In a scene which brought tears to the eyes of viewers, long-time Coronation Street favourite Jack Duckworth died in an armchair and danced with his wife Vera, who died about three years ago.
Bill Tarmey, 69, first appeared in the show as Jack almost 31 years ago. The character was known for his fondness for pigeons and attractive women, and for calling his wife his “swampduck.”
Tarmey, who suffered a real-life heart attack and then had surgery, had chosen to retire because of his health.
Liz Dawn, who played his wife on the soap, was written out in January 2008 because of health problems. She came out of retirement to make one last appearance with Tarmey.
In his final scene, Jack’s heart gives out after he gets home from his birthday celebrations at the Rover’s Return. He is resting in a chair in the same room where Vera died when she appears to him and he gets up and waltzes around the room with her to the song Softly As I Leave You.
“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,” Tarmey was quoted as saying on the ITV website.
“I have had some great story lines over the past three decades and Jack's final story is a poignant fitting ending to a great character.”
He had been a singer on the northern nightclub circuit, and began as an extra on the soap. Some of his favourite songs were infused throughout his final episode.
The Guardian reported that the actor had been hesitant about giving up his work as an extra when he first joined the cast of Coronation Street, and was a "background artiste" during the filming of Laurence Olivier's King Lear at Granada. Olivier was ignored by many fans who showed up looking for Tarmey’s autograph.
“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 were sad to see him go,” Coronation Street executive producer Kieran Roberts said.
“That said we fully respect Bill's decision to retire and we were determined to make sure his character's send off was fitting for one of the show's all-time greats.”
Tarmey added that when people asked me if he liked Jack Duckworth he always replied that he loved him.
“I have had the most amazing 30 years playing Jack. Because of him I have made some fantastic friends and travelled all over the world.”