed at me, Mr Sugden - it's aimed at you!"

Percy was deeply saddened. This wasn't the first time he'd encountered the bizarre female tendency to delude themselves when it came to any unpleasantness, but still, he'd thought better of Mrs Bishop.

However, he remained gallant: "I wouldn't think so, no, but if that's the way you want to think about it, Mrs Bishop, so be it."

Emily told Percy that she was going to work, that she wanted to see the pavement clean when she returned, and that she wanted no reprisals carried out against Don Brennan or anybody else Percy suspected of committing the deed. She would brook no argument!

As it happened, Don wasn't involved in the pavement daubing exercise. And if Percy had glanced down the street as Mrs Bishop stalked off across the road to Baldwin's factory, he might have gained more than a small clue as to who the miscreant actually was.

As Jack Duckworth later confessed to Gloria Todd, it was him.

He'd nipped out in his "jim jams" early that morning.

It had been too good to resist.

Percy never did catch the culprit.

And he was greatly disappointed to discover the attitude taken by Mavis Riley, apparently Mrs Bishop's best friend, who seemed completely unruffled and deluded regarding this outrageous slur against her.

Like Emily, Mavis told Percy that she believed the "NOSY PARKER" slogan referred to him!


You wouldn't credit it, would you?


OldeCuriosity said...

Like this post, what happened to Percy and Phylis? They were great

Drew said...

Phyllis disappeared from the show in the 1990s when actress Jill Summers died. Percy left Coronation Street in the 1990s too - the (then) producer decided to axe some of the oldies and spice up the show. Shame!!!

Sara said...

Very good review of Percy's character. Better than a lot of the blogs and sites dedicated to Coronation Street! Brings the memories flooding back.