|Born||12th June 1924|
|Birthplace|| 6 Tile Street,|
|Residence||Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo)|
|Spouse(s)|| Les Clegg (1947) |
Ron Cooke (1974)
|Children||Gordon Clegg (adoptive, 1950)|
|First appearance||1st April 1968|
|Last appearance||13th January 1975|
|Number of appearances||415|
|Played by||Irene Sutcliffe|
Maggie arrived in the Street in 1968 with her husband Les Clegg and their adopted son Gordon. The move was designed as a fresh start for the family as Les was battling alcoholism, but after a few weeks of sobriety he drank and became abusive, and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Maggie divorced Les and ran the shop herself, with the occasional help of Betty, who moved back to the area in 1969, and Irma Barlow, who owned a share of the shop from 1970 to 1972.
In 1974, Maggie married Ron Cooke and moved to Zaire, leaving the shop in Gordon's hands. She returned briefly in 1975 when Gordon learned the truth about his parentage; that Betty was his real mother and not Maggie. She has not visited the Street since.
1924-1968: Marriage to LesEdit
Maggie Preston was born at 6 Tile Street, Weatherfield on 12th June 1924 and married Les Clegg in 1947. Two years later, her sister Betty had an affair with a married sailor and had a son, Gordon, who was adopted by the Cleggs, who couldn't have children of their own and raised him as their own son.Maggie's marriage to Les was trying; he was an alcoholic and was often violent when drunk. Maggie put up with him despite receiving occasional beatings, and Gordon's disdain for him, as he always promised to quit drinking. In 1968, they moved to Coronation Street, Weatherfield for a fresh start and bought the Corner Shop from David and Irma Barlow. Gordon lived in the flat upstairs. Les managed to stay sober and eventually gained Maggie's trust to go out on his own to celebrate a bowls victory, but he returned to the shop drunk, abusive and violent as he had been so many times before. He hit Maggie but was knocked out by Gordon.
After seeing a psychiatrist, Les was admitted to a mental hospital. Maggie supported his rehabilitation, as the marriage had left her a nervous wreck and she was willing to try anything to help him change.
1968-1972: Going soloEdit
With Les away, Maggie ran the shop herself with Valerie Barlow as assistant. Gordon stayed throughout his accountancy exams but left in 1969 to work for a firm in London, after breaking his marital engagement to Lucille Hewitt. Later that year, Betty returned to the area with her husband Cyril Turpin, with Betty intent on helping Maggie at the shop, but Maggie didn't want her around all the time and got her a job as a barmaid at the Rovers Return Inn.In 1970, when Les finished his psychiatric treatment, he and Maggie started divorce proceedings. Maggie didn't believe he would stay sober and she was proven to be correct as he started drinking again within a few months. Later that year, Maggie sold 50% of the business to Irma Barlow, who had just been widowed. The share in the shop was a gift from her dad Stan, and Irma had went along with it despite hating the arrangement. Maggie gave the money to Gordon, who was becoming a success in London.
Maggie was never one to sit on her laurels and in 1972 took a Social Services course at the Open University. When Irma left to live in Wales and sold her share of the shop back to Maggie, Maggie was approached by Cyril who wanted to buy it for him and Betty. Cyril made Maggie feel guilty that Betty had come back to Weatherfield to help her in the first place. Maggie refused to be emotionally blackmailed but the incident made her decide to move to London and sell the whole shop, although she soon changed her mind and stayed. Having decided to take on the shop by herself again, Maggie employed Norma Ford as a live-in assistant.
1972-1975: Alf Roberts and Ron CookeEdit
When her divorce was finalised, Maggie started seeing more of Councillor Alf Roberts. They got on well when Alf's estranged wife Phyllis died, Alf cooled the relationship to Maggie's disappointment. They had an on-off relationship until 1974, and were sufficiently close that when Alf was chosen as the new Mayor of Weatherfield he asked Maggie to be his Mayoress, although Maggie turned him down as she was scared of letting him down. Nevertheless, they kept seeing each other, and Alf eventually proposed. Again, Maggie said no, as he wasn't very romantic despite his dependability.By 1973, Maggie was keen for a change. She considered enlarging the shop by was talked out of it by Councillor Len Fairclough, who told her it would be a waste of money as there was a possibility the street would be demolished. Maggie later met reformed alcoholic Ron Cooke and was impressed he had stayed off drink for two years. He almost immediately proposed to her and promised her a new life in Zaire. They married in July, with Maggie seizing the opportunity for a fresh start in a new country. She retained ownership of the shop, with Gordon returning to Weatherfield to manage it after her departure, later renting the shop out to the Hopkins family.
Later in 1974, Megan Hopkins found Gordon's birth certificate behind a sideboard in the shop accommodation, but the mother's name was not Maggie's, but Betty's. The Hopkinses were going to blackmail Betty, but Maggie returned to Weatherfield so he would hear the truth from her in person. Maggie warned off the Hopkinses and returned to Zaire, leaving Weatherfield for the last time.
1975-2012: Later yearsEdit
The Hopkins family left the Street in 1975 after their offer for the Corner Shop was declined. Gordon returned in 1976 to finally sell the shop to Renee Bradshaw on Maggie's behalf. Maggie was rarely mentioned after her last departure from the Street and much of her later life abroad is unknown. By 2003, she was a widow, still living in Zaire, now the war torn democratic Republic of Congo. In 2012, when her sister Betty passed away, Maggie wasn't present at the funeral, nor was her absence referred to although a photograph of her was present in the living room of Betty's house.
Maggie was a popular member of the community. She was friendly, hard working, selfless and reliable. Maggie was fiercely devoted to her family and always tried to be there for them. She often put her families wishes above her own, a particular example occurring in 1969 when she put her dislike towards Lucille Hewitt to one side and let Gordon marry her if he wanted. Maggie was also generous and thoughtful towards the community and allowed credit in the shop in November 1969 after the coach crash due to many residents being unable to work due to their injuries. Despite her friendly nature Maggie was a very lonely person with her husband and "son" leaving Weatherfield in the space of a year. Maggie told Emily Nugent in 1970 that she envied her never been married as she had no memories to miss.
Family and friendsEdit
Maggie was close to her sister Betty, as exemplified by her taking on Betty's son Gordon and raising him as her own son. As the older sister, Betty looked out for Maggie and often stepped in to help her in a crisis, but Maggie found that Betty's "help" usually consisted of making decisions for her, even though Maggie was a strong-willed woman and always knew what she wanted. Whenever Betty dumped herself on Maggie, Maggie made it a priority to get rid of her, fearing that she would take over without realising it. Examples include Betty trying to matchmake between Maggie and Len Fairclough in 1969, even though they just wanted to be friends, and Maggie looking after Betty upon Cyril Turpin's death in 1974, whereupon Maggie tried to persuade her to return to work at the Rovers, instead of the shop where she would be in Maggie's way.
Maggie was devoted to Gordon and treated him as if he were her own son, although his true parentage was kept a secret from him until 1975. She was especially keen for him to succeed academically, and was concerned when became taken with Lucille Hewitt when his exams were coming up. At first Lucille wasn't interested as she thought Gordon was a mummy's boy, but they soon started dating and decided to marry. Maggie refused to permit the marriage, and a few days later they left Weatherfield, intending to elope, although they had a change of heart and returned for Gordon to take his exams, which he passed. Maggie decided to take a step back and stop mothering Gordon, letting him marry Lucille if he wanted to, but in 1969 he jilted Lucille anyway and took a job with an accountancy firm in London. Maggie was happy about the broken engagement but upset that Gordon was leaving.
Maggie's closest friends in Coronation Street were Elsie Tanner, Alf Roberts, Len Fairclough, and shop assistants Valerie Barlow, Irma Barlow and Norma Ford. She briefly pursued Len, but a relationship never developed as he was only interested in her as a friend. Alf was keen on Maggie but Maggie found him unromantic.
Creation and castingEdit
Maggie, Les and Gordon Clegg were the brainchild of story consultant Stan Barstow, who was hired in late 1967 to pitch ideas which would lift Coronation Street out of a perceived slump. The programme had nearly been cancelled by executives at Granada who saw the demolition of terraced streets taking place all over Manchester and Salford and concluded that Coronation Street was nearing its natural end. Ultimately the axe was avoided and new producers were appointed instead - Michael Cox and executive producer Richard Everitt - who were ordered to update the programme.
The departures of David and Irma Barlow left room for new characters to take over the Corner Shop. Barstow was on a mission to inject social issues into the programme and the new family were central to this: "The Corner Shop at that time was a bit moribund and I put that onto a character I read about in the newspaper, a sort of recovering alcoholic who came in and took over a shop." (50 Years of Coronation Street: The (very) Unofficial Story, JR Books, 2010) This character became Les Clegg, husband of the long-suffering Maggie.
The part of Maggie went to LAMDA-trained actress Irene Sutcliffe. At 37, Sutcliffe was six years younger than her character, and only 15 years older than her screen son Bill Kenwright. Sutcliffe had acted extensively in film and theatre, including a year in The Mousetrap on London's West End stage and tours of Europe, America and the Middle East with the Old Vic Theatre Company, but was no less daunted by Coronation Street: "I remember my heart thumping, waiting for my first entrance outside the shop, and Pat [Phoenix] saying 'Oh, you'll be all right chuck'." (The Coronation Street Story, Boxtree Limited, 1995) Maggie was initially credited by her full name of "Margaret Clegg".
The Cleggs' initial storyline explored alcoholism and domestic violence, ending with Les being admitted to a psychiatric hospital. After one year, Bill Kenwright left the programme, leaving Maggie with no family around; her overbearing sister Betty Turpin and Betty's policeman husband Cyril were created in order to rectify this.
Most of Maggie's scenes were set in the Corner Shop, which Irene Sutcliffe enjoyed as it varied the people with whom she got to act. One of the characters who became important to Maggie was Alf Roberts. Writers planned for Maggie and Alf to marry but Sutcliffe quit the programme in 1974 before these plans could come to fruition. Instead, Maggie married her old flame Ron Cooke and emigrated to Zaire.
Sutcliffe returned for five episodes over the Christmas period that year in order for Maggie to reveal to Gordon that he was really Betty's illegitimate son and had been adopted by the Cleggs, her hand being forced when the Hopkins family found Gordon's birth certificate. The storyline surprised all actors concerned, including Bill Kenwright: "I was shocked, really really shocked, but not nearly as shocked as Irene, because she was not only shocked she was angry." Writer John Stevenson: "She felt it just undermined all the work she'd done that created a believable mother-son relationship over the years." (The Corrie Years, Series 2 Episode 1 "The Scandals")
Maggie last appeared in Episode 1459 on 13th January 1975, although she was occasionally mentioned by Betty in later years, such as in 1995 when Betty said that she was still living in Zaire and 2003 when she told Shelley Unwin that Maggie was now a widow.
First and last linesEdit
"Well, erm, I wanted to speak to the proprieter." (First line, to David Barlow)
"It doesn't matter very much to me what you say, or to Gordon. We shan't be here - but Betty will be. So remember it's her business and leave it alone... please." (Final line, to the Hopkins family, icily)