Jack Duckworth

Full name: John Harold Duckworth
Harry and Maggie Duckworth
7 December 1934 (or 1935) (or 7 November 1936)
Died: 7 November 2010 heart attack
Siblings: Clifford
Vera Burton (18 April or 19 August 1957)
Terry Duckworth, b:4 June 1964 (m: Vera Duckworth)

Played by: Bill Tarmey
First appeared:
26 - 28 November 1979; 18 May 1981 - 7 November 2010

Jack Duckworth first appeared in Coronation Street in November 1979, when his loudmouthed wife Vera dragged him to Brian and Gail Tilsley's wedding, only to have him sneak off to the British Legion at the first opportunity. Two years later, he began appearing regularly in the Rovers.

In many ways, Jack was a spiritual son of Stan Ogden, and it may be remarked that Jack turned up as Stan began to fade from the limelight of the series. Jack held many jobs over the years, like Stan, he had bought a house in Coronation Street to make a stable home for his family, like Stan, he was chronically work-shy, like Stan, and he had a long-suffering wife, like Stan. However, it is a matter of record that Jack probably suffered his wife as much as she suffered him.

Whilst living in rented digs in Inkerman Street, Jack and Vera were familiar faces in Coronation Street, as Vera worked at Baldwin's Casuals and Jack drank in the Rovers. Jack and Vera's relationship varied from adversarial to combatative, and they always each seemed to be scheming to put one over on the other. Jack was always on the lookout for the main chance to make some easy money, or to make time with a pretty lass; even in his forties he viewed himself as a handsome devil to all females, and made appearances in a disco suited alter ego named 'Vince St Clair'. Although he was constantly seeking a bit of fun with a younger woman, Vera seemed to be absolutlely starved for physical affection. Any attempts she made to corner Jack always resulted in his either slipping away to the pub or falling asleep. At one time Jack joined a dating agency in a false name; when Vera got wind of this, she joined under a pseudonym as well and arranged for a date with her own husband. When Jack turned up at the Rovers to pick up his date, Vera gave him a nasty shock. In spite of all the rows, Jack and Vera managed to stay together for decades, perhaps because all they had was each other. However, they did once briefly separate and carried on extramarital relationships; Jack with barmaid Bet Lynch, Vera with Rovers cellarman Fred Gee.

In 1983, the Duckworths' rented home in Inkerman Street was to be demolished, and their landlord gave them 1,000 compensation. Jack wanted to spend the money on a car, but Vera was having none of it. At the time No9 Coronation Street was on the market, Chalkie Whitely and his family having left for Australia, and Vera insisted that the money go as a deposit. Residents of Coronation Street were shocked and dismayed when Jack and Vera moved in, thinking it was the beginning of the end of the neighbourhood. Vera wanted to have a stable home for their son Terry, who had returned home from the Paras. Jack was pleased when he found that Chalkie Whitely's pigeons came with the house, and the seeds of a long-lived hobby were sown.

In 1984, Jack lost his job as a cabbie when he was found guilty of drunk driving. He anticipated an easy life on the dole, but Vera bought Stan Ogden's old window-cleaning round and sent him out to work. Jack didn't mind once he realized how many lonely housewives lived on his round. He began a relationship with Dulcie Froggat that would outlast his window-cleaning career. About this time, Terry took a job selling door-to-door and met up with Dulcie as well. Father and son unknowingly carried on with Dulcie until her husband Ralph found out, and gave Jack a thumping that was intended for Terry. But stranger things happened to the Duckworths.

Muscular young Terry Duckworth proved popular with the ladies, especially A-level student Andrea Clayton, daughter of Harry and Connie Clayton next door at No11. When Andrea announced that she was pregnant with Terry's child, Jack made the mistake of insinuating to Harry that his daughter was a tart, and Harry thumped him in the Rovers. Rather than let the unpleasant Duckworths have a hand in the raising of her grandchild, Connie Clayton moved the family away and they were never seen again. Not long afterwards, Terry ran off with Linda Jackson - his 'best mate' Pete's wife.

Jack gave up window-cleaning after a brief period to become cellarman at the Rovers. It was as close to heaven as Jack was ever likely to get: a job that required him to spend all day in the pub. He would remain at the Rovers for the next fifteen years, trying Bet and Alec's patience by avoiding as much work as possible, complaining of a bad back (another interesting Stan Ogden parallel). Nonetheless, Jack proved to be reasonably honest and loyal to his employers, most of the time. He probably realized that at fifty-plus a new job would be hard to find, and so he accepted his lot and learned to get on with his workmates, including the redoubtable Betty Turpin.

Always on the lookout for a scam, Jack entered a contest in one of Vera's womens' magazines. The object was to describe why your husband was the husband of the year, and Jack took some licence in writing 'My husband is husband of the year because right from the start he has made my life one long honeymoon.' Jack's flowery prose won the competition, but he had entered in Vera's name and she claimed the prize: a new Vauxhall Nova. Jack expected Vera to hand the car over to him, as she couldn't drive, but a determined Vera signed up for lessons and passed her test. On their first outing together in the car, Vera had an accident which left Jack with a broken nose. He decided to make the most of it by suing Vera's insurance company for compensation, but when they gave him a cheque for 600, he had to turn it over to Vera, as he didn't have a bank account. Vera saw to it that Jack didn't see much of the money, using it to buy herself a new washing machine, among other things.

The Duckworths' life was usually uneventful, scraping by, occasionally having a little windfall but never really getting ahead, and usually bickering with each other (much like the Ogdens in the seventies). Jack was horrified when Vera's mother, Amy Burton, landed on their door in the late 1980s and stayed for a time, getting a job cleaning the Rovers after Hilda Ogden left, but Amy was soon disgraced in the Street for stealing from the Rovers and the corner shop, and so Vera bundled her mother back to where she had come from. Jack heaved a big sigh of relief and got back to living the life of Riley at home with Vera.

In 1988 college student Curly Watts broke with his girlfriend Shirley Armitage and was thrown out of the flat over the corner shop for not being able to pay his rent. Jack and Vera took him in as a lodger, seeing him finish college and start a promising career in management at Bettabuys supermarket. Quiet Curly was often exasperated by Jack and Vera's bickering and Vera's interfering nature, but there was true affection between them and Jack looked on him as being the son he wished Terry had been.

In 1990, Jack was fifty-five and disappointed with a life that seemed to be going nowhere. In a vain attempt to recapture his youth, he bought an old disassembled motorbike, similar to one he'd had in the fifties, and set about restoring it. Vera quickly grew sick of having grimy motorbike parts about the house and ordered him to sell the bike. Jack flogged it to new neighbour Jim McDonald for a bargain price. Jim restored the bike beautifully, making Jack turn green with envy. Jack nagged Jim into letting himself and Vera go for a quick spin down memory lane on the newly-restored bike. Unfortunately, the bike had no license, insurance or MoT, and Jack and Vera were escorted home by the police. The policeman who lectured Jim and Jack was so taken by the bike that he bought it from Jim for a tidy sum, and inspired Jim to go into the motorbike repair business. Jack was disappointed when he saw how much money Jim made on the deal, and viewed it as just another case of Duckworth bad luck.

Perhaps the worst thing that happened to Jack around this time was connected with Vera's mother's death in 1991. Although Jack wasn't bothered by seeing the 'old ratbag' go, a complication arose when after the funeral one of Vera's mother's friends, Joss Shackleton, convinced Vera that he was her real father. Jack didn't believe the old man, but Vera trusted him implicitly and moved him into No9, where he made a great deal of fuss. Vera forced Curly out of his bed to sleep on the settee and settled Joss in, giving him preferential treatment. Curly moved to No7 to get a bed to sleep in, and Jack lost his only ally in the household. His attempts to discredit Joss were in vain, Vera wouldn't hear a word against her 'father'.

Joss did two important things for the Duckworths during his brief stay at No9. First, he told Vera that his mother was the offspring of an illicit fling between King Edward VII and a housemaid. Vera believed the story and began putting on airs, fantasizing about being royalty, much to Jack's exasperation. Second, Joss helped Jack and Vera apply for positions as chauffeur and cook for a wealthy couple in the country, the Maxwell-Glovers, by forging references from nobility for them. This was originally a ploy to get an expense-paid day in the country, but Jack and Vera were surprised to be offered the job and considered taking it. At the last minute Vera backed out, and their little scheme was unmasked when the Maxwell-Glovers had a break-in and police visited Jack and Vera. Vera panicked and told them about the dishonesty, and they managed to avoid getting into trouble. Joss eventually returned to his OAP flat, and he died not long after.

Jack got another brilliant get-rich-quick idea at about this time. A problem with the water mains left their side of Coronation Street without running water for a few days. Someone in the Duckworth household left the bathroom taps on, and the water came back on while Jack and Vera were out. The result: extensive flooding damage to the house. Jack thought that they could pad their insurance claim and make a killing, and Vera encouraged him to spend lavishly on expensive wallpaper to redecorate. However, the insurance company refused to believe that the flooding had caused so much damage, and turned down Jack's claim. Vera was angry with him and blamed him for their not getting any compensation.

Another moneymaking scam that Jack tried in the early nineties was pallbearing. The trouble was that he had to get afternoons off from working at the Rovers to do it, and did this by telling boss Alec Gilroy that he was laid up with a bad back. The plan backfired when Alec went to a funeral that Jack was working at, and saw Jack helping to carry a coffin when he was supposed to be at home immobilized by his trick back. Alec chased Jack home and confronted him, and Jack nearly lost his job out of it. Jack was fortunate to keep both his neck and his job; Alec was ready to throttle him when he found out about Jack's duplicity. After that, he decided to give up moonlighting.

In 1992, Terry returned for a visit with girlfriend Lisa Horton. Lisa was from Blackpool, where her parents ran a bingo hall. Although her parents were as working-class as Jack and Vera at heart, they were snobs who disapproved of the Duckworths and Coronation Street. Before leaving, Lisa revealed to Vera that she was carrying Terry's baby.

A few months later, it all returned to haunt Jack and Vera again. Lisa showed up to tell them that Terry was in prison for GBH. Jack and Vera took her in, as Terry's trial was in Weatherfield. While on remand, Terry was allowed out to marry Lisa. Just after saying 'I do', he managed to get free and ran away, to be recaptured a few days later. Lisa was left with a sour taste in her mouth, believing that Terry had used the wedding as an excuse to escape. Vera sided with her son, but Jack was beginning to see the truly rotten side of Terry. In true Jack Duckworth fashion, Jack tried to make the best of it by selling the photos to a newspaper for 100. Terry was sentenced to three years; Lisa had baby Tommy while staying with Jack and Vera, but she soon tired of Terry's behaviour and left Jack and Vera to return to her parents. Des Barnes had meantime fallen in love with Lisa, and convinced her to come back and start a new life with him, starting a feud with Vera, who viewed her as a tramp who had abandoned her son when he was in trouble. Jack saw both sides of the argument, and knew that Terry would never be true to his family, but felt obliged to stick with his wife in shunning Lisa. This didn't last long, as Lisa was knocked down and killed by a car. Vera insisted on paying for her funeral, and took in Tommy, giving up working to care for him. Without Vera's wages, it became hard to make ends meet, and Vera got into trouble for shoplifting and missing mortgage payments. In the end, she sold her precious Vauxhall Nova to Emily Bishop as she was desperate for money to keep Tommy fed and clothed.

While Tommy was still living with Jack and Vera, Vera saw a horse named 'Tommy's Rattle' running in a race at long odds and, thinking it a good omen, made Jack run straight out to the bookies' to place a bet on it. Rolling his eyes, Jack complied with his wife's wishes and placed the bet. While he was placing the bet, Des advised him that the horse was good and he put a few pounds on it himself. The horse came in at even longer odds than expected, and when Vera found out, she took Jack's winnings from him, thinking that he was holding out on her. It seemed that as long as Vera was around, Jack could never win.

When Terry got out of prison after 18 months, he kidnapped Tommy from his parents and sold him to Lisa's parents in Blackpool, who desperately wanted to give Tommy a better upbringing than they thought Jack and Vera could provide. Jack and Vera were bitterly disappointed in Terry, and Jack hit his son and told him to never return, but Jack heaved a sigh of relief as Vera could return to work and alleviate some of their financial burden.

In 1995, Jack received a surprise inheritance of 30,000 from his brother Clifford, who had been killed in a car crash whilst holidaying abroad. Jack and Vera decided to try to change their lives with the inheritance, and put No9 on the market to raise enough money to buy the licence for the Rovers Return, which Newton & Ridley had put on the market. They were in competition with Jim and Liz McDonald from No11, but when Gary and Judy Mallett bought No9, Jack and Vera had the ready cash ahead of the McDonalds, and moved down the street to run their own business. As Jack had a criminal offence in his past, Vera was made the licencee of the pub.

With a little money to spend, Jack splashed out on some nice clothes and a new pair of specs to replace the ones he had had for years, which were held together with tape. On a lads' trip to the races, he also bought a share of a racehorse along with Don Brennan, Alf Roberts and a few other local men. They named the horse 'Betty's Hotshot' and styled themselves as a syndicate, but the horse proved to be a dud. Vera was furious with Jack for what he had done, but she wasn't alone; all the wives of the men involved were furious.

Once again, Terry returned to Coronation Street, and was shocked to find his parents running the Rovers. He hoped that he could get some money out of it, but found that the business was reabsorbing most of the takings and Jack and Vera were working hard with little to spare. He sold Tommy to the Hortons for good, and Jack and Vera wrote him out of their will, leaving all they had to Tommy. Terry left after a one-night-stand with single mother Tricia Armstrong, which left her pregnant. Jack and Vera took Tricia and her 13-year-old son Jamie in with them, and Tricia's baby was delivered prematurely by Betty Williams in the living room. Tricia named the baby Brad, and Jack and Vera felt that they had a family again. Young Jamie loved Jack's pigeons, and Jack was very fond of the boy, viewing him as a grandson as well.

After a time, Tricia began a relationship with decorator Ray Thorpe, which quickly blossomed. Ray told her he loved her and wanted her and the children to live with him. Tricia had never had a man treat her well, and didn't know what to do. Vera opposed Ray, thinking that her last grandchild would be taken away from her, and was relieved when Terry turned up again, thinking that he would reunite the family. Jack, however, knew that Terry would never want to be tied down with Tricia and her children, and staying at the Rovers wouldn't provide Tricia or the children with much of a life. Terry kept his father's faith, and tried to make off with the takings from the pub. It was all a trap arranged by Jack, and Terry left in disgrace, this time apparently for good. Now even Vera accepted that Terry would never be a son she could be proud of, and the Duckworths disowned their only child. Tricia took the children and moved in with Ray, and although Jamie was sad to leave kindly Jack and his pigeons, everybody knew it was for the best. Jack was seen at his most emotional bidding young Jamie, Tricia and his tiny grandson Brad a tearful goodbye as they moved across town to live in Ray's home.

At 60, Jack and Vera were too old to have the energy needed to run a small business like the Rovers, and lacked the business sense to manage the money. Andy McDonald tried to help them sort out their books, but in 1997 they got into trouble with VAT and were presented with a huge tax bill. Jack was unable to raise the money to pay the bill, and so he was forced to sell a half-share in the pub to Alec Gilroy, who had returned from Southhampton and was at a loose end after being made redundant from Sunliners Travel. Knowing that Vera would fight with him over this, he did it behind her back while she visited Tommy in Blackpool. An enraged Vera locked both Jack and Alec out of the pub for a few days, but they managed to get back in posing as draymen. Eventually, Vera saw that this was the only way to save a part of the business for themselves, and the Duckworths settled down into an awkward partnership with Alec.

The partnership was doomed to failure, however. Argument after argument made all parties increasingly bilious. Jack had to try to keep and uneasy peace between loud and suspicious Vera and scheming Alec, who he didn't trust. Whenever Jack would come to an understanding with Alec, Vera would shout the odds and spoil things. Alec managed to buy out the remainder of the business on the condition that Jack and Vera remained as employees residing in the pub's living quarters while Alec stayed in his flat across the street. At Christmas 1998 a massive row broke out when Jack and Vera went to Blackpool to visit Tommy against Alec's wishes. The Duckworths left, but Alec plotted to lock them out of the pub, and threw their belongings into the yard in bin bags. Rita Sullivan got word to Jack and Vera that this was happening, and they made it back before Alec could lock them out. They barricaded themselves in the upstairs living quarters of the Rovers for a few days, making life very difficult for Alec. In the end, Alec had enough and, when Natalie Barnes offered to buy the pub from him, he sold out to her and took off for Brighton to help his granddaughter Victoria run a wine bar. With Alec gone, Jack and Vera thought that things would return to normal and they could go on living in the Rovers, but Natalie had other ideas. She told them that they had to move out, as she had to either let or sell her house, No6, to pay for the Rovers. The Duckworths still had the 30,000 that Alec had paid for their remaining share of the pub, and Vera wanted to buy another house, but shortsighted Jack wanted to use the money to have a good time. Natalie had ideas about making changes to the pub, including bringing in trendier lines of drinks for the younger crowd. When Jack and Vera were sarcastic towards the changes and started embarrassing Natalie behind the bar, she demoted Jack to cellarman and Vera to cleaner. Jack accepted this, but Vera fought with Natalie over it and resigned. When Vera got drunk and engaged Natalie in a slanging match behind the bar one evening, Natalie threw them out of the living quarters. Jack and Vera moved to Eunice Gee's bed and breakfast to contemplate their fate. After some argument, Jack convinced Vera to apologise to Natalie and accept the job as cleaner in the Rovers, making her see that at 62 it would be hard for her to find another job.

Ever on the lookout for an opportunity, Jack got them an interview for a position managing the bar and catering services at the Weatherfield golf club. Jack thought they were in with a shout when they found out that Mike Baldwin was on the interview committee. However, Vera's loudmouthed nature amused Mike and offended the uppity committee members, and Jack and Vera resigned themselves to their working-class life.

Coronation Street: Around the Houses, by Daran Little, Boxtree, London, 1997
www.coronationstreet.co.uk, Official Coronation Street website, ITV TV


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