Actress Julie Goodyear MBE was given the Freedom of the Borough of Rochdale at a packed ceremony at the borough's famous town hall last night.
The Heywood star was honoured for her contribution to the arts and entertainment, and for her years of dedicated charity work.
Friends and family joined civic dignitaries and councillors to celebrate her achievements and her lifelong love of her home town. After receiving the official Freedom of the Borough scroll she was given a rapturous standing ovation that echoed long around the council chamber.
Paying tribute to Julie, council leader Richard Farnell said: "Julie Goodyear is one of the most famous faces from British television and is very well-known to all of us. She is one of the best-known and best-loved characters from Coronation Street and one of - if not the - strongest female lead from a show that is famous for its fiery women. Who can say that they haven't seen Julie holding court in the Rovers Return? In the days when television brought that nation together, when millions of people huddled round their small sets to watch the same programmes, she was one of its brightest stars."
Councillor Ashley Dearnley, leader of the Conservative group, said: "I am delighted to support Julie Goodyear MBE for Freedom of the Borough. She has always showed great passion and enthusiasm for the borough. She has always showed compassion to people in various circumstances and been a real support to people through her charity work and her gritty, northern role in Coronation Street. I am delighted to second the motion that sees Julie given Freedom of the Borough she cares so much about."
The Rovers Return landlady joins actor, singer and comedian Gracie Fields; former Heywood and Royton MP and cabinet minister Lord Joel Barnett; Rochdale AFC, and the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers as recipients of the Freedom of the Borough of Rochdale
Miss Goodyear's speech
Mr Mayor, lady Mayoress, Councillors, honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen.
Let me start by saying what a privilege and honour it is to be with you here tonight.
When I was first told that I had been proposed to receive the freedom of the borough of Rochdale, I of course accepted immediately.
It is a wonderful feeling to know that you are loved and appreciated by the people of your home town.
As someone who was born and bred in Heywood and as someone who never wanted to leave a place that is very special to me, this accolade means the world.
When I think back to my early days in the Bay Horse pub with my mother and father I cannot help but wonder at the journey my life has taken. Although I have been to so many places and seen so many things, my heart has always belonged here.
A big part of that has always been the people of Heywood.
They are the best there is.
They have never shown anything but love to me and I will always show love to them. They are kind, generous, have no airs and graces and more often than not they are willing to speak their minds.
"Alright, cocker?" They say to me. "I'm alright, cocker", I say back. You can't buy that.
I was thrilled to know that my work – both as an actress and as a supporter of a number of different charities that are very close to my heart – is considered worthy of this prestigious accolade.
After the news had sunk in I began to think about all the other recipients of the freedom of the borough of Rochdale.
A famous government minister, courageous army regiments and of course – Dame Gracie Fields. To think I have been placed in our Gracie's company is truly humbling.
Thank you again from the bottom of my heart. And thank you so much for joining me here tonight.