Coronation Street’s lost ‘spin-off’ that wasn’t set on the cobbles and featured a future Only Fools and Horses star

One appearance on an episode of Coronation Street sparked a ‘spin-off’ series for two characters that wasn’t set on the cobbles.

The Brothers McGregor first aired in 1985 and followed two-half brothers from Liverpool, who ran a second-hand car lot in the city.

But some will remember that neither brother was satisfied and had aspirations for a different life.

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Cyril, played by Philip Whitchurch, saw himself as ‘the next Frank Sinatra’ and Wesley, played by Paul Barber who later starred as Denzil in Only Fools and Horses, had hopes of becoming a successful businessman.

But some television fans may be unaware that the idea for the sitcom came after the characters first appeared on ITV’s Corrie.

In the 1980s, the McGregor brothers made their debut as friends of Eddie Yeats, a character also originally from Liverpool, who was played by Geoffrey Hughes.

In the Corrie episode, Cyril and Wesley arrive at the Rovers Return to celebrate Eddie’s engagement.

The brothers were originally played by Tony Osoba and Carl Chase and from there the idea of ​​a ‘spin-off’ was sparked by Brass authors Julian Roach and John Stevenson, who were writing episodes of Coronation Street at the time.

In 1985, the Liverpool ECHO reported how “Eddie Yeat’s old mates” were to “strike out with a comedy series all their own”.

Stevenson told Granada he would like to develop a comedy series starring brothers, but Osoba and Chase did not reprise their roles.

Paul Barber, Jean Heywood Philip Whitchurch in series 2 of The Brothers McGregor, 1986
Paul Barber, Jean Heywood Philip Whitchurch in series 2 of The Brothers McGregor, 1986

Philip Whitchurch was instead cast as Cyril McGregor and Paul Barber as brother, Wesley.

The show followed the lives of the two Scouse half-brothers running a second hand car lot, called Rathbone Motors, in Liverpool.

The opening titles of the show showed the brothers as toddlers and then teens, ending with them as adults outside their car lot business.

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Both of the brothers had ambitions – Wesley wanted to be a rich and successful businessman, while Cyril wanted to find fame and fortune as a singer.

The Liverpool Echo previously reported how Cyril worked as a co-bouncer and occasional singer in the Blue Cockatoo Club, owned by the “cigar-puffing” Colwyn Stanley, played by Allan Surtees.

Paul Barber, Jean Heywood, Philip Whitchurch, Jackie Downey and Allan Surtees in series 2 of The Brothers McGregor, 1986
Paul Barber, Jean Heywood, Philip Whitchurch, Jackie Downey and Allan Surtees in series 2 of The Brothers McGregor, 1986

The 2007 article reads: “Cyril was a socialist, Wesley, a Tory – but the brothers could not operate without each other, and each shared a fascination for money.

“A lot of the comedy came from Wesley acting as an unofficial agent/representative for Cyril, who hoped to become England’s answer to Frank Sinatra.”

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Both of the McGregors adored their mum, Dolly, played by Jean Haywood, who worked in a café and knitted constantly.

The family all lived in a high-rise council block, often visited by Glenys, Cyril’s fiancée.

Glenys, played by Jackie Downey, was known for her distinct punk-hairstyle and waiting years in frustration for the pair to tie the knot.

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Filming took place in both cities, with a Liverpool audience also being invited to watch the initial filming of the then new sitcom to make sure “the Scouse flavor of the show was carried through.”

The first episode of the seven-part comedy series aired on September 4, 1985 and instantly grabbed the attention of viewers.

The following year in 1986, the Liverpool Echo reported how Barber and Whitchurch were becoming “one of the best sit-com double acts on telly,” holding down the 9pm prime time spot.

The sitcom had 26 episodes spanning over four series, giving viewers everything from funny confrontations with displeased customers to tricky situations and sibling bickering.

Jackie Downey (Glenys Pike) and Philip Whitchurch (Cyril McGregor) in series 2 of The Brothers McGregor, 1986
Jackie Downey and Philip Whitchurch in series 2 of The Brothers McGregor, 1986

But in 1988, The Brothers McGregor ended after four years on our screens.

In the 1990s, Philip Whitchurch went on to star as Chief Inspector Philip Cato in The Bill and Tyler in My Hero in the early 2000s.

Paul Barber became best-known for playing Denzil in Only Fools and Horses and Horse in The Full Monty, as well as starring in Brookside.

While the series may have ended over 30 years ago, the McGregor brothers are still remembered by many TV fans.

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Market Street, Manchester.  Shoppers on the pedestrianized walkway.  Sep. 17, 1994

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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