CORONATION Street actress Anne Kirkbride, who played the “legendary” Deirdre Barlow, has died aged 60.
ITV confirmed that the star, who appeared as Deirdre in the soap for 44 years, passed away at a Manchester hospital on Sunday after a short illness.
In a statement last night, ITV said: “It is with great sadness that David Beckett has confirmed tonight that his beloved wife and Coronation Street actress Anne Kirkbride has passed away peacefully.
“David and the programme’s cast and crew are heartbroken and deeply saddened at the loss of Anne who has been a Coronation Street icon for 44 years.”
Executive producer Kieran Roberts said: “There are no words to describe the sense of grief we feel at Anne’s passing.
“We know only too acutely how much Anne meant to the millions of people who watched her create the legendary character of Deirdre Barlow.
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“She will be greatly missed by the Coronation Street team who share happy memories of working with her. We feel blessed and honoured to have known her. Our thoughts are with David and their family.”
The actress was originally granted an eight-week break from the show last September. However, she then requested a further three months additional leave while she dealt with “personal issues”.
Kirkbride was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1993, but following successful treatment returned to the soap within 12 months.
Speaking in 2001, she revealed the diagnosis brought in its wake a lengthy battle with depression that made her life “unbearable” over the years that followed.
“I just wanted to die because you just don’t want to go on living feeling like that,” she recalled. “But you’re frightened that if you die, you might still feel like that on the other side. There’s no escape.
“It was worse than the cancer in a way, because that was going to be over.”
ITV director of television Peter Fincham said: “Anne has been a truly loyal servant to Coronation Street.
“She created a unique and unforgettable character in Deirdre Barlow and she’ll be greatly missed on and off screen.”
The programme’s creator, Tony Warren, said: “Anne was very easy to love. Her talent over the years made a massive contribution to Coronation Street.”
William Roache, who played Anne’s onscreen husband Ken, said: “I feel Anne’s loss so personally, having worked closely with her for over 40 years. She was such a loving and vibrant person. You always knew she was there because her laugh was never far away.
“She was an impeccable performer with superb comedy timing and an immense gift for really heightened drama.
“Coronation Street has lost one of its iconic characters and Anne will be greatly missed.”
Kirkbride met her husband, the actor David Beckett, after meeting him on the show 22 years ago. She had played Deirdre since 1972.
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