John Harold "Jack" Duckworth, played by William Tarmey, is one of the long running characters on the show.
Jack was born to parents Harry and Maggie Duckworth in 1936. While working at a British Fairground Ride, the Waltzer, he met Vera Burton and they began a relationship. They got married in 1958, and both had a son called Terry.
Married Life to Vera
Jack first appeared in 28th November 1979 when he made his mark on the street by embarrassing Vera with his common ways at Gail Potter's marriage to Brian Tilsley. Prior to this, actor William Tarmey could often be seen as an extra in the Rovers Return Inn, playing darts, as a customer at the Kabin, and as a passer by on the exterior set. In December 1978, he played the minor speaking role of Jack Rowe.
Jack Duckworth, after making his debut in late 1979, disappeared from the scene, reappearing in 1981. He became a semi-regular character from an episode on 18th May 1981 and a regular character in 1983, when the Duckworths moved into the Street, much to the dismay of their new neighbours.1983 saw William Tarmey awarded a long-term contract to play Jack and he expressed his pleasure in several national newspapers.
During a trip to the United States, Jack confessed to having lied at their wedding (by making a smudge on his year of birth to make it look like another number), and said he was two years older than he really was just to impress a young Vera. Since they were not legally married, they tied the knot in the famous Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas baby.
The Duckworth marriage was always rocky due to their wayward son, Terry, and extra-marital flings by both Jack and Vera. In 1982, Jack had an affair with the street's prolific man-eater Bet Lynch, which she later regretted. He enrolled with a video dating agency in 1983, calling himself Vince St. Clair and adopted a white suit, gold medallion and fake trans-Atlantic accent. Vera, alerted by Bet Lynch, arranged to meet Jack under the name of Carole Munroe. The meeting took place in the Rovers Return pub, with Vera wearing a ginger wig. This led to a classic confrontation; 'Carole Munroe' had been claiming to be a rich widow, which led Jack to say "You're no flamin' widow!" As Vera swiped Jack with her handbag she shouted "NO! But I will be ten minutes after I get you home!"
Vera also had her fair share of lovers. She was tempted by a former romance in with the smarmy Lestor Fontaine, but realised she could never leave Jack. In the year 2000, when she believed she was about to die in an operation, she confessed to Jack through a goodbye letter that Terry may not have been his real son due to a fling early in their marriage. Jack confessed to Curly Watts that he knew of the affair at the time (and put an end to it by beating up her lover unknown to Vera), but also knew that Terry was his son, as he reminded him too much of himself.
The Duckworth grandchildren
The Duckworths have three grandchildren: Paul (by Andrea Clayton), Tommy (by Lisa Horton), and Brad Pitt (by Tricia Armstrong), but they hardly see any of them due to Terry's reluctance to be a father. Paul was conceived in the mid-1980s, but the teenage Andrea Clayton fled with her family to escape Terry. In the early 1990s, Terry made his then girlfriend, Lisa Horton, pregnant. He was imprisoned but vowed to marry her, and the pair were delighted when Terry was allowed out of prison (although handcuffed) for one day only for his wedding. They duly married but the groom escaped from the police and went on the run a very very long run indeed. He was later re-captured in a supermarket car park, where he had lingered too long in order to tell Lisa how much he loved her and that the flight from the wedding was just opportunistic and didn't reflect on their relationship. However, she knew that leopards never change their spots, that Terry was a rogue and always would be, so she broke off their relationship and, despite being pregnant, set up home with Des Barnes at no. 6. Vera turned against her instantly, even accusing her of being the reason for Terry's misfortune. Jack however knew that Terry would never stand by his family, but felt duty bound to stand by his wife in their shunning of Lisa. She gave birth to a little boy, Tommy, and everything seemed perfect for their surrogate factory, until, one night, Lisa was leaving the Rovers and dropped her change in the middle of the street. While bending down to retrieve it, a car turned the corner and fatally struck her.
Following this tragedy, Tommy went to live with his paternal grandparents, but Jack and Vera found it hard to cope, particularly financially. A callous Terry then sold his son to his maternal grandparents, the Hortons of Blackpool. The scenes where Vera begs Terry to change his mind and her subsequent break down when he refuses, are amongst the most powerful ever seen in the programme. Jack's response was more straightforward and uncompromising - he punched Terry on the jaw.
A one-night stand with a person who was barmaid called Tricia Armstrong resulted in baby Brad, but Terry didn't want to know, and Tricia left with a new lover. The Duckworths have tried several times to win custody of Thomas from the Hortons, but to no avail. They continued to see him occasionally, but relations remain strained.
Later Years and Losing Vera
Jack and Vera calmed down in their later years, changing from the 'neighbours from hell' characters of the early days into a maternal and avuncular figure. They have become surrogate parents for Tyrone Dobbs (whose mother was in prison for violence), and Jack considers him to be more his own son than Terry ever was. They were a down-to-earth northern couple and comic double act, in the great music hall tradition. Jack adored his pigeons, though Vera could not stand them, and once tricked him into believing that she had cooked him a pigeon pie. Most recently, Jack agreed to sell his dead body for a certain sum of cash to an artist who enjoys painting stuffed humans, so he could buy Vera a Christmas present. When Vera discovered this, she argued with the woman, who then turned up, inspired by Vera. They agreed to both pose nude for the artist, but on condition that they would be buried as normal. The Duckworths celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary with a party at the Rovers in the August 2007 period.
Vera died suddenly in an episode on 18th January 2008 in the armchair at her house, where she was discovered by a devastated Jack. They had been planning to move to Blackpool at the time, but Vera's death prompted Jack to call off the move and remain in Weatherfield. He still planned on selling the house to Tyrone and Molly Compton and eventually did so but still remained resident.
In an episode on 25 April 2008, Paul, his grandson confessed to the police to burning down Valandro's, Leanne Battersby's restaurant. He also confessed to Jack who was disgraced with Paul and called him a "liar" and "his father's son".
Friendship with Connie
- Before William Tarmey first appeared as Jack Duckworth in 1979, he was an extra on the show, and made background appearances, normally in the Rovers Return. In December 1978, he played a minor speaking role as Jack Rowe.
- Having been seen briefly in late November 1979, the character of Jack Duckworth did not feature in the show in 1980. He became a semi-regular in 1981, and a Street resident and regular character in 1983..
- From September 2009 onwards, Jack Duckworth became a recurring character, due to Tarmey's failing health.