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50 years of Ken Barlow: writer, teacher, editor ... and lothario

VIEWERS have followed William Roache's fortunes since Ken Barlow first emerged on screen as a fresh-faced, idealistic student in his 20s.

Having been in the cast of Coronation Street since its debut in December 1960 to become the world's longest-serving soap star, the character has endured an array of professions and relationships over his half-century in Weatherfield.

He was born William Patrick Henry Roache on April 12, 1932 in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, and educated at the Rydal School in Colwyn Bay, North Wales. In 1953, he was commissioned into the Royal Welch Fusiliers and promoted to lieutenant in 1954. He left the army three years later.


He moved to London to become an actor and was spotted during an audition for a Play Of The Week and earmarked for the role of Ken Barlow in the new soap.

He had originally signed for just 13 episodes of the TV series in which he has made his name.

Over the years during the show, he has been quite the lothario, with more than 25 women, including three wives, under his belt.

The Ken, Deirdre and Mike Baldwin love triangle (above) in the 1980s proved to be one of the stand-out storylines of his career on the show.

The plot was even flashed up on the screen in Old Trafford at half-time in a Manchester United match.

Despite their ups and downs over the years, Barlow – whose jobs have included teacher, writer and newspaper editor – has been back with Deirdre for many years.

Roache has even been joined in the show by his two real-life sons, Linus and James, who appeared as his long-lost son and grandson in 2010.

In interviews to mark Coronation Street's 50th anniversary, Roache insisted he had never seriously thought about spreading his wings.

"I've stayed because it's good and I get total job satisfaction," he said. "Two or three times a year, I get a story as good as anything I'd get anywhere.

"The standard is good and the bonus is that you're part of a show that gives a lot of pleasure to a lot of people. So, all round, I've never seriously considered leaving... ever."

Last year he surprised many fans of the show by claiming he had slept with up to 1,000 women. He told Piers Morgan that he regretted repeatedly cheating on his first wife, Anna, from whom he was divorced in 1974.



He admitted to a 'one-off' fling with fellow Weatherfield star Pat Phoenix, who played Elsie Tanner.

Roache's second wife, Sara, whom he married in 1977, died unexpectedly three years ago and he went on to date Emma Jesson, 36 years his junior, although they split earlier this year.

In interviews he has spoken of his interest in spirituality and reincarnation.

He recently said: "I have no fear of getting older. This vehicle will get older and when William Roache has served its purpose, I'll leave it and go back to the spiritual world."