|Coronation Street character|
|Portrayed by||Doris Speed|
|First appearance||Episode 1
9 December 1960
|Last appearance||Episode 2351
12 October 1983
|Created by||Tony Warren|
|Introduced by||Stuart Latham|
Mayoress of Weatherfield
Chairman of the L.V.C.
Anne "Annie" Walker (née Beaumont) was a long-standing fictional character in the ITV soap opera Coronation Street. She was played by actress Doris Speed from the series' first episode in 1960 until Speed retired from the role 23 years and 1,737 episodes later in 1983.
The character of Annie has been noted as "snobbish" and "snooty" due to her condescending attitude and delusions of grandeur. Despite this, Annie proved to be one of the show's most popular characters and Speed received more fan mail than any other cast member at the time. For her service, Speed was later declared a "national treasure" by the media and received an MBE in 1977.
Annie was one of the original characters in Coronation Street when the show began in 1960. Creator Tony Warren wrote the part with Doris Speed in mind, having worked with her before when he was a young actor on radio play Children's Hour. As the immaculately kept manageress of the Rovers Return Inn, Annie appeared in the very first episode, recorded live on 9 December 1960 and in the following episode her mild-mannered husband of over twenty years Jack (Arthur Leslie) was introduced. The pair went on to become the first great 'double act' of the series, and following the series' early success, Jack and Annie's two children were introduced - Billy (Ken Farrington) and Joan (June Barry), who arrived for Joan's wedding to teacher Gordon Davies (Calvin Malone) in 1961.
In 1983, a year of immense change for Coronation Street, the Daily Mirror published a story claiming that Doris Speed was many years older than she had claimed. Speed collapsed on seeing the article and was quickly written out of the show to give the elderly actress time to recover. Shortly afterwards however, her home was burgled and Speed was admitted into a nursing home. She opted not to return to Coronation Street, and Annie made her final appearance on 12 October 1983. It is perhaps fitting that her last ever line on the show was "Could you please give me three tins of anything, so that I can discharge my duty and go?" to Rita Fairclough at a Bring & Buy sale.
Jack and Annie were a popular couple in Coronation Street and made a good team as landlord and landlady of the Rovers. Though Annie considered herself a cut above most of her customers, only thinking highly of a select few, the presence of Jack, who was much less discriminating and generally more mindful of the punters' needs than his own, kept Annie from going too far. This did not stop Annie from being perceived as snobbish by the residents, with her true feelings thinly veiled beneath her friendly landlady persona. In 1964, Jack and Annie came close to splitting up when Annie found out Jack had been making regular payments to a Mrs. Nicholls, and wrongly assumed she was a lover. The reality was that Jack was paying Billy's rent as Billy had lost his job, but Annie left Jack instead of confronting him, and only came to regret her hastiness when coping without Jack at Egremont Hotel proved too much for her. Though innocent, Jack remained concerned that Annie would not return, though she eventually did and was deeply apologetic.
The Walkers took in 15-year-old Lucille Hewitt when her father and stepmother moved to Ireland. Annie's abilities were stretched in meeting Lucille's needs, and the pair frequently clashed over Lucille's antics, partly because of Annie's somewhat dated view of parenting and of girls Lucille's age. Annie made minimal effort to modernise her approach and Lucille generally found it easier to talk to Jack, finding Annie uncompromising and distant in comparison. Annie was an active member of the community and in 1966 her aspirations turned political, when Mrs Arkinstall of the Federation of Women's Associations agreed to sponsor her application to stand as an independent candidate in the Council by-elections. She quickly got caught up in electioneering duties, putting them even above her duties as landlady. She was up against neighbour Len Fairclough, who during a debate accused Annie of being a mouthpiece for snotty women. They received the same amount of votes on election day, and on a coin toss Len was elected as Councillor. In 1968, Lucille became involved with Gordon Clegg, an accounting student whose protective mother Maggie had recently bought the Corner Shop. Annie objected to Gordon, fearing that his father's alcoholism was hereditary, but she mainly objected to Maggie's attempts to stop them seeing each other on the grounds that Lucille was not good enough for Gordon. The Walkers were angry when Lucille and Gordon ran away to get married but Annie was put out when Ken Barlow reminded her that as an adult Lucille could do what she wanted. The pair returned, having changed their minds, and Annie's attitude towards Gordon softened when he became a qualified accountant - a man of education.
Annie was thrilled in 1969 when brewery rep Douglas Cresswell offered her and Jack a pub in Majorca, while she was in Majorca after winning the 'Perfect Landlady' competition arranged by Newton & Ridley. It was the chance she had been waiting for years, and for her sake Jack was also willing to go, however they were turned down at the last minute when Cresswell's boss decided they were too old to run the Majorca bar.
In 1970, Jack had a heart attack and died while visiting Joan in Derby. Annie was distraught but despite her grief was able to carry on with her job, taking over as licensee of the Rovers Return, with Billy moving to Weatherfield to keep an eye in her and help out at the pub when needed. The brewery was satisfied that with Billy around Annie could continue to function as landlady, though they did offer to make Billy licensee behind Annie's back, believing he would be the more ideal landlord. Lucille's future continued to be a concern for Annie. Lucille was often too fond of lazing around rather than working, and whenever she did get a job, it tended to be somewhere Annie disapproved of, such as when Lucille worked at the Aquarius disco club, which Annie had to grudgingly give her approval of as it was owned by the brewery. She later offered to buy the Corner Shop for Lucille, but Lucille was not interested. Lucille eventually left for good in 1974, to stay with her stepmother Concepta Regan in Ireland.
Annie's big moment finally came in 1973 when incoming Mayor of Weatherfield Alf Roberts - a friend of Annie's - asked her to be his Mayoress. Annie was honoured and accepted the invitation - attending social events and meeting important people appealed to her greatly, although to her embarrassment when meeting the former Mayoress Ethel Bostock she mistook her for a cleaner.
In the Rovers, things were going less well. With mounting debts and a growing drink problem, Billy was starting to gamble using the pub's takings. When this was discovered, Annie made barmaid Betty Turpin manager and tried to cut off Billy's access to the Rovers' money. Billy decided to leave to rebuild his life in Jersey. Annie, meanwhile, was becoming increasingly unhappy with the Rovers and decided there was now nothing to keep her there, so decided to retire, though she changed her mind when 47 people signed a petition for her to stay.
In the late 1970s, Annie was a respected figure in the community and her strict rule of the Rovers kept her staff in line. She was furious when Corner Shop owner Renee Bradshaw applied for an off-licence, which would allow her to sell alcohol in the shop. Annie did everything she could to prevent it, but the matter was settled in court in favour of Renee. At 67, Annie decided to learn to drive, though her first lesson ended with her hitting a lamp post. She was determined to pass her test in fewer than 86 lessons, as her friend and rival Nellie Harvey had taken that many. Surprisingly, she passed her test first time and bought a second-hand Rover 2000, but just after getting the car she was stopped by the police while doing a turn in the road, and breathalysed. She was thought to be over the limit but a blood test proved otherwise.
Annie sometimes had difficult relations with her staff because of her tendency to jump to conclusions. In 1977, she insinuated to Betty Turpin that she thought she had been stealing from her, when in fact decorator Gary Hawkins had copied her key. Betty threatened to sue Annie for the accusation, though Annie backtracked, saying she had not actually accused her.
In 1981, Annie went on a cruise and left temporary manager Gordon Lewis in charge of the Rovers as she did not have faith in Fred to run it. She was shocked when she returned to find Gordon had replaced her staff. After relieving Gordon, she had to earn back the respect of Betty and Bet Lynch, who were angry that Annie had not trusted them.
Annie appeared to have especially low regard for Fred Gee. When he married Eunice Nuttall in 1981, Annie offered to let them live at the Rovers while they looked for a pub of their own. When they were turned down by the brewery because Eunice had been accused of stealing, Annie still wanted them out as she had found a new cellarman who was ready to start work. Fred later split from Eunice and Annie let him keep his job.
In 1983, Annie took a break from the Rovers to stay with Joan, and decided to retire without returning to tell her staff and friends personally. She convinced Billy to run the pub though his stay was very brief, as he had to sell the tenancy of the Rovers to pay his debts. Annie died in 1994. On 19 April 2012, just three days after Betty William's death, Rita, Emily and Stella found a letter from Annie whilst going through Betty's house. The letter stated that Annie had bequeathed the tenancy of the Rovers Return to Betty back in 1984, although said tenancy had been long since sold by the time of Annie's death off screen.
- Fiddy, Dick. "Coronation Street - The 1960s". BFI. Retrieved 12 November 2010.
- McMahon, Kate (24 May 2010). "BBC to mark 50 years of ITV's Coronation Street with 90 minute drama". Mirror Online. Archived from the original on 17 November 2010. Retrieved 12 November 2010.
- Mulkern, Patrick (8 February 2008). "The Best...long-running soap character". Radio Times. Retrieved 12 November 2010.
- Kay, Graeme. Coronation Street Celebrating 30 Years 1960–1990. Boxtree. ISBN 1-85283-292-4.
- Little, Daran (2000). 40 Years of Coronation Street. London: Granada Media. p. 153. ISBN 0-233-99806-3.