Bill Tarmey, who as Coronation Street’s Jack Duckworth was one of UK television’s most recognisable faces, has died aged 71.
An ITV spokeswoman confirmed the actor, who left the soap in 2010, died yesterday morning on holiday in Tenerife.
Tarmey played the loveable, pigeon-fancying rogue – with his trademark glasses held together with sticky tape – for more than 30 years.
A statement from the show’s producers said: “The cast, crew and production team at Coronation Street are devastated to hear of Bill’s death. Our thoughts and prayers are with Bill’s wife and soulmate Ali and their family at this very sad time.”
His family asked “for privacy as they grieve for a wonderful husband, father and brother”.
Tarmey and Liz Dawn, who played his battle-axe wife Vera until she left the show in 2008, were among the most popular characters on the street.
Dawn paid tribute, saying: “ Bill was part of my family. When you work with someone for so long, as we did, it becomes more than just work.
“Our families were close and I am devastated for Ali and his family. 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.
“You couldn’t wish to meet a more lovely man and a true gentleman. He was a gentle giant and I will miss him so much.”
Tarmey, a native Mancunian, made his first appearance in the soap as an extra in 1977 while working as a club singer. Show bosses spotted his potential and two years later he landed the role that made him famous.
Tarmey was dogged by ill-health and suffered a heart attack at the age of 35, followed by a stroke a year later.
He was a heavy smoker and underwent a quadruple heart bypass 15 years ago, and another bypass operation in June 2002.
In his final scenes in the soap, viewers saw his character die peacefully in his armchair before he was seen, in a dream-like sequence, sharing a last dance with Vera.
About 11 million people tuned in to watch, but Tarmey remained modest about his acting talent.
Writing in his autobiography, Jack Duckworth And Me, he said: “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.”
Nigel Pivaro, who played the Duckworths’ layabout son Terry, said he was “devastated” at the death of a man he regarded as “a second father”.
He said: “He was a very wise and dignified man who taught me a great deal and whose counsel I came to value greatly.
The soap’s longest-serving star, Bill Roache, who has played Ken Barlow since it started, said Jack Duckworth 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.