Coronation Street’s Ken legend Bill Roache reunites with first on-screen wife – and says she had crush on him


He’s just days away from celebrating a huge milestone and in celebration, Bill Roache has been reunited with his first on-screen wife. The Coronation Street legend is set to have a program dedicated to him on Tuesday (April 19) ahead of his 90th birthday on April 25.

The documentary, Happy Birthday Bill, will air on ITV and celebrate Bill’s life and career by looking back on his legacy and achievements as he reaches his big birthday as the current Guinness World Record holder for the longest-running TV soap star.

It will feature special appearances from past and present Corrie cast members, as well as his own family as they help him look back on the moments and the people who have helped shape both Bill himself and his patriarchal character Ken.

READMORE: ITV Coronation Street fans’ delight over Tinker family reunion

Speaking about the special program when it was announced last month, Bill said: “I don’t feel nearly 90 at all. The Coronation Street cast are like a second family to me and I can’t quite believe I’ve been lucky enough to play Ken Barlow for over 60 years. “It’s also been lovely revisiting past memories and remembering all the wonderful things I have seen and done over the years. I hope the viewers enjoy watching the documentary as much as I did making it.”

And a first look at the hour-long show has revealed a special reunion for Bill and actress Anne Reid, who played Ken’s first wife Valerie in the early years of the ITV soap back in the sixties.

“I was surprised — she told me she used to dream about me and I laughed and said, ‘Don’t you mean nightmares?’ And then she told me she had a crush on me, but she never told me at the time,” the Corrie stalwart cheekily reveals.



Bill and Anne as Ken and Valeria Barlow in Corrie in 1970

Avid fans will remember that Ken and Valerie married in July 1962 but two years later he had a fling with an exotic dancer. But unlike most soap romances in his situation, the marriage survived and the couple went on to have twins-Peter and Susan.

But in 1971, 10 years after making her debut on the cobbles, Anne left Corrie to pursue comedy roles and her character Valerie was written out just as she and Ken were planning to emigrate to Jamaica.

In a rush, getting ready for their leaving party at the Rovers, Val quickly tried to get her hair dried and tried to fix the plug to her hairdryer by tightening it with a screwdriver. While it still wasn’t quite fix, she used it any way and as she plugged it in and was given a severe electric shock which killed her instantly.

The drama of the shock scenes didn’t end there as when she fell to the floor, she knocked a portable heater into a packing crate and started a blaze. The dramatic exit was watched by a huge 19 million people.

Speaking about being reunited with Anne after all these years, Bill said: “Anne played my wife for eight years and I was very sad when she chose to leave. When Valerie died, she was due to meet Ken at the Rovers, so when she walked through the doors finally, 52 years later, it was a lovely moment — we both just started laughing.



Part of Anne’s final scene in Corrie in 1971

“It was beautiful to see her again. To me, she looks no different. She also gave me a silver cup when she left, engraved with, ‘We must do it again some time’, so it was nice that we finally got that chance.”

After leaving Corrie, she enjoyed an amazing starring as Jean in the sitcom Dinnerladies and Celia Dawson in Last Tango in Halifax for which she was nominated for the British Academy Television Award for Best Actress. She has also starred in Doctor Who, Peak Practice and films such as Hot Fuzz.



Bill will also share his secret to keeping fit at 90

Happy Birthday Bill will also see Bill reveal his secret to being fit at 90 – a weekly exercise class with school games like Tag Zombie and star jumps.

“It’s such a lovely group of people of all ages from five to me at 90. It’s not like going to the gym and doing a heavy serious workout. It’s called funfit for a reason.

“We play games like tag zombies. It’s like a form of school game, you’re chasing around. We’re doing things that we enjoy all the time. It’s good to be together.”




www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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