Inside Coronation Street legend Bill Tarmey’s life and tragic death on holiday

Coronation Street fans will recognise a heartbreaking date on the calendar this week, as Bill Tarmey would have turned 80, had he not died of a sudden heart attack nine years ago.

Tarmey lit up the screen as Jack Duckworth on the soap for the best part of three decades, known for his high-jinks with onscreen wife Vera Duckworth, played by Liz Dawn.

In honour of the poignant anniversary, Daily Star has taken a look back at Tarmey's final years, and the many tributes that were paid to him in the wake of his death.

Born in Lancashire, Tarmey first started working in construction, landing a job in his step-dad's building company.

Eventually, he left construction behind to pursue a career as an entertainer, working as a nightclub singer with side gigs in television extra-work.

He appeared on Coronation Street as an extra several times before landing his role as Jack in 1981, breathing life into a character that would eventually go down in Corrie history.

Throughout his life, Tarmey was plagued by health concerns, suffering a heart attack and a stroke in his 30s.

Six years into his role on Coronation Street, he underwent triple bypass surgery, and later, in 2002, he had a pacemaker fitted after suffering another heart attack.

The soap star also suffered from sleep apnea, a condition that affects a person's breathing and quality of sleep.

Tarmey announced he was leaving Corrie in 2010, getting written out of the soap in heartbreaking scenes which saw Jack dying in his armchair, much like his late wife Vera.

Sharing a statement on his exit, he said: "I've had the most amazing 30 years playing Jack. Because of him I've made fantastic friends and travelled all over the world. I'll be sorry to say goodbye."

Tarmey had previously revealed he decided to leave the soap to care for his son Carl, who had been diagnosed with a brain tumour.

He told ITV: "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."

Tragically, less than two years later, on the morning of November 9, 2012, Britain was rocked by news of Tarmey's death.

The veteran actor, who was 71 at the time, suffered a heart attack while holidaying in Tenerife, and died suddenly.

Tarmey was survived by his wife of 50 years, Alma, and their two children – son Carl and daughter Sara.

In a statement at the time, his family asked for "privacy as they grieve for a wonderful husband, father and brother".

Coronation Street similarly paid tribute to the late actor, referring to Alma, and writing: "Our thoughts and prayers are with Bill's wife and soulmate Ali and their family at this very sad time."

A number of Tarmey's co-stars shared their own tributes to the late actor, reminiscing over their time backstage and sharing memories of the star.

"I am totally bereft," said Vera actress Liz Dawn. "He will always be remembered by everyone he came into contact with because he was such a kind and generous man."

William Roache, meanwhile, praised his "amazing comic timing" and remembered him as "a genuinely warm and wonderful human being".

Tarmey was laid to rest on November 27, with many of his former castmates appearing to pay their respects to the cherished screen star.

An estimated 700 people piled into the church to say goodbye to the actor, with the likes of Sue Nicholls, Julie Goodyear and Helen Worth sighted in the crowd.

His onscreen wife Liz led the funeral procession, leading attendees to the Albion United Reform Church in Tarmey's hometown of Ashton-under-Lyne.

Samia Ghadie, who plays Maria Connor on the soap, delivered an emotional eulogy, thanking Tarmey for his joy and warmth both onscreen and off.

She said: "Thank you Bill for being the light in our lives for all those years and for bringing so much joy… We love you, we already miss you and we'll never ever forget you."

Poems written by Tarmey's granddaughter Naomi and grandson Matthew were read out during the moving ceremony.

The family asked mourners to donate to Brain Tumour Research, helping to raise vital funds for the charity, in light of Carl's diagnosis of a brain tumour.

And, when the coffin was carried out into the aisle, those in attendance burst out into applause, showing their love for Tarmey.

Tarmey is buried in Droylsden Cemetery, with his birth name, William Cleworth Piddington, inscribed on his tombstone.

His wife Alma died three years later at the age of 70, having contracted an infection after going into hospital for bowel surgery.

After his dad's death, Tarmey's son Carl revealed he felt his ghost visit him, helping him in his fight against cancer.

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Recalling the experience in a 2013 interview with the Mirror, Carl said: "My dad just stood there and I said, ‘You look absolutely brilliant, Dad. Is this the way it is?' And he replied, ‘Yes son this is the way it is.'

"He looked absolutely brilliant. He was in his 30s. He looked strong. He had great clothes on. I looked at him and I said, ‘Are you all right, Dad?' He replied, ‘I am great son.'"

Sadly, in 2019, Carl died at the age of 52.

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