Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

I'll never get over death of second wife Lesley, says Charlie Lawson

Charlie Lawson and Lesley Bond
Charlie Lawson and Lesley Bond

Coronation Street legend Charlie Lawson has opened up about saying a final goodbye to the woman “who will always have a place in his heart”.

The Enniskillen actor spoke to Sunday Life about spreading the ashes of his second wife Lesley Bond, who died at 55 in 2010 at her Oxford home following a battle with addiction and depression.

Along with partner Debbie Stanley and close family members, the veteran star (59) spread the ashes at a beauty spot on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula in Scotland earlier this year.

He spoke movingly about the relationship and its effect on him.

“Before I met Debbie during the heyday of Coronation Street, I was married to Lesley Bond, who was a world-famous make-up artist and the make-up designer on Corrie for years,” Charlie said.

“She was very ill. She was a massive, chronic sufferer of depression and was addicted to prescription drugs. I didn’t know any of that. I met this girl, fell in love and regrettably left my loving family.

“To this day that’s something that affects me, but it happens to a lot of people and is not exclusive to me.

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“I fell in love with Lesley, but she was very, very ill. A few years back — almost eight years — she had a horrible end. She’d become a raging alcoholic and we’d had to separate.

“There was no one else involved and we still loved each other very much, but it was becoming dangerous to be with her. When Lesley was bad, she was bad, but there were some really great times.

“She was living in Oxford and had a fall. Police were called a couple of days later as she’d been reported missing. They said I had to identify her. They initially thought she had been murdered, but she had died of hypothermia. It was awful, absolutely terrible to go and identify her because I loved her.

“Everybody knows I’m with Debbie now. She knows this story and it’s not a problem. Debbie is the love of my life, but I always had a huge part of Lesley in my soul — we never fell out of love.

“After (Lesley was found), she came up to my village and was cremated. We had her ashes for a long time, but I knew where Ellie, as I called her, wanted them to go because she had told me.”

Earlier this year, Charlie and Debbie made a pilgrimage to that place — the Ardnamurchan Peninsula in south-west Scotland — to scatter the ashes.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Charlie Lawson and Debbie Stanley at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards, Culloden Estate & Spa.
Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye. Charlie Lawson and Debbie Stanley at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards, Culloden Estate & Spa.
Jim and Liz McDonald

The actor, who has played Jim McDonald in Coronation Street since 1989, said: “We took a cottage up there. Debbie instigated it and told me, ‘We need to do this’. Lesley’s sister, also called Debbie, and her husband came along and the four of us went up. My Debbie was brilliant because it was hard for her too. She always says she was delighted to be there.

“We went to the beach Ellie had chosen along with the dog we shared, Seamus. It was very moving, a fitting end in a beautiful part of the world.

“If there’s a heaven, she deserves to be there because she had a very unpleasant life. She was too good for this place. The poor wee soul was too damaged to be here. I still miss her. Debbie is my girl, but Lesley has a special part of my heart and always will have. I’m proud of Debbie for doing what she did and I’ll never forget it.”

Charlie also spoke of his pride in old pal Adrian Dunbar, who also hails from Enniskillen and who has enjoyed stellar success with BBC series Line of Duty, in which he plays Ted Hastings.

He said: “I seem to spend more time talking about Adrian than anything else! That’s mainly down to his amazing performance as Ted Hastings in Line of Duty.

“I’ve known him for a long time. Aidy and I come from different communities and were poles apart when we met. When he first came to live with me, there was a (loyalist) Vanguard flag hanging up and he was the first Catholic I’d ever met.

“We have been firm friends for 40 years, with never a cross word said. We’ve never fallen out about Northern Ireland. I have the utmost respect for the man, despite the fact he holds different views. Aidy taught me a lot. I am over the moon with Line of Duty (which was shot around Belfast) — it was brilliant. Aidy has been working his ass off for 40 years and has never had the recognition he deserves.

“Aidy’s famous now and I’m dead chuffed for him — I think it’s brilliant. He’s probably not bothered, but I’m dead pleased for him.”

Veteran actor Charlie also talked about his impending 60th birthday celebrations, which will involve pals Dunbar and Neil Morrissey, whose family has roots in Crossmaglen.

He said: “I’m 60 this year and the old brothers in arms — me, Aidy Dunbar and Neil Morrissey — are going to have a big shindig... everybody duck!

“I’m really looking forward to being able to celebrate my birthday with those two boys because we’ve been friends for a very long time.”

Charlie has been working with the Northern Ireland Veterans Association to draw attention to their cause. He recently visited Lisburn to promote an event on August 17 marking 50 years since the start of Operation Banner, when troops were deployed on the streets.

Charlie Lawson and partner Debbie Stanley at the Belfast Continental Christmas market trying out some of the local produce on sale. Picture Colm O'Reilly Sunday Life
Charlie Lawson and partner Debbie Stanley at the Belfast Continental Christmas market trying out some of the local produce on sale. Picture Colm O'Reilly Sunday Life

He was cautious when asked for his take on the prosecution of Soldier F over Bloody Sunday but reiterated his desire for fairness in dealing with legacy issues.

“I’ll say what I’ve said before — justice is justice and it should be across the board. But, frankly, it hasn’t been and it’s not,” Charlie said. “I don’t want to offend anyone from any background. I just want it (justice) to be across the board.

“It’s very difficult for people on both sides of the community to accept certain things. I am interested in justice, but I want it to be fair.

“It’s difficult to find anything that will please everybody — and that’s Northern Ireland in a sentence.

“I’m not going to get into saying what the politicians should or shouldn’t do, but the problems with an Irish language act and equal marriage are not insurmountable.

“God willing, we can work those issues out because we have been banging on about them for so long."

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