For 43 years the nation laughed and wept with Deirdre Barlow. Now millions of viewers are mourning Anne Kirkbride, the actress who brought the character to life in Coronation Street. The much-loved veteran has died aged 60 after a short illness.
She first appeared on the cobbled streets of Weatherfield as 17-year-old Deirde Hunt. Her opening lines were in the Rovers Return when she said: "I think it's time someone bought me another drink."
Anne Kirkbride joined Coronation Street in 1972
Her most important relationship was with Ken Barlow, played by William Roache. Like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton they married twice.
Their first marriage on the same day as Prince Charles and Princess Diana was watched by 24 million people. Their second was timed to coincide with the Prince's wedding to the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla, but the royal nuptials were moved so that Charles could go to the funeral of Pope John Paul II, throwing off the date by one day.
Her character Deirde Barlow was married to Ken
Fans were almost as familiar with Deirdre as with members of their own family. With her oversized glasses, husky voice and big heart, she was a national icon.
When she cheated on Ken with Mike Baldwin the breakdown of their marriage made national newspapers – the first time a fictional soap event had done so.
Their reconciliation was such big news it was announced at Old Trafford during a match between Manchester Utd and Arsenal. The scoreboard read: "Ken and Deirdre reunited. Ken 1 - Mike 0" leading to cheers from the spectators.
Deirdre's wrongful imprisonment led Tony Blair to speak out in her support
On another occasion Deirdre was jailed for mortgage and credit card fraud after she was betrayed by her conman lover.
Her plight attracted the highest authorities in the land, with Tony Blair, then prime minister, urging his home secretary Jack Straw to look into the matter.
The Conservative party also added their voice to the campaign for justice, with William Hague saying: "The nation is deeply concerned about Deirdre – Conservatives as much as anyone else."
Anne's talent was to make everyone, including the great and the good, believe absolutely in her character. Her on-screen husband Bill said he felt her loss "so personally" because she was such "a loving, vibrant person". The Corrie family and beyond that the country share his sorrow.