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'Corrie' star Betty got just one kiss a year

Coronation Street veteran Betty Driver has told of the loveless childhood which led to her becoming exploited as a "meal ticket" for the rest of her family.

The 90-year-old actress, who has been known as cheery Betty Williams for more than four decades, said her early years were spent without presents, kisses or parental affection.

In an emotional interview for Radio 4's Desert Island Discs -- to be broadcast today -- she explains that the bullying by her mother led to a nervous breakdown in her mid-20s.

A confession on a lighter note will surprise many of her fans, as Driver admits she cannot cook hotpot. As Rovers Return favourite Betty, she has been known for her speciality dish during countless episodes of the Weatherfield soap. But asked whether she is able to rustle up the signature hotpot, she admits: "No, I'm a terrible cook."

Driver found a new lease of national TV fame when she joined Corrie in the late 1960s, at a time when she was thinking of winding down her performing career. But she had been pushed on to the stage as a child by her overbearing mother who ruled the home.

She told presenter Kirsty Young that she and sister Freda had a "sad little life".

"We never got a kiss. We never got a present, nothing. My mother was so strong that my dad just gave up. He was a sweet person but he just gave up," she said.

"She was so domineering there was nothing you could do about it. It was a very, very sad little life, me and my sister, you know."

At Christmas, Driver and her sister would put presents under the tree but she said they were never reciprocated.

"Freda and I used to put our little presents all around which we'd bought during the year for them, but there was never one from my mam, or my dad, ever.

"And we never got a kiss -- only on New Year's Eve. The bells would go for New Year's Eve and my dad would say 'happy new year'. A kiss on the cheek and me mam would grudgingly say happy new year (kiss)."

Driver said that her mother Nellie probably forced her on to the stage because she was a frustrated performer.

"I think she always wanted to be on the stage and never really achieved anything. And that was the nearest thing -- bunging me on, a little girl," she said.

She said she has no idea where her early earnings went, and there was "no point" confronting her mother about what she had done with them.

Nellie died when Driver was in her 30s and she said she could never forgive her for her behaviour.

"Oh no, no, no, no, no. No, I was the meal ticket for the entire family," she said.

"My mother, my father, my grandma, my grandad, my aunts, everyone. They all had a nice little share of my money."

Sunday Independent