Len Fairclough, the hard-drinking, hard-living character in Coronation Street portrayed by Liverpool-born actor Peter Adamson was an iconic figure of 1960’s television. Much in the mould of Alan Sillitoe’s Arthur Seaton in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning this role of a womanising working class man tasting the joys of the affluence in 1961 thrust Adamson almost overnight into celebrity status. Extremely well-paid for the time, he enjoyed a high-profile and lavish life-style while at the height of his fame but with a plot that could have come from the pens of the Street’s scriptwriters he was to suffer a fall from grace logged inexorably in the pages of the tabloid press.
Adamson was born in 1930 at a time when his parents, George and Lillian Adamson, were living at 54 Hannon Road, Kensington L7, although Adamson would often say that he was born in a chip shop in nearby Molyneux Road. The family fortunes must have improved over the war years as by 1945 they were living in the considerably more salubrious suburb of Allerton at 66 Melbreck Road L18.
Leaving school at 14 he tried his hand in a solicitor’s office and then as a commercial artist but having savoured the stage as a member of a local amateur dramatic group he set his mind on making it his full-time occupation. Although he had an abortive stay at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts it was back in the north-west, in repertory theatre, that he learned his trade. First appearing on the TV in the mid-fifties he had featured in a number of programmes before getting his big break in Coronation Street.
As early as 1966 Adamson’s drinking had begun to cause him problems when he was prosecuted for ‘drunk driving’. Before the decade was out he was being suspended without pay from the show and was spending a considerable time ‘drying out’. He did stop drinking in 1969 and remained ‘dry’ until after his wife died. However problems still mounted. He had large debts to the Inland Revenue and then in 1983 he was arrested and charged with indecently assaulting two eight-year old girls while giving them swimming lessons at Haslingden baths. Although he was subsequently found not guilty, the costs of his defence by the celebrated barrister George Carman were enormous. Things became even worse for Adamson when after a dispute with Granada over his disclosure of stories about the show to the press he was sacked. His last portrayal of Len Fairclough had been in May 1983.
A final barb added to his pain was the manner in which Fairclough was written out of the show, killed in a motorway crash while cheating on his screen wife Rita. Adamson saw this as a spiteful move by Granada to diminish the popularity of Fairclough.
Although he continued to find work on the stage after leaving Coronation Street he was never able to command the sort of salary he had previously enjoyed and in 1991 he was declared bankrupt with debts of over £30,000, largely the outcome of his defence costs. His wife Jean, who had suffered for many years with rheumatoid arthritis, died aged just 52 in 1984. Drinking again, he retired from acting after his bankruptcy and lived alone in a small flat in Lincolnshire. He died in Lincoln in 2002 aged 71.
© Liverpool Footprints