Officially it's Deirdre Ann Hunt Langton Barlow Rachid Barlow, played by Anne Kirkbride, and she's the focus of our character study today. Deirdre Hunt came to our screens in 1972 as a young 18 year old "dolly bird", someone that liked a bit of fun. Oddly enough, in her first appearence, she wore no specs (see photo) but when her character was kept on, the glasses were added as her trademark. Deirdre's father, Donald, had died when she was younger. She is an only child so she and her mom, Blanche faced the world together. Deirdre knew her own mind, though, just like her mother and would do what she wanted. She was independent, saw things in black or white, and with a stubborn streak a mile wide. She had a penchant for older men back then.
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She wasted no time chatting up Alan Howard before she knew he was married. Ray Langton was intrigued and tried to get her installed in the brand new Kabin as shop manager but Len pulled rank and insisted on Rita. Deirdre landed herself a job at Len's builder's yard using her secretarial skills.
It wasn't long before she set her eye on Billy Walker, a man nearly 20 years older than her. She wasn't in the least intimidated by Annie Walker who heartily disapproved of the girl from the wrong side of the tracks (mind you, the girl next door would be the wrong side of the tracks as far as Annie was concerned!) The wedding was going to be a low key affair, paid for by Billy but it was suddenly called off (due to the actor wanting to leave). Deirdre then decided she'd been attracted to one of her bosses, Ray Langton, all along. Ray was also quite a bit older than her but they got married and were quite happy for a time. Even then, Deirdre insisted she didn't need to wear a new dress to her wedding and again, would be headstrong and stand up to Ray time and again. She wasn't a quiet, submissive Missus that Ray probably thought he was getting!
Alas, it wasn't to last. Ray had an affair and Deirdre chucked him out. They attempted to reconcile and even planned to move to Amsterdam where Ray was offered a job but in the end, Deirdre couldn't leave Weatherfield. She didn't go home to mother, though, not Our Deirdre. She managed on her own with her daughter Tracy and started up a secretarial business with Emily Bishop where she also lodged for a time. She even dated a bit, being seen out and about with both Mike Baldwin and Ken Barlow and once again, a couple of times with Billy Walker who'd arrived back for a visit. You're seeing a pattern here, no? Almost all of the men Deirdre has ever been involved with have been 10 - 15 years older than her.
She finally settled for security and Ken Barlow, and they got married. Ken eventually adopted Ray and Deirdre's daughter, Tracy and they all lived together with Uncle Albert in Number 1 but it wasn't without it's ups and downs. Unbeknownst to Deirdre, Ken had several flirtations and Deirdre had an affair with her ex-boyfriend, Mike Baldwin. It nearly tore them apart but Deirdre couldn't bring herself to leave Ken in the end.
Deirdre was working for Alf in the corner shop but at Ken's urging, she ran for local council and much to his surprise, won! Traditional Ken wasn't keen on all the time Deirdre would spend on council business and they rowed aplenty about it. Deirdre couldn't leave her constituents to their problems, though, and persisted even if Ken felt neglected and Tracy missed her mum sometimes. Duty called.
This, however, was the excuse Ken used to justify his affair with Wendy Crozier and when Deirdre found out, she chucked him out of the house too, just as she had when Ray strayed. It would be many years before she finally reconciled with Ken and in the meantime, she went on bringing up a stroppy teenaged Tracy and dating a few losers, including Phil Jennings. Builder Dave Barton was a nice bloke but she really wasn't ready for a relationship at that point. (Although Anne Kirkbride married the actor that played Dave Barton!)
Ken started sniffing at her skirts, tired of the single life but she had no intentions of taking him back. Instead, she decided to go on holiday to Morocco, a holiday which changed her life. When she came back, she was in love though she thought it was just a holiday fling. However, she kept in touch with much younger Samir Rachid and ended up marrying him no matter what her friends and neighbours said! Everyone was shocked and Tracy nearly didn't go to the wedding, utterly disgusted with her mother's antics. Deirdre and Samir decided to leave the prejudice and negativity behind and move to Morocco.
It all came to a tragic end when Tracy had a bad reaction to drugs. Deirdre and Samir returned from Morocco. Samir was tested and allowed to be a kidney donor to his step-daughter but was attacked on the way to the hospital. He died though his kidney was still transplanted. Deirdre very much resented Tracy for causing her to lose her husband so suddenly. Mike Baldwin was responsible for helping her find a new life, installing her as caretaker to a block of flats he owned. When Mike had to sell the flats, Deirdre moved in to a flat over the betting shop and worked for Sunliners Travel Agency for Alec Gilroy.
She and Ken looked to be making their way back together but when Deirdre discovered that Ken had got crimper Denise Osborne pregnant, she was off like a shot. Ken had always refused to father a baby with her when she wanted one and this was like a slap in the face to Deirdre. It was during this time that she again got involved with another loser, this time with serious consequences. She was thoroughly taken in by con man Jon Lindsay who pretended to be a pilot but was really just a tie salesman at the airport. Because she gave him money towards a mortgage and then tried to take it back, she managed to get herself charged with theft and she got sent to jail for several weeks until the truth about his con games came to light. Mike Baldwin again came to her rescue with legal fees and a place to stay, much to the chagrin of Ken and Mike's wife, Alma.
Eventually, though, Deirdre and Ken found their way back together. They still have their ups and downs though, and Deirdre hasn't been faithful though this time, Ken has. Deirdre had a fling her boss from the Corner Shop, Dev Alahan, a fact which was gleefully uncovered and revealed by Tracy, newly divorced and returned to Weatherfield. In spite of all the grief and trouble Tracy has given her parents, Deirdre usually forgives her and puts up with her insults and abuse. Tracy is good at making Deirdre feel guilty about raising her in a broken home and it's rare that Deirdre actually stands up to her manipulative daughter. This is also a bone of contention between she and Ken and after Tracy's trial and conviction for the murder of Charlie Stubbs, Deirdre's guilt and self-blame were so overwhelming that she and Ken even split up for awhile.
Deirdre has always tried to be a good mother, daughter, friend and grandmother. She's made some bad decisions (men, jobs, and hairstyles!) over the years and has scandalized her neighbours many a time when she was determined to follow her heart. She has finally found peace and contentment with Ken, just as it should be. You couldn't really imagine her with anyone else now!
Thanks to Corrie.net and Daran Little's excellent books.