Spectropop remembers

JENNIFER MOSS (1945 - 2006)


Jennifer Moss, who has died aged 61, played the part of the rebellious teenager Lucille Hewitt in Coronation Street from its third episode until she left the programme in 1974 when her drinking became a problem; her life thereafter encompassed incidents as troubled, tragic and dramatic as any in the soap.

She was born Jennifer Victoria Moss on January 10th, 1945 in Wigan, Lancashire. Her father Reg was the director of a mill and her mother Dora a drama teacher ambitious for her child to go on the stage. Young Jennifer went to Wigan High School for Girls, where she developed an ambition to become a barrister, but by the time she was 12 her mother had pushed her into radio work for the Light Programme. On Children's Hour she first encountered Tony Warren, who was later to create Coronation Street.

By the time she was 16 Jennifer had moved into television, appearing in June Evening and Magnolia Street for the BBC before moving to Granada to join Coronation Street. Her character - for many years the only child in the street - was the daughter of Harry Hewitt, a widower who later married the barmaid Concepta Riley. But Lucille's father and stepmother left for Ireland shortly after the disappearance of their baby (suspicion attached to Lucille) and she lived with Annie Walker, the domineering landlady of the Rovers Return. A brief engagement to Gordon Clegg in 1968 came to nothing when Bill Kenwright, who played her fiancé, left the programme the following year. (He is now a successful West End producer.) Jennifer Moss, however, had become engaged in real life, to Peter Hampson, who ran a company making home brewing supplies, and whom she had met at a fancy dress party. Her first pregnancy - which ended in miscarriage - caused difficulties for the scriptwriters, but they were able to accommodate her absence when her daughter Naomi was born the following year.

Lucille Hewitt was one of Coronation Street's few acknowledgements of the existence of the Swinging Sixties, and Jennifer developed some of her character's rebelliousness. She was earning £60 a week in the early part of the decade - a phenomenal wage for the time - and devoted her time to parties. With the exception of a period in 1963, when she deserted Coronation Street because of a strike by Equity, Jennifer Moss devoted 14 years to the soap, and was seen in more than 1,000 episodes.

During her 1963 sojourn she appeared in the musical film Live it Up with David Hemmings, and recorded several sides for the producer Joe Meek. These included "Hobbies" and "Big Boys", which were released as a single on Columbia, and others that would be issued many years later. But her singing career proved brief.

Jennifer suffered from depression after the death of her father, and her drinking began to be noticed by her bosses at Granada. She then went on holiday to Marbella, where she met and fell in love with a heroin addict, who subsequently defrauded her by forging cheques in her name. She stood by him during the court case that followed, but shortly afterwards he committed suicide. Her second marriage also broke up after she had had a daughter who was born seriously handicapped: a consequence of Jennifer's heavy drinking during pregnancy. The child was taken into care; a son born in 1975 died aged three weeks. She had left Coronation Street the year before; thereafter she lived on benefits or worked variously as a waitress and a taxi driver; in 1988 she applied for a job as a tour guide showing visitors around the Coronation Street set. But the 1970s were devoted to drink. Her eldest daughter was taken into care aged 12, though she was later reconciled with her mother. Jennifer and her third husband, John Neill, were convicted of breaking into a Labour club to steal drink in 1980. At one point she was living in a hostel. She had a brief fourth marriage. In 1983 she was cleared of shoplifting. Meanwhile, copies of "Hobbies" by Jenny Moss were changing hands for tidy sums among record collectors.

But at last, with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous, Jennifer overcame her drinking problem and settled down, though she suffered poor health for much of the rest of her life. She made a brief return to acting in the TV sitcom Bread and in 2000 appeared in the programme After They Were Famous. In her last years she lived in Runcorn, then Surrey, and eventually near Dunfermline, with her fifth husband Steve Ramsden, a software programmer whom she had met at a bridge evening. They ran an internet stamp collecting business.

(Adapted from an obituary in The Daily Telegraph)

Jennifer Victoria Moss, actress and occasional singer:
born January 10th, 1945 - died September 29th, 2006