Coronation Street bids tragic farewell to Deirdre Barlow and those glasses

Actress Anne Kirkbride died in January

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The Independent Culture

Coronation Street may be “just a soap opera” but it tackles death with a fearlessness and bluntness rarely seen on television. From Hayley Cropper’s heartrending right to die storyline to Alma Baldwin’s poignant passing, the long-running ITV drama’s creators have won awards for facing head on what most of us would rather sink beneath pints in the Rovers.

But Deirdre Barlow’s inevitable death would pose a conundrum for writers. Exactly six months on from actress Anne Kirkbride’s death the character whom she played for 42 years died suddenly and shockingly, offscreen last night.

The months between Kirkbride and Deirdre’s deaths must surely be a nod in sensitivity to the friends and colleagues who mourn her and for whom the storyline would have been, and probably still is, far too raw earlier this year.

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There was a pertinent sense of the unreality of sudden death in last night’s episode. The horror struck, frozen faces of Deirdre’s husband Ken (William Roache) and daughter Tracy (Kate Ford) as they were told by Deirdre’s friend Bev that their wife and mother had died sitting in the sun in the garden on her 60th birthday, quite unexpectedly and “probably from an aneurism”.

Roache’s brilliant, understated performance as a man struggling to digest the news while keeping it together for Tracy was handled brilliantly. The moment when Bev handed him a tissue containing Deirdre’s trademark spectacles heralded the dawning of the true magnitude of his loss. Anyone with affection for the show would have needed their own tissue at this point, I know I certainly did.

The surprise party in the Rovers Return- in contrast to Norris’ ill-timed griping — was a perfect opportunity to spill the sad news out onto the Cobbles as quickly and appropriately as a tsunami of Deirdre’s chosen tipple: red wine. What had been intended as a celebration became a wake as Landlady Liz rang the bell and called time on her best friend and “wing man”.

The funeral will take place during Monday night’s episode but the show’s creators have already signalled the size of the epic tribute they are intending to pay to Kirkbride. And the hole in the show left by the absence of her husky voice, oversized glasses - not to mention the blue trail of ciggie smoke which carried advice and warm-hearted humour with it — will be felt for a long time.

Let’s look back at some of Deirdre’s finest scenes:

Deirdre's 1981 wedding to Ken

The first of two marriages between the popular couple, July 1981's nuptials proved such a big event that more people watched the ceremony than tuned in for Prince Charles' wedding to Lady Diana Spencer - that's 24 million viewers for ITV, thank you very much.

That Deidre-Ken-Mike love triangle

Sure, they had chemistry and enough sexual tension to melt an iceberg but Corrie fans were not in favour of the Deirdre-Mike affair. Ken's discovery of the dirty truth is hard to forget and Deirdre's subsequent reunion with him was the soap's highest-rated episode.

Deirdre's glasses

Because any scene featuring these 'Sexy Spex' was pretty iconic, let's be honest.


Deirde is jailed after being framed for fraud

"I...didn'!" will live long in the memory as the heartwrenching words Deirdre uttered after being found guilty of a crime she did not commit. After being wrongly sent to prison for fraud, the UK began a campaign to "Free the Weatherfield One" that even former prime minister Tony Blair signed.

Deirdre gets a pie in the face

One of the more comic Corrie moments saw Gail lob a big creamy Manchester tart in Deirdre's face during a row, much to the evident, barely concealed amusement of her family. " something!" were her immortal words in the face of pie-themed peril.

The doomed Moroccan waiter

Moroccan waiter Samir won Deirdre over in the early Nineties aged 21 but sadly, their married bliss was not destined to last long. Poor Samir died after a vicious riverside beating by a gang of thugs and donated his kidney to Tracy.


Deirdre and Blanche

Deirdre was never one to put up with her acerbic mother’s tongue, even ordering her to move out of the family home when she began interfering too much in her and Ken’s relationship.

Her awful cooking

Old Deirdre may have loved to cook, but not many people loved to eat what she had to offer.  She was always making her famous Stuffed Marrow for her nearest and dearest – and it was almost always vile.

Lying for Tracy

Deirdre lied for her murderous daughter on numerous occasions, but most awfully when Tracy pretended her baby was Roy Cropper’s

Deirdre's smoking habit

She was endlessly trying to give up smoking, but was always pictured with a ciggie hanging out of her mouth.

By Jess Denham