Star of the stage and screen, Irene Sutcliffe has died aged 88 after more than 60 years in the acting spotlight – including a prominent role in Coronation Street.
Trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, she toured with the Bristol Old Vic Company and spent a season working with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Sutcliffe made her West End debut in The Millionairess, starring in the 1952 George Bernard Shaw play with Katharine Hepburn.
She moved onto a role in an adaptation of TS Eliot’s Murder In The Cathedral the following year before beginning to move into television work.
Over the coming years she played key characters in popular titles including Dixon of Dock Green, Pathfinders in Space and Emergency – Ward 10.
However it is her role in Coronation Street that she is most known by.
Sutcliffe ventured onto the cobbles of the long-running ITV soap in 1968, playing Maggie Clegg – an unlucky-in-love shopkeeper married to alcoholic Les and the mother of adopted son Billy.
Over seven years on the show her character got divorced and remarried before leaving in 1975 when, in a surprising turn of events, her character emigrated to The Democratic Republic of the Congo.
After leaving the fictional town of Weatherfield, Sutcliffe continued to find work, picking up roles in dramas including Morse, Juliet Bravo, and Miss Marple.
She was happier on the stage, taking up roles in titles including Time And The Conways, and Children Of A Lesser God in the following decades.
Sutcliffe’s final appearance on the West End was in 2000, when she was part of the London company performing Wit, which had debuted in New York, winning a Pulitzer prize in the process.
Four years later she treaded the boards for the last time with a role in Waters Of The Moon at Salisbury Playhouse.
However she did continue acting, picking up roles in a number of television series.
Sutcliffe played characters in medical dramas Doc Martin and Doctors and her last credit was an appearance in an episode of US drama The Royals alongside Liz Hurley in 2015.
Described by trade magazine The Stage as a “private woman, giving a somewhat austere initial impression”, Sutcliffe had a reliable circle of friends she enjoyed playing bridge with in her retirement.
She was also a “tireless” member of the Actors’ Benevolent Fund, which supports professional actors and stage managers in need through injury, illness or old age.