Coronation Street veteran Bill Tarmey, who plays Jack Duckworth, will be retiring after 30 years on the ITV soap, the actor said today.
Fans of the programme have been assured his character will go out with a bang but details of his departure are being kept strictly under wraps - so much so that even he remains in the dark.
And although he told producers he wanted to leave last year, he will now stay on for the show's 50th anniversary in December.
Tarmey, 69, who became one of Britain's best loved TV duos along with his screen wife Vera, said he will "be sorry to say goodbye to Jack".
"People often ask me if I like Jack Duckworth and I always reply - 'like him, I bloody love him!'
"I have had the most amazing 30 years playing Jack," he said.
"Because of him I have made some fantastic friends and travelled all over the world and I will be sorry to say goodbye to Jack."
An ITV spokesman said scriptwriters and new producer Phil Collinson were working on a "fitting" storyline for the loveable rogue's departure.
"I had originally wanted to retire last year but producer Kim Crowther and my wife Ally persuaded me to stay for the show's 50th anniversary and I am glad that I made that decision," he said.
"I have had some great storylines over the past three decades and I am looking forward to seeing what Jack's final story will be."
The actor, who became a TV treasure after he joined the show in 1979, has battled with his health.
A life-long heavy smoker, he suffered a minor heart attack following a bypass operation in 2002.
This came 15 years after a quadruple heart bypass.
Executive producer Kieran Roberts said: "Bill Tarmey and Jack Duckworth have been a huge part of Coronation Street for 30 years and, like his many millions of fans, everyone who works on the show with Bill will be sad to see him go.
"That said we fully respect Bill's decision to retire and when he leaves Coronation Street at the end of this year we will make sure his character's send off is fitting for one of the show's all time greats.