Monday, 11 July 2011
Ena (Violet Carson), who appeared in the series for 20 years between 1960 and 1980, was the caretaker of the mission hall, and spent much of her time criticising the activities of the street's other inhabitants. She was one of the main characters during the 1960s, she was featured less regularly in the 1970s due to the declining health of actress Violet Carson, and was written out in 1980. Almost always wearing a double-breasted coat and hairnet, she spent much of her free time in the series' early years with her two cronies, Martha Longhurst and Minnie Caldwell, in the snug bar of the Rovers Return Inn, drinking Milk Stout.
When the final episode featuring Ena was screened on 2 April 1980, it attracted little media or public attention as the producers intended her to continue in the series - the character was merely leaving her house in the street and moving to care for an ill friend, Henry Foster. Unfortunately, all subsequent storylines involving Ena had to be scrapped owing to Violet Carson's ill health.
In 1960, Ena battled the Mission's new lay preacher Leonard Swindley, who objected to her frequenting the Rovers. Ena collapsed due to the stress, but walked out of the hospital to return to her post so that Martha, who had taken on her responsibilities while she recovered, could not steal her job. In 1961 Ena was sacked for spreading a rumor that Coronation Street was being demolished, when it turned out to be untrue, but Swindley was forced to re-hire her when a suitable replacement could not be found (Ena had bribed the other candidates to turn the job down). Still unhappy with the working conditions, however, Ena walked out of the job later in the year and moved in with Minnie, with Albert Tatlock briefly taking on the caretaker position. She was eventually offered her job back.
Ena had a health scare in 1962 when she suffered a minor stroke, brought on by hypostatic pneumonia. She quickly regained her speech and mobility but the following year was diagnosed with arterioschlerosis. Despite her willingness to gossip, Ena was very guarded about her private life and resented Martha for discussing her health problems with Ena's daughter, Vera Lomax.
Vera came to stay again later in 1966, claiming to be ill. Ena did not believe her until she spoke to Vera's doctor, who said that Vera had a brain tumour and had a month to live, but Vera had not yet been told her condition was terminal. Ena watched her daughter wind down over several weeks until she died in Ena's bed in January 1967.
The Mission was closed for good a year later, when it was demolished along with the factory to make way for a block of two-storey maisonettes. Ena was offered a place at an old folk's home but unsurprisingly she declined, choosing to lodge with old friend Henry Foster at St. Anne's after briefly living with Minnie, although when the maisonettes were built Ena moved into No.6, a purpose-built OAP ground floor flat. Ena was pleased as it occupied the exact spot where the vestry had been.
In 1969, Ena got bored with the maisonette and moved into a flat above Ernest Bishop's camera shop. With Glad Tidings gone, the closest place of worship was the Victoria Street Mission, and Ena kept close tabs on the comings and goings there. She was delighted in 1970 to meet young Tony Parsons, who shared her passion for the harmonium. Recognising his talent, Ena made him her protégé and gave him lessons, while seeing about getting him a scholarship.