Coronation Street actors and fans have gathered this afternoon to pay their last respects to one of the show’s most well-loved faces – Bill Tarmey, who played Jack Duckworth on the ITV soap for over three decades.
Around 700 people crowded into the Albion United Reform Church in Ashton-under-Lyne for the funeral of the Manchester-born actor, who died at his holiday home in Tenerife on 9 November at the age of 71.
Stars including Liz Dawn (left, who played Tarmey’s on-screen spouse Vera) and Nigel Pivaro were among those who joined the actor’s wife Ali and their two children Carl and Sara.
During the service, Tarmey’s granddaughter Naomi described him as “a hero of a man” and said that he was “loved by all”.
His former co-star Samia Ghadie, who plays Maria Connor, praised Tarmey as “a true Coronation Street legend” before adding in a eulogy that “he made me laugh so much that I’d cry”. She also cited him as a “surroagte dad” during her early years on the show.
A recording of the track The Wind Beneath My Wings, as sung by Tarmey, was played while a montage charting his career and life was screened, leaving many of the mourners in visible tears.
In the order of service for William Cleworth-Piddington (Tarmey’s real name), the family said: “Ali and all Bill’s family would like to thank you for your attendance today and for the overwhelming messages of comfort and support they have received during this difficult time.” Fans outside were able to hear the proceedings through loudspeakers that relayed the service.
Other familiar faces to attend included William Roache (Ken Barlow, right), Sue Nicholls (Audrey Roberts), Helen Worth (Gail McIntyre), and Alan Halsall (Tyrone Dobbs) and wife Lucy-Jo Hudson (Katy Harris) (below, left). Also among the mourners were other past stars of the Street such as Julie Goodyear (Bet Lynch), Roy Barraclough (Alec Gilroy) and Kevin Kennedy, who played the Duckworths’ lodger Curly Watts.
Bill Tarmey made his debut as workshy pot-man Jack Duckworth in 1979, although he had made a number of appearances on Coronation Street prior to this as a background extra. In his autobiography, Jack Duckworth and Me, the actor said of his experiences on Corrie:
“I’m just a pillock who comes into a studio to say some words that some other clever person has written. For years, I’d managed to get away with it, but I’d always been waiting for the bubble to burst.”
But today, Nigel Pivaro (Jack’s ne’er-do-well son Terry) was just one among many to vocalise the high esteem in which Tarmey was held: “Today, the world’s a little poorer for Bill no longer being with us, but heaven is a little richer,” he said.