KEN BARLOW (144 VOTES)
Played by: William Roache
2012 character poll position (men): 9
The longest running character in the show’s history and the only original character to remain since the first episode (albeit a brief hiatus between 2013 and 2014). Viewers have seen him grow from a university student to caring grandfather to Simon and Amy.
Ken is the ultimate street Lothario. He has been married four times – Valerie (1962), Janet (1973) and Deirdre (1981 and 2005) and has had 25 girlfriends including Susan Cunningham, Wendy Nightingale, Wendy Crozier, Alma Sedgewick, Denise Osbourne and Martha Fraser. He’s even bedded our own Rita!!
He has fathered four children: Lawrence in 1961 (he found out in 2010), twins Peter and Susan in 1965 and then Daniel in 1995. I believe he’s the oldest man to become a father at 55. He also adopted Tracy in 1985.
Known for his quiff and full head of hair, Ken is an intellectual who has always dreamt of leaving the street, but never has (well only briefly in 1990). He’s been a failure as a husband and father, but as a pillar of the community he is held in high regard.
He’s had a long list of jobs as well: teacher, newspaper editor, taxi driver, community project manager, male escort, supermarket trolley pusher, columnist and shop assistant. But the job he loved the most was teaching.
Ken had a twenty year rivalry with factory tycoon Mike Baldwin. While they clashed about principles originally, the feud escalated when Mike had an affair with Deirdre in 1983. Ken and Mike had fought over Deirdre before Ken married her. Ken won the battle once more. Then the feud went into classic Dallas mode when Mike married Ken’s daughter Susan in 1986. Ken was pleased when the marriage failed in 1988. The feud would be revisited countless times over the years, mainly over Deirdre. Ken found out he had a grandson in 2001: Mike’s son Adam. Susan had said that she had an abortion. Ken and Mike fought a custody battle but by 2002 the rivalry thawed. Ironically, Mike died in Ken’s arms in 2006.
While Ken has always been classed as boring with his interests being literature and opera, he’s shared wonderful comic scenes with Uncle Albert and later Blanche. He has also maintained long running friendships with the likes of Emily, Rita, Alf, Bet, Mavis, Roy, Len, Elsie and Annie Walker.
Ken has recently had to come to terms with widowhood once more, having lost Deirdre earlier this year. He’s no stranger to being widowed (twice in 1971 and 1977 respectively). But now he’s older and wants companionship. I do still believe Ken has still got mileage in him left as a character. Although it has been said that he has escaped more assassination attempts than JR Ewing!!
Are you a fan of our Kenneth?
Deirdre: A Life on Coronation Street - official ITV tribute to a soap icon. Available here.
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