William "Billy" Walker was a character in Coronation Street intermittently from Episode 15 (27 Jan 1961) to Ep 2471 - 5 Dec 1984. The eldest child and only son of Jack and Annie Walker, Billy ran the pub for many years from 1970 to 1975 before moving to Jersey. Billy was always a bit of a rogue, a Jack The Lad but when he returned in March 1984, in order to take over the tenancy of the The Rovers Return, his even nastier side surfaced when he was rude to the regular customers, and began blackmailing holier than thou Emily Bishop into lending her some money or he would tell everyone that she knew about Mike Baldwin and Deirdre's affair before her husband Ken did, and then goading Rovers cellarman Fred Gee into thumping him so he could sack him. Billy also held late night lock ins and kept cutting corners, and was generally rude to staff and customers. Fred Gee and Mike Baldwin became his 2 biggest rivals during his 1984 stint. Carpeted by the brewery for cutting corners, Billy was forced out of The Rovers and returned to Jersey in early December 1984, this time for good and has not been seen or heard from since.
Billy was played by actor Ken Farrington.
William Walker was born on the 8th September 1938 at The Rovers Return, Coronation Street, Weatherfield. He was the eldest child of Jack Walker and Annie Walker (Nee Beaumont). His parents were not from Weatherfield originally, his dad was from Accrington in Lancashire and his mum from Clitheroe in Lancashire. Annie had some French and Scottish roots. Billy grew up in Coronation Street. Billy joined a local football team. He was an ambitious young man but also was a bit of a small time crook. In the late 1950s Billy did his National Service in the army.
In January 1961, Billy came home from the army and tapped the service bell on the bar of the Rovers, saying he wanted a pint of bitter, and Jack did not know it was Billy until he turned round. Jack and Anne were pleased to see him back home. Billy Walker flitted between Weatherfield and London in the 1960s. In December 1964 he left the area, for 4 years, returning briefly in January 1969. In 1970, upon the death of his father Jack, Billy moved back to Weatherfield to help his mum run the pub, however did occasionally spend some time away from Weatherfield, such as late 1971. Billy left in May 1973 for London, and returned to Weatherfield in January 1974. He still established himself as a small time crook and was into dodgy deals. In 1974 he sold Stuart Draper a car for £1000 when it was valued at just £400. Billy refused to take responsibility, saying the car was roadworthy. A police involvement after a fight between Billy and Draper made Draper unable to take any further action against Billy. Billy fought with Ray Langton over Deirdre Hunt. Deirdre decided to end things with Billy. Billy left Weatherfield in May 1975 to run a pub in Jersey. Ray and Deirdre got together now that Billy was out of the picture.
In July 1975, Deirdre married Ray. Due to Billy moving away again, Annie felt vulnerable without a man around the place, and after a robbery in late 1975, and Stan and Albert being trapped in the cellar overnight in March 1976, a live in potman, Fred Gee was hired.
Billy returned to Weatherfield briefly in October 1977 for his mother's 40th anniversary at the Rovers. Billy returned to Weatherfield again in May 1978, and it was rumoured that he may be taking over the Rovers, and this worried potman Fred Gee. Billy backed out and returned to Jersey. Billy returned to Weatherfield again in May 1979. Billy hoped to reconcile with Deirdre now that Ray was out of the way, but she refused. Annie lent Billy some money for a venture. On the 20th June 1979, Billy left Weatherfield once again, and returned to Jersey.
1984 Return to Weatherfield and later final departure
Annie Walker took an extended break in January 1984 and left Betty in charge. In March 1984, Billy was advised to take over the pub so returned to Weatherfield that month, almost 5 years after he was last seen in the area. He was reluctant at first to stay on running the pub but he soon settled back into life being the Rovers landlord for his mother while she was on her break. But Billy was stubborn and soon made himself unpopular as a landlord and barred Percy Sugden for giving him advice, and saying the food was terrible. He also barred Mavis Riley for complaining about chutney. The regulars did not like Billy's "bull in a china shop" ways so boycotted the pub. Billy invited them all back with free drinks for the first hour. On the 21st March, Billy decided to return to Jersey, for the time being at least.
In May 1984, Billy quickly left Jersey and moved back to the Rovers Return. He had people after him for money in Jersey. Billy planned to open up a wine bar and asked a few people if they would invest but they rejected his offer. Billy then spread vicious rumours about Deirdre and Mike Baldwin as he found out about their affair. Billy's ruthless streak became more prevalent, especially when he then blackmailed Emily Bishop into lending him £6000. Emily had known about Mike and Deirdre, and as Emily was so well liked, Billy said the locals may not like her as much if he tells them that she knew about the affair before Ken did. Emily then told Mike what Billy was up to, so Mike planned to get even with Billy. Mike had been chatting recently with Samantha Benson, a friend of Billy's who was visiting him from Jersey. She had told Mike that Billy had been fiddling the books at his Jersey pub, as well as watering down the spirits, and having an illegal respray of his car. Mike used this as leverage to get Billy to leave him and Emily alone.
Mike had a quiet chat with Billy in the Rovers snug, and said that he knew about Billy's dodgy dealings in Jersey from his Jersey friend who visited him recently. Mike told Billy the police and licensing authorities will find out about his shady scams if he takes any money off Emily. Billy was shocked, but he knew he was beaten, so he laid off Emily, Mike and Deirdre. In July 1984, Fred Gee returned from sick leave, and told Billy that the doctor had told him to take it easy. Billy said the doctors just say that to cover themselves, and told Fred to get on with his usual potman duties. Fred then took some holiday time. In August 1984, Billy was appointed landlord once his mother Annie decided to retire altogether.
Now that Billy was the new landlord, he planned for some big changes for The Rovers in August 1984. Long term live in cellarman Fred Gee said that he is Billy's right hand man so did not feel there was any point in discussing his future. Billy said to Fred that out of all the staff, that Fred has the biggest reason to discuss his future, worrying Fred. So, Billy's first ploy was to get rid of Fred Gee. He claimed he could not afford to employ Fred any more and claimed he was a potman and a that made him a casual labourer, so meaning Fred was not entitled to any compensation.
Fred was actually legally entitled to compensation. Billy tried to fob him off with a few extra weeks pay but Fred wanted full compensation for the 8 years he had been there. Ken Barlow said to Billy that Fred has a good case. A disgruntled but crooked Billy wanted to do something quick to get rid of Fred without paying him anything. Billy found out how another landlord in the area had got rid of a cellarman without paying him compensation by goading him into thumping him so he could sack him. Billy thought that would be a good idea to use for Fred Gee, bait him into thumping him so he can sack him.
Billy then insulted Fred and worked him into the ground. He made Fred paint the cellar, whitewash the yard, and also do Hilda Ogden's cleaning. Billy called Fred a berk and a skiver, and even grabbed his arm once when he told him to hurry up with a job, as eh wanted Fred to hit him so he could sack him. Jack Duckworth, a friend of Fred's, advised Fred to not take the bait, so he could get about £2000. Jack told Fred to ride the wave of abuse from Billy until he gets his money. Billy carried on making life unbearable for Fred, so when Billy sarcastically asked a very annoyed and frustrated Fred if he is happy in his work, Fred had enough of Billy and thumped him in front of all the customers. Billy sacked Fred, and told him to move out of the pub right away, and was pleased that his ploy had worked. Billy still was nasty to Fred when he told the brewery that Fred was unemployable. Fred tried to get another job but no one would take him on so Billy's other fierce rival Mike Baldwin gave Fred a job.
Billy then began running late night lock ins and buying cheap alcohol off the supermarket instead of the brewery. He made himself quite unpopular with the regulars. In late November 1984, the police visited the Rovers to say that they were aware of the drinking after hours and it had been going on for quite some time.
In December 1984 he was asked by Sarah Ridley to come and see her at the brewery's head office. Sarah pulled Billy up on his shenanigans, such as the drinking after hours and buying spirits off the supermarkets instead of the brewery as he is obliged to do as a tenant. They both agreed it was a mistake making him the landlord, so Billy was forced out by mutual agreement and decided there was nothing left for him in Weatherfield and wanted to return to Jersey. That night he sat in the Rovers private quarters and said to Bet and Betty he was leaving the pub, and going back to Jersey. Bet bluntly said to Billy that in other words he has been given the boot.
The next day, a valuer came round to do an inventory of goods. Billy then went to the brewery to finalise a few things. He told Deirdre he was leaving and returning to Jersey, saying he hopes something will turn up there. They said they will be thinking of each other. He packed his things and said goodbye to Deirdre, Alf, Ken, Bet and Betty before getting into his car and driving off into the night, leaving Weatherfield, this time for good. He was never seen or heard from in Weatherfield again.
Life after Final Departure from Weatherfield in 1984
Billy returned to Jersey after severing all ties with his native Weatherfield, 250 miles away. Gordon Lewis was bought in as manager of the pub. He said Billy was a fool to himself.
By 1985, Billy probably finally put his plan in action to open up a wine bar in Jersey with the money from the tenancy of being bought out of The Rovers Return.
Meanwhile back in Weatherfield, by the start of 1985, the Rovers was a much more pleasant place to drink at, now that nasty Billy and loudmouth Fred were gone. A few relief managers were bought in until long term barmaid Bet Lynch became landlady in February 1985.
Bet mentioned Billy in August 1992.
In Ep 5281 - 9 Jun 2002, almost 18 years since Billy left Weatherfield, Ken Barlow tried to trace Billy to invite him to a 100th anniversary of The Rovers but Billy was untraceable. He may have left Jersey and moved to another part of the British Isles, and maybe even emigrated. Whether Billy married and had children after 1984 is also unknown, but he was 46 in 1984 so would have became a father later on in life.
Billy was mentioned in past tense on several occasions in 2012 and 2014 by Ken and Deirdre. Billy was mentioned in April 2012 at Betty's funeral, but whether he knew about Betty's death is unknown. In 2014, Deirdre mentioned to her daughter's boyfriend Rob Donovan how she was once engaged to Billy before she wed Ray Langton and then Ken.
As of 2021, exactly what became of Billy since his 1984 departure remains uncertain but he will now be 82 years old. He turned 80 in September 2018.
On social media, a few April Fools jokes have circulated every April Fools Day, saying Ken Farrington is returning as Billy.
List of addresses
|May 1975-March 1984||Jersey|
|March-December 1984||Rovers Return, Coronation Street|
|Jersey||December 1984 onwards|
Appearances: 27 Jan–2 Aug 1961, 14–30 May 1962, 25 Dec 1963, 7–9 Dec 1964, 1–22 Jan 1969, 26 Aug 1970–7 Jul 1971, 3 Jan 1972–28 May 1973, 21 Jan 1974–12 May 1975, 19–26 Oct 1977, 15–24 May 1978, 28 May–20 Jun 1979, 5 Mar–21 Mar 1984, 9 May-5 December 1984
Born: 8th September 1938
Full Name: William Walker
Siblings: Joan Davies
Uncles/Aunts: Jim Walker, Arthur Walker, Louise Walker, Fred Walker, Gertie Walker
- Although not debuting in the original episodes (1-13), Billy Walker was in early drafts by Tony Warren, which originally listed three children for Jack and Annie Walker: Billy, Joan and another called Norman. Norman was dropped in favour of the first two. Billy debuted in Episode 15 on 27th January 1961. Ken Farrington had previously auditioned for Dennis Tanner. He left in August 1961, and Billy remained a recurring character throughout the 1960s, appearing in four separate guest stints in 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1969.
- Following the real life passing of Arthur Leslie who played Billy's father Jack Walker, Farrington returned to the series as a regular. Although he would take occasional breaks from the programme, he did remain as a full-time character until 1975 when Farrington left the show abruptly.
- Billy was due to marry love interest Deirdre Hunt in 1975, but Farrington chose not to have his contract extended and left the show, five years following his return. Deirdre's marriage story was hastily rewritten so she ended up marrying her boss Ray Langton, who she had a frosty relationship with (and was even bullied by him for a brief period the year before). Farrington returned for three guest stints for the remainder of the 1970s, appearing in 1977, 1978 and 1979. The last year would mark the final time he would act alongside his co-worker and friend Doris Speed, who played his on-screen mother Annie Walker.
- Following Doris Speed resigning from the show in 1983, Billy was brought back in 1984 to address the characters (and an extent to the audience) about Annie's abrupt departure, and Speed didn't film a proper on-screen exit. Billy was drafted in as the new landlord of the Rovers Return as a way to keep the Walker name in the show, and to also have a familiar face as a majority of long-running characters had left over the past year. Billy's personality was changed to be a lot nastier and crueler, which didn't satisfy Farrington who chose to quit the show after less than a year following his return. Doris Speed was also not happy with Billy's new portrayal, and even spoke about it with Farrington on the phone. In later interviews Farrington accused the writers of making him the show's version of J.R. Ewing, a popular villain from the American soap Dallas. Near the end of his 1984 stint Billy did tone it down such as supporting Hilda Ogden during her husband Stan's hospitalisation and later death. He departed in December 1984, never to return.