WARRINGTON-born actress Sue Johnston OBE has been hailed as a ‘national treasure’ and given the freedom of Liverpool.

Former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney and ex-Liverpool Football Club manager Jurgen Klopp led the tributes to the award-winning TV star at a special ceremony in the city.

Sue, best known as Sheila Grant in Brookside and Barbara in The Royle Family, was born in Padgate and grew up in Prescot.

The now-80-year-old got her first taste of acting at a drama group at famous St Helens firm Pilkington Glass, where she was also working.

After working as a tax inspector, when her boyfriend was one of the pop group Swinging Blue Jeans, she worked for Brian Epstein.

Sue also attended Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, and her first professional job was on stage at St Helens’ Theatre Royal.

Working mainly in the theatre in the 1970s, her first television appearance was on the cobbles of Coronation Street in 1982.

She went on to become one of the most recognisable faces on British TV as Sheila Grant in Brookside, before being reunited with her Brookside husband Ricky Tomlinson – who himself received the freedom of Liverpool in 2014 – in The Royle Family as his wife Barbara, a role which Sue win a BAFTA for in 2000.

A supporter of numerous campaigns such as the Shrewsbury Two, the miner’s strike and the Hillsborough fight for justice, Sue was made an OBE in 2009.

She was nominated for the city’s highest honour in July 2022, along German LFC manager Klopp, by Liverpool metro mayor Steve Rotheram.

Sue Johnston OBE has been given the freedom of Liverpool. Picture: PA

Sue Johnston OBE has been given the freedom of Liverpool. Picture: PA

In a surprise video tribute, the former reds boss praised Sue for her richly deserved award, welcoming her into the company of the freemen and women of the city.

Sir Paul, who recently celebrated his 82nd birthday, also added his praise to visibly moved Sue and jokingly offered some sheep to parade down Castle Street.

She was hailed as a ‘national treasure’ by Liverpool City Council leader Cllr Liam Robinson during the evening at Liverpool Town Hall.

She was joined in attendance by fellow freeman Tomlinson, comedian Jonny Vegas, Hillsborough campaigner Margaret Aspinall and Liverpool footballing legend Sir Kenny Dalglish, with Sue herself being a lifelong Liverpool FC fan

Further video tributes were heard from the likes of fellow actress Alison Steadman, Elbow lead singer Guy Garvey and LFC legends John Barnes and Phil Thompson.

Reflecting on the freedom of Liverpool award, Sue said: “When they announced it on the same day as Jurgen, that was breathtaking to me, that I was in the same sentence as Jurgen Klopp.

“It was very emotional for me. I cried because I wanted to tell my dad, who loved Liverpool so much. I was so sad I couldn’t tell him, and I know how proud he would have been.

“I love Scousers. The wit, the heart, they are cheeky – just everything.

“They mean just so much to me, and to be granted the freedom of Liverpool means so much more than anything that I have been awarded really.

“It is humbling, and to be in such great company – especially with Jurgen.”