Coro Street star Bill Tarmey dies

Last updated 11:55 10/11/2012
Bill Tarmey
Reuters

CORO STREET: Bill Tarmey, far right, with on-screen wife Liz Dawn and former British prime minister Tony Blair on set in 1996.

Bill Tarmey
Getty Images
FAN FAVOURITE: William 'Bill' Tarmey.

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It's a dark day on "the street" as tributes pour in for one of the UK's most beloved TV characters.

Actor William "Bill" Tarmey, who played Jack Duckworth on Coronation Street for more than 30 years, died while on holiday with his family in Tenerife, Spain.

He was 71.

His family confirmed his death to British media on Friday morning and asked for "privacy as they grieve for a wonderful husband, father and brother".

Tarmey's Coronation Street co-stars have being paying tribute to their friend.

Liz Dawn, who played his on-screen wife Vera Duckworth until 2008, said: "I am totally bereft. He will always be remembered by everyone he came into contact with because he was such a kind and generous man.

"He was a gentle giant and I will miss him so much."

Vicky Entwistle, who plays Janice Battersby on the soap, said Tarmey would be missed by everyone who was fortunate enough to have worked with him.

"He was just such a lovely man to have around," she said.

"So warm and always full of fun. The character of Jack was such a jack the lad, there was that wonderful mischievous side to him. He was so well loved by everyone - just a beautiful kind man. He was a gentle giant and I will miss him so much."

William Roache, who plays Ken Barlow said: "Over the years Coronation Street has produced characters who are really powerful and legendary - Jack Duckworth was one of those.

"He was the downtrodden loveable rogue who never got anything right, but was loved by everyone. This was down to Bill Tarmey's incredible skills as an actor, he had amazing comic timing and was a genuinely warm and wonderful human being."

He leaves behind his childhood sweetheart Alma, who he had been married to for 50 years, and two children.

Having played one of the Street's most beloved characters since 1979, Tarmey left the soap in 2010 in an emotional storyline.

As well as suffering ill health himself, Tarmey left Coronation Street to help care for his son Carl, who was battling a brain tumour.

He told ITV Granada earlier this year: "If this hadn't happened, they would've had to drag me out of there screaming. It was a wonderful bloody job, especially for an old coffin-dodger."

Tarmey was a heavy smoker all his life and at the age of 35 suffered a severe heart attack and then a stroke a year later.

He underwent bypass surgery after suffering another heart attack in 2002.

Initially working as an asphalt spreader who also sang in bars and clubs, Tarmey first appeared on the world's longest-running show in the mid-1970s as an extra.

It was two years later he got the start that would change his life when he landed the role of Jack Duckworth.

According to the Guardian, Tarmey was born William Piddington. His stage name of Bill Torme came from appearing at a club in Stockport but his name Piddington was too long to appear on the poster.

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He had wanted to give the manager the surname of the singer Mel Torme, but mispelled it as Tarmey.

Jack and his nagging wife Vera were considered British icons by many, and the loveable rogue who had a soft-spot for pigeons was one of the most popular characters.

On the show, Jack had been left heartbroken for two years as he carried on after Vera died.

They were reunited one last time in Tarmey's final episode as they appeared to be dancing together while a dying Jack drifted in and out of consciousness.

Some 11 million people across the UK tuned in to watch Jack pass peacefully in his armchair.

- Stuff

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