Died: 17 January 2002, Lincoln County Hospital, Lincoln, Lincs
Played: Len Fairclough (1 February 1961 - Spring 1983)
Every actor strives to bring something special and personal to each role they play, and sometimes when they play a long-established character, the boundary between actor and character becomes blurred. Peter Adamson was one such actor.
Starting in episode 16, Peter played Len Fairclough, the Liverpudlian ex-Navy builder with a short temper, a pair of fists and a taste for beer - a character not unlike Peter Adamson
Peter Adamson was born in Liverpool on 16 February 1930 and was educated at Gilmour School. He was the youngest of six children born to a tailor-shop owner and his wife. After the war he began acting at the Wavertree Community Centre whilst training as an engraver at Toxteth Technical School. Peter graduated as an engraver in 1948 but then enrolled at the London Academy of Music and Drama. Peter refused to take his drama studies seriously so after two months he left.
Peter then worked as a film extra before working at Sale Theatre in Cheshire. Later that year, Peter joined the Frank H Fortescue Players at Bury as a stage manager. On 20 December 1953 he married Jean, and they produced two sons Michael and Greig.
Jean had suffered from rheumatoid arthritis from the age of 16. She was in constant pain and the arthritis was slowly crippling her. He was devoted to her, and perhaps because of the strain of caring for her, he turned to drink.
In 1956 Peter made his television debut as a comedy host of a record show before working on the Granada TV shows Skyport and Knight Errant. In December 1960 he joined the newly born soap Coronation Street as builder Len Fairclough. By the late 1960s he had a serious drink problem, although in February 1973 he managed to stop drinking, with the help of Alcoholic Anonymous.
He often turned up on set after a binge, but on one occasion was so drunk he couldn't deliver his lines, and was later suspended by Granada. After this, he re-joined Alcoholics Anonymous and sought professional help.
In the early 1983 he sold behind the scenes stories about co-stars Barbara Knox, Christopher Quinten, Doris Speed, Johnny Briggs, Bill Roache, Anne Kirkbride and Pat Phoenix to the Sun newspaper journalist Dan Slater. Granada is very conscious of Coronation Street's public image and closely controls all press contact. The articles put Adamson in breach of his contract, and the offence caused was all the worse as the articles contained unkind and damaging criticisms of the cast, its' production staff and the programme itself. As a result, Granada decided to suspend him for six weeks, but before it could take effect, he was engulfed by an altogether bigger incident.
In April 1983 the whole Coronation Street cast was shocked to read in the Sunday press that Adamson had been arrested, held overnight in police cells and then on 16 April 1983 charged with indecently assaulting two eight-year old girls in his local swimming baths in Haslingden, north of Manchester. His previous press articles hadn't won him any friends, and rumours abounded, especially as he often brought youngsters along to watch rehersals and he spent much of his spare time working for charities and often held swimming classes at local baths for small children. Peter's arrest prolonged the suspension which soon lapsed into unpaid.
Peter was written out of the series to concentrate on his defence, and he approached Granada to see if they would help with what was a potentially enormous legal bill. As they were preparing to hand over a £10,000 loan cheque, Adamson admitted to management that the had signed another unauthorised contract to sell his memoirs to The Sun and The News of the World. The cheque was hastily withdrawn, and Producer Bill Podmore quickly organised a meeting, demanding that Peter give definite assurances that he would never again break Granada's house rules on press interviews. He refused to give such an undertaking, and left the office.
In the meantime, in August, Adamson's case went to Burnley Crown Court. The basis of the police complaint was that Adamson's hands had strayed whilst giving the girls swimming lessons. The jury found him not guilty. Soon afterwards, his second series of press articles appeared, containing much vitriol towards The Street, saying how he felt let down by his Coronation Street bosses after he had given 23 years loyal service.. His fate was sealed and his contract wasn't renewed. Much play was made of his sacking in the wake of the trial, but he was dismissed simply for breach of contract.
Granada can be very unforgiving on actors who turn against them, and it was obvious that there would be no possibilty that Adamson could return sometime in the future. Len Fairclough was killed off in a motorway crash, and to turn the viewers against him, he was returning from seeing his secret lover. The next morning Adamson appeared on TV-am dressed in top hat and undertaker's suit, delivering a obituary for Len. His divorce from Granada was complete.
Peter and his wife Jean then went missing but were tracked down by the media in Bali and on their return to England, Peter joined Hayley Mills and Simon Ward at the Vanderville Theatre, London in the thriller Dial M For Murder, playing Inspector Hubbard, from 31 October 1983 and continuing through at least December of that year. Peter remained in the public eye and sold further stories to national tabloids.
The following year, Jean underwent several operations but passed away. Peter overcame his grief by travelling England in a caravan, then moving to Canada with a hope of a new career. He had had little luck in finding work in the UK after Coronation Street, in some measure because of having been typecast as Len Fairclough, but also partly due to the court case. This was only a pipe dream as after just a few jobs he returned to England and moved in with his son in Lincolnshire. He received unemployment benefit for a while before retiring from acting.
He ended his life living alone in a housing association flat in Welton, Lincolnshire, a self-confessed bankrupt alcoholic.
Obitury from The Daily Telegraph, 21 January 2002
PETER ADAMSON, the actor who has died aged 71, achieved fame as Len Fairclough in Coronation Street, and notoriety after being tried for indecent assault on two eight-year-old girls in a public baths. Although Adamson was acquitted of the charges, he subsequently gave a drink-inspired interview to a reporter on the Sun, during which he both acknowledged and denied that he had been guilty. He had also sold behind-the-scenes accounts of life on "The Street", and was written out of the series. Although he had, almost from Coronation Street's beginning, been one of the programme's most popular characters, his exit was devised to ensure no sympathy from the viewers, when he died in a motor crash after visiting his mistress.
Peter Adamson was born at Allerton, Liverpool, on February 16 1930, the youngest of six children of the manager of a gentlemen's outfitters. He left school aged 14 to take a job in a solicitor's office, from which he was sacked for drumming on his desk with pens and an inkwell; he then indulged his passion for stationery by working as a commercial artist.
After his mother persuaded him to take part in a community play when he was 17, Adamson moved to London in 1948 and enrolled at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. He left after only two months, though, and returned north to join a theatre at Sale, Cheshire, before spending five years in repertory with the Fortescue Players at Bury, Lancashire. He also set up his own rep company, acting in and producing plays and summer shows at Weston-super-Mare, in Somerset.
By the time Adamson was 21, he had already appeared in the West End, and made his television debut in 1956 on an ITV variety show. He followed it up with appearances in the Granada dramas Skyport and Knight Errant. When Granada was planning Coronation Street, Adamson applied for the roles of Dennis Tanner and Ken Barlow, but was offered instead the part of Len Fairclough. He made his first appearance two months after the programme began, on a 12-episode contact with a salary of £10 a week, before joining the cast full-time.
It was to be a busy 23 years for Adamson's character. Len Fairclough was a regular drinker in the Rover's Return for seven years before moving into No 9 Coronation Street in 1968. He was a builder in partnership with Ray Langton, and had at first been married to Nellie Briggs, but when she left him - and after his affairs with Maggie Clegg, Anita Reynolds and Bet Lynch - he married Rita Littlewood in 1977, and they built up The Kabin Newsagent's business together. They fostered Sharon (who later tried to do Rita out of the business). During his second marriage, Len had affairs with Elsie Tanner, Janet Reid and, finally, Marjorie Procter. It was returning from her house that he had his fatal motor accident in 1983.
Adamson, meanwhile, had been living the high life as one of the country's best-known actors. His initial salary after joining the cast of the Street was £10,000 a year - a huge sum in the early 1960s - and he could quickly double his income with personal appearances. He began to drink heavily, and by the late 1960s, owed tens of thousands of pounds to the Inland Revenue. His drinking led to his being suspended from the programme early in 1969.
He gave up drink and settled down, although he continued to face financial difficulties. But in February 1983, Adamson was suspended from the show after selling stories to a tabloid newspaper. He was reinstated, but soon faced worse problems, when he was charged with indecent assault on two eight-year-old girls in a swimming pool, at which he had assisted as a part-time instructor.
The trial, at Burnley Crown Court, inevitably attracted the interest of the tabloids, which reported it in lurid detail. But Adamson had recruited the services of George Carman - whose expertise in the defence of celebrities was already evident. Adamson was acquitted but was left with an enormous legal bill. After prevaricating, Adamson decided to pay the bill by returning to the tabloids with more tales from Coronation Street, and was sacked for breach of contract. Soon afterwards, his wife, whom he had met while in rep and who had long suffered from chronic arthritis, died.
Although he had some acting work on radio, and in a West End production of Dial M for Murder, Adamson returned to the bottle, and, in a rambling account of the trial given to a Sun reporter, appeared to admit his guilt. "I am totally guilty of everything the police said," he said. "But what I hope you will print - there was no sexual intent." He attempted to begin again in Canada, but soon returned to Britain. He played Sir Tunbelly Clumsy in Vanburgh's The Relapse in 1988, but could secure little other work.
He was declared bankrupt in 1991, and spent his last years in a rented flat in Welton, Lincolnshire, where he was occasionally visited by tabloid reporters writing about his fall from fame and fortune.
Adamson's wife Jean died in 1984. They had two sons.