(This post was originally posted by Clinkers (David) on the Coronation Street Blog in July 2015.)
We've known this particular storyline was coming for half a year and yet when it finally does present itself on Wednesday 8 July, saying goodbye to Deirdre Hunt Langton Barlow Rachid Barlow will still be difficult.
For many of us, Deirdre will have been a presence for our entire Corrie-viewing lives and so, wrapped up in our lives, so was hers.
In Corrie terms, Deirdre's passing will be up there with the big ones - Stan, Len, Betty, the Duckworths. We remember some of the deaths more vividly because they occurred in an era when final farewells were used much more sparingly. It's a difficult line to tread for the powers that be. Deirdre's demise comes due to the still hard to believe death of Anne Kirkbride. Thus the production team have to give the fictional character a decent send off while taking into consideration the feelings of the actor's family and friends. This is something that Corrie seems to have done particularly well over the years, affording the characters a quiet, non-violent death away from the Street. The passing of Jack Walker in 1970, following the death of actor Arthur Leslie, was the first of many.
Thankfully though, the death of an actor while still on the programme is mercifully rare. Instead we see characters being dispatched at the end of their useful Street life with grim frequency. It's hard to feel too emotional about the recent demise of Kal or Maddie. The farewells for Sunita Alahan and Tina McIntyre were not particularly fond. In both cases, this was the end of the line for residents who had once been liked but whose personalities had been trashed towards the end of their tenure. They had to go and to be honest, were we all that bothered?
How different it was back in the day. Soap deaths were rare in the seventies and my own first experience of this came courtesy of Ernie Bishop back in 1978. I was at junior school and can still recall the total shock that was felt the day after Ernie had been gunned down. For many of us, it was our first dealings with death at any level. Here was a genial TV character who had been on screen for my entire life. Now he'd gone. Someone who I had never met and indeed, who did not really exist but all the same, this was a sharp reminder that life isn't always nice.
Death in a soap should always act as a catalyst, making those left behind question their own lives and values. In Rita's case, Len's death made her stronger and perhaps a little more harsh. For Jack Duckworth, it was the realisation that for all of their squabbling, he and Vera had been a devoted couple. For Betty's nearest and dearest, it was the knowledge that she had secretly been the owner of the Rovers for decades and that she was a kleptomaniac who hoarded pint pots in her back yard. Maybe some storylines are best forgotten.
For the Barlows, it would appear that the next few weeks will be a time for airing some harsh home truths. Maybe Deirdre's legacy will be a new, improved Tracy. We can but hope. In the meantime we prepare to bid farewell to a fictional character but one who has accompanied many of us from childhood years to middle age. Let's not diminish the importance of Deirdre Barlow, a woman whose throaty chuckle and big pair of specs kept us enthralled for many, many years.
Interview with Kate Ford (Tracy Barlow) on saying goodbye to her on-screen mum
Interview with William Roache (Ken Barlow) on saying goodbye to his on-screen wife
Interview with Corrie scriptwriter Damon Rochefort on writing out a legend from the show
Deirdre to die on her 60th birthday, July 8 2015.
Peter Barlow and Bev Unwin are returning.
Coronation Street build their own graveyard to film Deirdre's funeral
Tracy's ex-husband Robert Preston returns.
The funeral has been written by scriptwriter Damon Rochefort
Deirdre's death has been explained here.
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