Deirdre Barlow (born Deirdre Hunt, formerly Deirdre Langton and Deirdre Rachid) is a long-running character on the British soap opera Coronation Street. She has been played by Anne Kirkbride since 1972.
Deirdre's trademarks include a gravelly, scratchy voice (intensifying over the years due to actress Anne Kirkbride's real-life chain smoking) and very big eyeglasses. She wore the same style of glasses for almost 30 years, before Dev Alahan crushed them with a box when she put them down for a second. Today, her frames are much smaller than they used to be. Interestingly, Anne Kirkbride does not wear glasses at all, opting for contact lenses.
In the past, Deirdre's boyfriends have included the characters Billy Walker, Mike Baldwin and Dave Barton (the actor who played the latter is now Anne's partner). She also went through a messy divorce when her first husband, Ray Langton, decided to leave the country without her in 1978.
In 1981, over 24 million viewers watched Deirdre's wedding to William Roache's character, Ken Barlow (which received higher ratings in Britain than the wedding of the Prince of Wales to Lady Diana Spencer). Deirdre's affair with Mike Baldwin in late 1982 and early 1983 was a ratings winner, and was the first Corrie story to be written about in length in many of the country's newspapers. The episode in which Deirdre broke things off with Mike Baldwin after reconciling with Ken was a national event.
Since then she and Ken have divorced and got back together again. In the interim, however, Deirdre had become a widow; her husband, Samir Rachid, was killed by thugs on the day before he was to give his kidney to her daughter, Tracy.
The most controversial storyline Kirkbride had to play was when her character was sent to prison in 1998 for a crime she did not commit. The British public started a big grassroots campaign, pleading Granada Television to "free the Weatherfield One". The Home Secretary even involved Prime Minister Tony Blair, who, with only a touch of irony, attempted to intervene on Deirdre's behalf.
Deirdre's love life still causes the occasional hassle for her. In December 2001, Deirdre once again became unsatisfied with her life with Ken, after after rowing with Ken and his son Peter, Deirdre slept witrh Dev Alahan, her boss at the Corner Shop. Afterwards, Dev rejected Deirdre and she subsequently kept her liaison a secret from Ken for over a year, until early 2003, when Dev started dating her daughter Tracy! This prompted Deirdre to confess her fling to both Tracy and Ken, but Ken forgave her and the two have subsequently lived happily together, dealing with the traumas of their children's turbulent love lives rather than their own.
Deirdre's ex-husband Ray Langton eventually returned to the Street in 2005 and announced that he was dying from cancer. He died while attending a Street party, which led his daughter Tracy (who barely knew Ray and was effectively fathered by Ken; indeed, there were many subplots in the 1980s revolving around why she was still called "Langton" and not "Barlow" like her "father." She was eventually adopted by Ken.) to wonder how much money Ray had; for the last few years, Tracy has been played as "the bitch," a departure from the character.
Eventually, Deirdre and Ken were engaged to be married yet again, and tied the knot on April 8, 2005. The marriage was supposed to coincide with the wedding of the Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles, just as Ken and Deirdre's first marriage coincided with Charles and Diana's nuptials, but scheduling conflicts by the royal family ended up throwing the date off by one day. Nearly 13 million people watched the television event. Only nine million watched the royal nuptials; Ken and Deirdre's second ratings victory against the royal family made the national newspapers.