Corrie icon William Roache’s life off-air from family tragedy to co-star romp

Coronation Street legend William Roache, the world's longest running soap actor, turns 89 years old today.

The telly icon has played Ken Barlow in the ITV soap opera since it was first broadcast on December 9, 1960.

Shortly before joining the cast of Corrie, Bill played the leading role in a Granada Television play called Marking Time.

In 1999, he won British Soap Awards Lifetime Achievement Award for his role and he was awarded an MBE in the 2001 New Years Honours.

On several occasions, Bill has told how he wanted to stay on Corrie until he was 100 – making him the first centenarian to work on a soap.

Daily Star has taken a look into his six decade-long career to celebration the birthday boy.

Exploding bomb injury

Before he graced television screens across the nation as Ken Barlow, William joined the Royal Welch Fusiliers in 1953.

He left the British Army in 1956 after reaching the rank of captain.

William was injured during a training exercise when an exploding mortar round left him with tinnitus and 50% hearing loss in both ears.

The incident led to him wearing an hearing aid.

He previously told Manchester Evening News: "I lost my hearing through a mortar bomb explosion in training when I was in the army, but I learnt to live with it.

"It’s very difficult to have a conversation with some people who speak very softly."

Family tragedy

Away from Weatherfield, William has faced his own fair share of personal tragedy.

The actor lost a daughter Edwina, with Sara Mottram, in 1984 when she was just 18 months old.

Opening up about his grief in an interview with OK! Magazine, William explained how the family thought Edwina "had a bad cold".

He said: "We’d been out for dinner and the in-laws had been babysitting.

"When we got home, Sara went to check on Edwina and she was fine.

"An hour later she checked her again and she had gone. It was very tough for both of us.

"We had a sense of guilt and tried to work out why it happened. There was nothing we could have done but it wasn’t easy."

In March 2018, William's daughter Vanya, his second child with his fist wife Anna Cropper, passed away from liver failure aged 50.

His wife Sarah also died suddenly in 2009 at the age of 58.

William is the father to Linus, Verity and James.

The 'boring' libel trial

In November 1990, an article in The Sun claimed that William was as boring as his Corrie alter-ego Ken and hated by his co-stars.

He later sued the newspaper for libel.

Two years later, the actor was awarded £50,000 damages by a jury, the same amount that he had turned down in an out-of-court settlement offered by The Sun before the case.

It meant he was liable for costs, which swallowed up the damages and left him with a six figure bill on top.

Roache later sued his law firm for negligence, and was declared bankrupt in April 1999.

His spiritual beliefs

William is reportedly part of a spiritual group called the Pure Love Movement.

He has previously spoken passionately about his belief in angels and reincarnation.

The star also believes that the the body replaces itself with a new set of cells every seven years.

He once told how as he steps out of the shower in the morning he tells himself that his cells are renewing themselves with a younger set.

He outlined his spiritual beliefs in the book Life and Soul: How to Live a Long and Healthy Life.

William's book "is not just another soap autobiography – Bill wants to share with fans his tips for living a balanced, happy life", a source told the Sun at the time.

"He is genuinely hoping that by sharing his thoughts, he can help others.

"And of course, it is another opportunity for him to reach out to anyone who may be interested in the teachings of the Pure Love Movement."

In 2016, speaking after the death of his close friend and co-star Anne Kirkbride, he also told how he doesn't believe in grieving for people because after death "we go to a very beautiful place".

Bill's devotion to spiritualism became so great that it reportedly led to the break-up of his relationship with TV weather girl Emma ­Jesson, 44, in 2013.

Racy nickname given by cast members

The soap legend once claimed that he was given the nickname "Cock Roache" by the cast of Coronation Street because of his sex drive.

William initially revealed during an episode of Piers Morgan's Life Stories in 2012 that he had slept with "more than 100" women, but when pressed as to whether the figure was closer to 1,000, he said: "Well, I'm not denying it."

However, he later backtracked on the comments saying the interview "created an impression of me that was entirely wrong".

He wrote: "Piers persisted in asking me how many women I’d slept with and I said I did not know.

"He started throwing numbers around. This was personal, and I didn’t want to talk about it.

"So I deflected his questions with a shrug or a 'maybe', and at one stage I even jokingly pretended to walk off stage.

"When he continued to press me for numbers and asked if it was 1,000 women, all I said was: 'It could be. I don’t know.'

"Well, it went viral – 'Bill Roache slept with 1,000 women'.

"And I’d never said I had, but I took it with good humour.

"At the time I had no idea that this interview was creating an impression of me that was entirely wrong."

Affair with Corrie co-star

William addressed the rumours of a fling with former Coronation Street icon Pat Phoenix on Piers Morgan's Life Stories back in 2012.

He said of his liaison with the Elsie Tanner actress: "It was just a one-off.

"It was just something that happened one night when we were together. We weren't right for each other.

"She invited me round to her flat and we had a few drinks, then one thing led to another.

"At that time, she had a reputation and I had a reputation, and she felt we should meet, as it were. It just happened."

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The Corrie star also discussed the fallout from his infidelity and divorce from his first wife Anna, revealing that he started drinking after the former couple separated in 1974.

Four years prior to his chat with Piers, William revealed on BBC Breakfast that he had had a two-year feud with Pat, who passed away in September 1986.

He claimed that the pair didn't speak to each other after she changed a scene involved the two of them.

However, William did confirm that they did reconcile and later became good friends.

Coronation Street airs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on ITV at 7.30pm and 8.30pm

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