John "Jack" Walker was the landlord of the Rovers Return Inn in Coronation Street from 1937 to 1970. He and his wife Annie ran the Rovers together, and their two children, Billy and Joan were raised there.
The Walkers were seen as a stalwart in good times and bad. In spite of Annie’s high-strung ways, Jack had a good sense of humour and could bring out his wife’s softer side in a way others couldn’t. He was much more down-to-earth than his wife and genuinely enjoyed his job, providing a counterpart to Annie's elitism and snobbery towards the more common variety of their clientele. Nevertheless, Annie conceded to Jack's desire to remain in the Street when she would have preferred to move to a nicer area.
The Walkers were joined in 1964 by fifteen-year-old Lucille Hewitt, who they agreed to take care of when Lucille's father and stepmother moved to Ireland. Lucille became as important to the Walkers as their own children, although Lucille was a handful for the now elderly couple.
Jack died suddenly from a heart attack in 1970, and Annie continued as landlady of the Rovers until 1984.
1900-1962: Early life
The son of an Accrington vet, John Walker, or Jack as he preferred to be called, was born in 1900. He grew up in Accrington with his brothers Jim, Arthur Walker and Fred and sisters Louise, Alice and Gertie but later found work in Weatherfield, where he had a romance with Effie Spicer.
During the Depression, Jack met high-aspiring factory worker Anne Beaumont. They fell in love and got married in 1937, buying the tenancy of the Rovers Return Inn shortly afterwards, running the pub together. In 1939, with a world war raging, Jack was called away to serve in the army. Though the Walkers' son Billy was born in 1938, they also had a daughter, Joan, who was born in 1940. Jack did not meet his daughter until 1942 and endured his separation from Annie by sending her love letters, which she kept even after his return when the war was over.
Billy and Joan grew up in Coronation Street. The Walkers chose to stay on at the Rovers, an arrangement Jack was happy with, having made many friends there. Annie, who considered herself a cut above the other residents of the Street, had her eye on a pub in the countryside but let Jack have his way after she realised that even she would be considered common by the clientele in a country pub.
By the end of the 1950s, the family was breaking up as Billy left for London following his National Service and Joan married Gordon Davies in 1961 and moved to Derby, with Jack giving her away at her wedding. By now, Jack was comfortable in the Street and didn't like the thought of starting afresh in a new pub. He was however open to the idea of retiring, and considered it when a rumour that Coronation Street was going to be demolished did the rounds.
In 1964, neighbours Harry and Concepta Hewitt moved to Ireland and the Walkers agreed to take in fifteen-year-old Lucille Hewitt. Jack and Annie were getting too old to take care of a teenage girl and Lucille was a handful, sometimes not caring about her schooling and doing things especially to shock them. Annie had high expectations from Lucille but made little to no effort to understand her, and Jack became her confidante. Lucille found it easier to talk to Jack than judgemental Annie.
The Walkers’ marriage was put under pressure when Billy was sacked from his job and Jack paid his rent for him while he was out of work. When Annie found out about Jack's payments to a Mrs. Nicholls she wrongly assumed Jack had had an affair. After a row with Jack, during which Annie refused to listen to his explanation, Annie walked out and went to stay at the Egremont Hotel. However, the long-married couple fell apart without each other and Ena Sharples convinced Annie to return home. She apologised to Jack when Billy told her the reason behind the payments.
In 1965, Jack got his brother Arthur, who was also a pub landlord, to watch the Rovers while he and Anne went to David and Irma Barlow’s wedding reception. Arthur went away to gamble and left Lucille to watch the Rovers, and she was serving customer Frank Turner when the Walkers returned. Frank made it clear to Jack that he was going to blackmail him as Lucille was underage and it was illegal for her to serve alcohol. Annie persuaded Jack not to phone the police as they would involve the brewery and they would be sacked, but Jack couldn’t cope with the situation and had a nervous breakdown in front of Lucille.
When the neighbours found out about what Jack was going through, Frank was beaten up by Jerry Booth.
With Lucille having left school, it was planned for her to join her dad and stepmother in Ireland, but while visiting Weatherfield in 1967 Harry was killed while repairing a van. The Walkers let Lucille go on staying with them. As a young adult, Lucille was no less of a handful; Jack and Annie suffered through the trials and tribulations of Lucille's relationship with Gordon Clegg, which saw them first running away together and then Lucille trying to push Gordon into marriage. Annie butted heads with Gordon's mother Maggie, which Jack tried his best to keep the peace or otherwise stay out of it, satisfied as long as Lucille and Gordon were happy.
1969-1970: Later years
In 1969, Annie went to Majorca and sent a letter to Jack telling him she was working with Douglas Cresswell, a man from the brewery, but Ena Sharples and Emily Nugent thought Annie was leaving Jack for Douglas and withheld the letter from Jack as they thought Annie was confessing. Annie had been asked if she and Jack would be interested in managing a pub in Majorca. Ena and Emily were guilty for causing Jack unnecessary worry. The Walkers decided to accept the invitation, but Douglas’s bosses told him the Walkers were too old for a Majorca pub when they saw the results of Jack’s medical.
Later that year, most of the residents of the Street went a coach trip to the Lake District. The coach crashed on the way home, and Jack was one of the people most seriously injured. He was more worried about having left Arthur in charge of the Rovers. He made a full recovery.
In 1970, Jack died from a heart attack while visiting Joan in Derby. Jack left a devastated Street of residents and a heartbroken wife, but as Jack would've wanted, the Rovers remained open and Annie continued to be landlady.
Being a pub landlord required Jack to present a friendly and welcoming face to the public, and it was a role he excelled in. However his jovial, down-to-earth manner remained the same when he wasn't behind the bar. Jack's key attributes were his unpretentiousness and his optimism; he usually focused on the positives of his life, seeing little point in dwelling on the negatives if nothing could be done to change them. As a result, he remained satisfied with what his life had thrown at him, rarely complaining except in an ironic fashion.
A kind man, Jack was very patient, usually opting out of arguments, but he could be cutting when the situation called for it and surprisingly firm with people when they needed a talking-to, though he remained soft-spoken when he did so and rarely raised his voice. He was more than capable of providing the physical presence and intimidation required when he had to deal with unruly customers in the pub.
At first glance, Jack and Annie Walker didn't seem to go together - Annie had her share of snobbish moments and thought she was a little more enlightened than her customers, even though Jack was cut from the same cloth as them. However, Jack had a way of keeping Annie in line, or at least making her see when she was going too far. He knew she was more insecure and vulnerable than she let on, and when she was being difficult with him or unfair he preferred to let her realise herself that she was wrong, mainly because he knew anything he said made no difference.
As an older couple, the Walkers were quite old-fashioned, and led relatively quiet lives. Their ups and downs were fairly minor and usually involved Annie blowing a problem out of proportion in order to make a point. In 1962, Jack collapsed behind the bar and was told by Dr. Graham that he had overeaten. Annie was worried sick and convinced herself that the problem was serious, refusing to listen to Jack's explanation. When Annie went to see the doctor herself and learned that Jack had been telling the truth, Jack was expecting Annie to go easy on him but she was even worse as he'd let her believe that he had a mystery illness and made a fuss over him.
In 1966, Annie was nominated as a Councillor in the council by-elections, standing against Len Fairclough. Jack was tired of Annie's obsession with her campaigning, and when she tried to rope him into helping her with her speech he arranged with brewery Newton & Ridley to have himself sent to look after his brother Arthur's pub. Annie was furious.
Occasionally, their minor squabbles escalated. In 1967, Annie wasn't happy with Jack's answers to a newspaper marriage quiz, and Jack got tired of Annie nagging him, refusing to let the matter drop. He went to stay with Albert Tatlock until she cooled down, but Annie got the mistaken impression that he was actually staying with Elsie Tanner and assumed he was having an affair with Elsie. The accusation made her a laughing stock. Eventually Annie saw sense and Jack moved back into the Rovers.
Jack and Annie's ups and downs were only a consequence of their different personalities and outlooks in life. In reality, they were completely devoted to each other and they were united in times of true crisis. In 1967, Annie was beside herself when Jack went missing after a train crashed through the viaduct in the Street. Jack soon showed up none the wiser.
In 1963, they were in trouble with the brewery when Annie was seen selling alcohol not brewed by Newton & Ridley. Annie thought she and Jack would be sacked. Jack was called in to talk with manager Fred Hamilton, who told him the neighbours had written in support of the Walkers. Hamilton led Jack to believe he was firing him but was only having a laugh.
Other family members
Jack was born in Accrington. He had three brothers, Jim, Arthur and Fred, of whom Arthur too was a pub landlord, although he didn't live in Weatherfield. Although they got on well, Jack was well aware that Arthur wasn't always mindful of his responsibilities, and scarcely trusted him to look after the Rovers whenever he and Annie were away.
Lucille Hewitt, although not strictly a member of the family, became an important figure towards the end of Jack's life as he and Annie did their best to raise the teenage girl while her dad Harry Hewitt lived in Ireland and made only fleeting visits before his death in 1967. Jack acted as a grandfather figure to Lucille, making an effort to be understanding and sympathetic to her when her antics didn't meet with Annie's approval.
Hobbies and interests
Jack was interested in several sports. He followed cricket and football, and was a member of a bowling club. He also enjoyed fishing.
- Jack was one of the original characters of Coronation Street. He was written out in 1970 when actor Arthur Leslie passed away.
First and last lines
"You'll change your tune when I come up with my seventy-five thousand." (First line, to wife Annie complaining about him doing his pools coupon)
"Ever been had?" (Final line)
|Ken Barlow | Frank Barlow | Ida Barlow | David Barlow | Jack Walker | Annie Walker | Elsie Tanner | Dennis Tanner | Linda Cheveski | Ivan Cheveski | Harry Hewitt | Lucille Hewitt | Concepta Riley | Ena Sharples | Minnie Caldwell | Martha Longhurst | Albert Tatlock | Christine Hardman | Florrie Lindley | Esther Hayes | Leonard Swindley|