|Born||8th September 1938|
|First appearance||27th January 1961|
|Last appearance||5th December 1984|
|Duration||1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1969, 1970-1971, 1972-1973, 1974-1975, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1984|
|Number of appearances||405|
|Played by||Kenneth Farrington|
Billy grew up in Coronation Street before moving south to make his millions in 1961. Most of the 1960s was spent running garages in London while searching for Miss Right; by 1969, he'd been engaged three times but never married.
In 1970, Jack's sudden death forced Billy to return home to Weatherfield. He did his duty by living at the Rovers and helping out at the pub to support Annie, but resisted the brewery's attempts to install him as landlord, preferring to forge his own path. Returning to his trade, he bought the Canal Garage and divided his time between that and the Rovers. In 1975, he was weeks away from marrying Deirdre Hunt when his fiancée called it off. Billy decided that it was time to move on and left to work in a hotel bar in Jersey, which he made his home.
When Annie retired in 1984, she asked Billy to take over the Rovers tenancy. Billy obliged his mother, but his heart was never in it and when the police caught him selling alcohol after-hours, Billy got the brewery to buy him out and left Weatherfield, never to return.
1938-1962: Early lifeEdit
William "Billy" Walker was born on 8th September 1938. He was the son of publicans Jack and Annie Walker, who had had the tenancy of the Rovers Return Inn for a year when they had Billy, their first child. His sister Joan followed two years later.
Between the births of Billy and Joan, Jack went off to war. For six years, the children had one parent for all the time Annie could spare, which wasn't much. Billy suffered from the lack of a father figure, and spent his childhood outdoors collecting shrapnel and fighting with other boys. When Jack came home, Billy's wild behaviour carried on leading Annie to blame it on the poor standards at Bessie Street School; he'd often come home looking scruffy and picked up bad language. The last straw came when the boy was brought home by a policeman after falling through a cucumber frame while stealing apples from a garden in Oakhill. The very next day, Annie enrolled Billy at Mrs Dudley Henderson Private Academy in Cloister Street for £15 a term.
Billy hated his new school at first and was bullied by his posher classmates. However, within three months he'd assembled his own gang of ne'er-do-wells who ruled the playground. He was such a bad influence that when he was caught fighting in a classroom in 1952 the Deputy Headmaster Donald Henderson wrote to Jack and Annie suggesting that their son's education would be better served at another school. Annie begrudgingly sent Billy back to Bessie Street Seniors to finish his last year, telling the neighbours that she'd decided to return him to his roots.
At fourteen, Billy saw off his rival Kenneth Barlow to take Christine Hardman to the Coronation Dance, but Christine went off him when he spilt beer over her. After leaving school, he took a job as a car mechanic at the Blue Bell Garage on Commercial Road. By the end of the decade, he'd been called up for National Service, where he made it up to Corporal. He returned home following a tour of duty in Hong Kong in January 1961 and picked up where he left off, getting back with his old girlfriend Doreen Lostock and returning to the Blue Bell Garage. When the boss's son opened a garage in Chiswick, London, and Billy was offered the job of foreman, Billy accepted and left Weatherfield to live down south, starting in a bedsit in Tufnell Park but early in 1962 moved to Clapham.
1962-1969: The prodigal son returnsEdit
Later in 1962, he met up with former neighbour Dennis Tanner, who was also in London working for a talent agency. Dennis represented beauty queen Philippa Scopes and introduced her to Billy. Back in Weatherfield, the Walkers were surprised to read in the newspapers that the pair were engaged, and they were even contacted by reporters. Billy and Phillipa came up to Weatherfield, but Annie didn't take to Phillipa because of her profession. Phillipa broke off the engagement to return to beauty contests in London, closely followed by Billy who returned to his job.
Billy was sacked from the garage in 1964 and was worried about keeping up with his rent. Jack helped him out and made regular payments to the landlady, Mrs. Nicholls, but when Annie found out about the payments she assumed the worst and briefly left Jack. Billy came up from London to put Annie straight, and got a new job soon afterwards.
Billy's penchant for getting others into trouble continued when he got engaged to Merle Baker under the name David Barlow. While in Weatherfield, Merle met the real David Barlow and was surprised he looked nothing like Billy.
The next time Billy visited, he was in a serious relationship again, and it was going well until the parents met his girlfriend, Chinese Jasmine Choong, in 1969. Annie was against her because she was Chinese and they didn't get along at all. Eventually Jasmine left because of Annie's prejudice. Disgruntled Billy also left.
1970-1974: Permanent return to WeatherfieldEdit
Jack died in 1970. When Annie decided to continue as the sole licensee of the Rovers, Billy moved back to Weatherfield permanently, deciding to start afresh, look after Annie and put in the occasional shift at the Rovers. However he also looked after his own interests and, doing fairly well financially, bought the Canal Garage and employed Alan Howard as a mechanic, businessman Alan having just declared himself bankrupt. Alan had been successful and didn't easily get used to just being an employee. When he repaired Ken Barlow's mini as a favour without asking Billy, Billy was unhappy with him, but Alan wasn't one to make the same mistake twice and their working relationship was fine after that.
Later that year, Frank Bradley used the garage to work on stolen cars. Billy was going to inform the police but relented as Frank's girlfriend Bet Lynch thought she could keep Frank under control. In 1971, Billy was already thinking about moving on and moving back to London where there was a garage he was interested in buying. He held onto the Canal Garage, promoting Alan to manager, increasing his wages and giving him a share of profits - a generous offer from Billy.
The garage didn't do good business, and Billy returned with his tail between his legs in 1972, and £3,000 in debt. He cut his losses and sold the garage to Alan for £2,500, and went to work at the Rovers permanently. Despite her age, Annie insisted on staying on as landlady, but the brewery Newton & Ridley preferred Billy to take over the licence. Billy turned the offer down for Annie's sake.
Billy left for London again to motivate Annie when she had taken to bed, returning when she was up and about again.
By 1973 Billy was turning into a drinker and a gambler, with seemingly nothing in his life except the Rovers, which he had always hated. He was betting using the pub's takings and he decided to leave quietly, but left a note for Annie.
When Alan and his wife Elsie moved to Newcastle, Billy returned to Weatherfield to buy the garage and get on his feet again. Annie was curious where he got the money to buy the garage from, but Stuart Draper showed up to demand money from Billy, who had sold him a second hand car as new. Draper couldn't do anything legally and Billy wasn't worried at all that he would do anything. Draper drove the car into the Rovers door when Billy didn't respond to reason, but when the police moved the car Draper wasn't able to take matters further.
1974-1975: Relationship with Deirdre HuntEdit
In 1974, Billy set his sights on 19-year-old Deirdre Hunt. He had to compete for her affections with Ray Langton, who was closer to Deirdre in age. Billy and Ray fought in the street over Deirdre, but she ended up dating Billy.
The relationship moved quickly and Billy soon popped the question to Deirdre (without a ring, which he couldn't afford). Annie didn't like Deirdre or her mother, Blanche Hunt, and Billy was tired of Annie's judgementalism. The engagement lasted for months without the pair setting a date.
Later that year, Tony Bolton and Paul Meggitt stole jackets from the Mark Brittain Warehouse in Coronation Street and stored them at the garage. The police were called in to investigate stolen goods found in Paul's van when Billy was servicing it, but as Billy couldn't explain how they got there he had to spend a night in a cell. Fred Bolton shopped his own son to the police, hoping it would set him on the straight and narrow.
In 1975, Billy and Deirdre fixed a wedding date of 1st June. Annie was still against it and was taken aback when Billy agreed to pay for the wedding, which promised to be an expensive affair. Deirdre was satisfied to live in the Rovers when they got married, but later changed her mind. Billy thought Deirdre was having doubts and called off the wedding, quickly leaving for a barman's job in Jersey. Deirdre had been having doubts but had still wanted to marry Billy - she eventually married Ray Langton after all, but Blanche always preferred Billy.
1975-1984: Later lifeEdit
Billy made Jersey his home and only occasionally visited Annie, usually when he needed money. In 1978, he had to return because of a possible takeover at the brewery. He was to take on the tenancy of the Rovers but the takeover fell through and he went back to Jersey.
In 1979, Billy wanted to buy a wine bar and came up to Weatherfield to ask Annie for a loan. Annie was willing to simply give him the money, but when he asked Deirdre to go with him, Annie made it clear her offer was to be withdrawn if Deirdre went along though she eventually changed her mind about this. Deirdre stayed behind as she didn't think Billy would be a good father to her daughter Tracy, but Annie gave Billy the money he needed.
When Annie went to live with Joan in Derby, Billy returned to Weatherfield again to run the Rovers, reluctantly, in 1984. He left at the first opportunity and was replaced by Gordon Lewis, but when debt forced him to leave Jersey, he went to live at the Rovers, and when the brewery found out they insisted he take over the licence.
Not learning from his mistakes, Billy was gambling away the money he had left and offered the wine bar to Mike Baldwin, who wasn't interested. Deirdre was now married to Ken Barlow, and while Ken was away Billy made a pass at Deirdre, but she threw him out. He was intrigued to learn Deirdre had had an affair with Mike. Desperate to pay off a loan, Billy sunk to a new low and blackmailed Emily Bishop to get hold of the insurance money she had got when her husband was murdered in 1978. Mike threatened to tell the police about Billy's crooked deals in Jersey, but Billy was persuaded to go to Annie to sort himself out.
After taking over the licence, Billy wanted to sack potman Fred Gee but not pay compensation. Billy overworked Fred and goaded him into hitting him, then had his name blacklisted by the brewery. Billy was ultimately forced out of the Rovers when he opened for after-hours parties, and supplied supermarket alcohol. Newton & Ridley bought him out, bringing the 47-year Walker empire at the Rovers to an end. Billy then returned to Jersey and was not seen or heard from in Weatherfield again.
- Billy made a brief visit to Weatherfield in 1963 for Annie's This is Your Life. Joan also made an appearance, having moved away to Derby to marry Gordon Davies.
- In 1970, Billy hired Bet Lynch as a barmaid behind the Rovers to alleviate Annie's staff shortage. Annie was appalled at the way Bet dressed and behaved in front of men but Billy convinced her to give Bet a chance by betting her that with Bet behind the bar business would improve. Bet ended up staying, beginning a 25-year stint which would see her eventually become landlady.
- He also went out with widow Irma Barlow for a while. Again, Annie was quick to judge, but Billy decided to shock her by pretending the relationship was serious and Irma was pregnant.
- Billy was a surprise guest at Annie's '40 years at the Rovers' party in 1977.
- In 2002, Ken Barlow attempted to contact Billy to invite him and all the other previous Rovers owners to Betty Williams' retirement party. However, Billy proved to be unreachable and so he was unable to attend.
Creation and castingEdit
Billy Walker was a part of Coronation Street from its early drafts. Although the character did not appear in either of the dry runs, Tony Warren planned for Jack and Annie Walker to have three children - Billy, Joan and Norman, the latter of whom was dropped before shooting began.
RADA-trained actor Kenneth Farrington came to the producers' attention when he auditioned for the part of Dennis Tanner, making it to the final two with Philip Lowrie. Farrington was born in Peckham, London and thus had the wrong accent for Dennis but on casting assistant Josie Scott's advice he didn't mention his background when he read for the part. Farrington: "She said, can you do a north country accent. Well I'd only ever been up north for two weeks but I had been at drama school with Albert Finney so I copied his accent." The accent fooled his co-stars: "It wasn't until about three months after I'd been in it that I told anybody that I wasn't from up North." (Forty Years of Coronation Street: A Collection of Memories, Macmillan Publishers Ltd, 2000) On his screen test: "I did a camera test with Pat Phoenix and did not get the part, but they told my agent they would write me in as another part." (The Coronation Street Story, Boxtree Ltd, 1995) Billy debuted in Episode 15 on 27th January 1961 when the character was demobbed following his national service.
Comings and goingsEdit
Farrington was one of the first actors to leave the Street, departing in Episode 67 on 2nd August 1961 when Billy went to work at a garage in London. He returned four times during the 1960s. In his two more substantial return appearances, Billy was accompanied by his bride-to-be: Philippa Scopes in 1962 and Jasmine Choong in 1969. Farrington discovered that appearing alongside glamorous women had a downside: "I found that I would be coming back and doing all the acting, but because they looked so great the camera would be on them all the time. They would have wonderful close-ups because they were so pretty and lovely, and I was always a voice-off." (The Coronation Street Story)
Billy was brought back full-time upon the death of Arthur Leslie (Jack Walker) in 1970. Rather than have Billy take over the Rovers Return, writers had Annie become licensee and Billy developed into a bad penny, bringing trouble to his mother's door. Farrington only ever signed for six months at a time and took breaks from the programme in the latter halves of 1971 and 1973.
In 1974, Billy got engaged to Deirdre Hunt and the date was later set for 1st June 1975. Farrington tentatively agreed to sign for twelve months after producer Susi Hush met with his agent and offered the actor an extra two weeks paid holiday a year. However, no such contract was ever offered for Farrington to sign and so the actor decided to leave when his current contract expired in April. Farrington: "We got near to the end of that storyline and were coming up to the marriage and the producer said to me, 'It's all set for April the whatever' and I said, 'That's unfortunate because I leave' and she said, 'I thought you'd said you'd commit yourself to stay', and I said, 'I did, but you'd said I could have this extra paid holiday' and when my agent had discussed it with the contracts people they'd said, 'No, the producer has not got the right to OK that' and they wouldn't OK it. I said that I was going to leave and they said, 'Oh crikey, you've dropped us right in it because it's too late'." (Forty Years of Coronation Street) Farrington agreed to delay his departure for a few weeks to wrap up Billy's story but refused to do more: "I stayed on for a few weeks while they changed the storyline, but I did not do another six months. It was a point of principle - if you're running a business and you agree something then you stand by the agreement." (The Coronation Street Story) Determined to have a wedding take place, writers changed the identity of Deirdre's suitor to Ray Langton, Billy's former rival for her affections.
Farrington was happy to return for short stints and had reprised the role three times in the latter portion of the 1970s. In Episode 1922 on 20th June 1979, he appeared for the last time alongside his on-screen mother and good friend, Doris Speed. The actors kept in touch with each other until her death in 1994.
When Speed left Coronation Street in 1983, Billy was installed as the new Rovers landlord to keep the pub in the Walker name. Producers especially wanted to bring back a familiar face as many senior members of the cast had recently left the programme, Doris Speed among them. According to Farrington, he was brought in as a replacement for Fred Gee when Fred Feast fell ill: "They'd written the scripts for Fred and had adapted them for me, but there was quite a character change and I felt a bit upset about it." Farrington believed that the change in Billy was partly due to Billy's role having been filled by Mike Baldwin: "I played a Jack-the-lad sort of character, a bit like the Johnny Briggs character is now. Then, when I didn't go back, the Briggs character came in and filled that space." (Forty Years of Coronation Street)
Farrington's concerns about the writing caused him to quit after less than a year: "They'd really changed the character quite drastically, which caused a lot of upset for me because I found it wasn't the same.... Doris got very upset watching me on screen. She used to phone me up and say, 'What on Earth are they doing to you?' and I found it all pretty one-dimensional. They tried to do a JR on it, but it became a bit unplayable. Just nasty for the sake of being nasty." (The Coronation Street Story) Billy made his final appearance in Episode 2471 on 5th December 1984.
First and last linesEdit
"Pint of beer, please." (First line, upon entering the Rovers on a surprise leave)
"Well I can't stand around chatting to you lot. I have better things to do. Ta-ra, now!" (Final line, leaving Weatherfield for the last time)
|Rovers Return Inn||8th September 1938 to 2nd August 1961|
|Chiswick, London||2nd August 1961 to 26th August 1970|
|Rovers Return Inn||26th August 1970 to 7th July 1971|
|Chiswick, London||7th July 1971 to 3rd January 1972|
|Rovers Return Inn||3rd January 1972 to 23rd May 1973|
|London||23rd May 1973 to 21st January 1974|
|Rovers Return Inn||21st January 1974 to 12th May 1975|
|Jersey||12th May 1975 to 9th May 1984|
|Rovers Return Inn||9th May 1984 to 5th December 1984|
|Jersey||5th December 1984 onwards|
|Trainee mechanic||Blue Bell Garage||1950s|
|Serviceman||British Army||1950s to 3rd February 1961|
|Mechanic||Blue Bell Garage||24th April 1961 to August 1961|
|Foreman||Phil Marsden's garage, Chiswick||August 1961 to 1964|
|Owner||Canal Garage||September 1970 to 19th January 1972|
|Barman||Rovers Return Inn||January 1972 to 23rd May 1973|
|Owner||Canal Garage||January 1974 to Unknown|
|Barman||Hotel Carlotta, St Helier||July 1975 to Unknown|
|Landlord||Wine bar, St Helier||1979 to 1984|
|Landlord||Rovers Return Inn||16th May 1984 to 3rd December 1984|