Hollyoaks has teased the tantalising possibility that James Nightingale has a secret love child out there somewhere, as a result of a shocking teenage liaison with a prostitute, who was paid for by his homophobic dad Mac in an attempt to “turn his son straight”.
Apparently the prostitute showed up pregnant a few months later but mama Marnie paid her off, sending her packing and promising to keep quiet – and James has no idea he might be a daddy.
Having an unlikely couple conceive a secret love child, then have the scandal revealed at a suitably inopportune moment, is a tried and tested soap twist – but some are truly, unforgettably, game-changingly jaw-dropping.
We’ve compiled the ultimate list of the top 11 most shocking soap love child storylines of all time that caused the most surprise – and if it turns out James has got a kid, you can add that to it as well.
1. Michelle Fowler does the deed with Dirty Den (EastEnders)
EastEnders‘ original shock love child from its early days and the most famous ‘who’s the daddy?’ plot of them all. Surly schoolgirl ‘Chelle confessed she was up the doof-doof but refused to name the father, until one day she made a phone call arranging to meet her unborn baby’s dad down at the canal.
With EastEnders cleverly cutting between a number of male characters putting the blower down at the same time, Britain waited with bated breath to see who would turn up at the rendezvous – and pub poodle Roly emerging from the car was a dead giveaway it was Ms Fowler’s best friend Sharon’s dad Den Watts. That’s how he got the nickname Dirty Den (true).
2. Sienna and Dodger’s icky twincest (Hollyoaks)
Sienna Blake may be slightly barmy, but if you’d been locked in a basement by your controlling father at the age of 13 for the duration of your teenage pregnancy, then had the baby girl whisked away as soon as they were born, you’d have issues too.
When Sienna finally found daughter Nico 14 years later, she unfortunately turned out to be a psychotic serial killer. But the real bombshell was discovering who her dad was – Sienna’s twin brother Dodger.
Unaware the other existed until they were adults, as the siblings had been raised apart, it turned out they’d met in their teens years one summer holiday afternoon. In perhaps the biggest coincidence in soap history, they hooked up without knowing they’d just committed twincest. No wonder Nico was a bit warped.
3. Hayley Cropper had a son (Coronation Street)
Who saw this one coming back in 2007? Soap’s first transgender character Hayley (RIP) discovered in a letter left for her by a recently-deceased relative that she had fathered a child before she’d transitioned.
Tracking down scrawny 20-something Christian, Hayley was fearful over how he’d react to her identity and lied that his dad was dead and she was his long-lost auntie. Sadly when she did come clean, her worst fears came true and cruel Christian punched her in the face, unable to accept the truth.
When Hayles was dying of cancer six years later, he tried to fleece her by demanding cash if she wanted to meet her grandkids. She was better off without him.
4. John Paul is Sally’s son (Hollyoaks)
Similar to Hayley’s scenario in that a trans character fathered a child before they transitioned, but this had a happier ending. New school headteacher Sally St Claire seemed quite taken with colleague John Paul McQueen, and his mum Myra had the nagging sensation they’d met before. All was revealed when Sally revealed she used to be Iain, who got Myra pregnant when they worked together in the projection room of a cinema.
After the initial shock, JP was thrilled to have both parents in his life. And regardless of gender, the attraction was clearly still there as Myra and Sal are now an item! Interestingly, Sally actress Annie Wallace’s real-life experience of transitioning was the original inspiration for the character of Hayley.
5. Adam reignites the Barlow/Baldwin feud (Coronation Street)
No-one knew Adam Barlow existed until he was 12, as his mum Susan left Weatherfield in the late 1980s after the collapse of her brief but disastrous marriage to her dad’s arch-enemy Mike Baldwin, claiming to have aborted their baby. Turns out she kept the child and only twin brother Peter knew, until he eventually blabbed and Mike demanded access to his now-nearly teenage son and the Barlow/Baldwin feud was stoked once again.
Susan tragically died in a car crash in 2001 (thanks to Billy Mayhew and his junkie mate, but there’s no time to go into that now). Adam was left torn between the warring clans, and grew up to be a beardy, buff and buzz cut-bearing solicitor.
6. Cindy’s secret husband AND son move to the village (Hollyoaks)
This knotty backstory-fuelled twist gives us a headache every time we think about it. When the Nightingale family moved to the village in 2015, daddy Mac was secretly married to Cindy, with the twosome having supposedly got together off screen during one of Ms Cunningham’s stints away from the show in the early noughties, when she conceived their kiddy who she gave up for adoption.
Guilty at cheating on wife Marnie, Mac sneakily persuaded her to adopt his little boy and raise him as theirs – naming him Alfie. Vengeful Marnie then exposed her adopted son’s true parentage, and everyone started consulting their calendars and the internet to check when Steph Waring wasn’t in Hollyoaks.
7. Darren Osborne’s mum is Kathy off EastEnders (Hollyoaks)
If the Alfie/Cindy/Mac thing felt a bit random, at least it’s still acknowledged these days, which is a lot more than can be said for this blast from the past that fizzled out plot-wise after the initial excitement. Jack’s old mate Sandy Roscoe and her hunky cockney sons swapped London for Chester in 2013 and it was soon revealed she was Darren’s biological mum, the result of an affair between her and Jack. Only for vague and unbelievable reasons, Sandy gave Dazzle to Jack and first wife Celia to bring up.
Then Gillian Taylforth quit as Sandy to bring Kathy back from the dead in EastEnders, all the Roscoes left and no-one ever really talks about it any more (apart from when Darren needs a holiday and he can visit Sandy abroad).
8. Denise and Phil’s drunken bunk-up makes a baby (EastEnders)
Are there two least likely people to have swapped spit than Phil Mitchell and Denise Fox? During the height of Phil’s alcoholic relapse in 2016, him and a drunken Dee did the deed, but when she fell preggers she kept quiet about the paternity of the kiddy and planned to have it adopted. Her son’s birth coincided with Phil getting a new liver and a new lease of life, and after Sharon overheard Denise telling Shirley in the Vic bogs who the daddy was, all hell broke loose.
Flummoxed Phil eventually agreed giving the baby away was best all round, as both parents were pickled when the kid was conceived and were hardly in a position to bring him up. But we’re hoping one of these days we get to meet Raymond Mitchell-Fox…
9. Ken Barlow’s 50-year secret turns up on the doorstep (Coronation Street)
A secret love child 50 years in the planning, Lawrence Cunningham met long-lost dad Ken Barlow in 2010 when the Corrie legend found a letter hidden in the skirting board of his old house since 1961 from old flame Susan, that led him to discover the son he never knew he had.
The retro-tinged revelation coincided with Corrie‘s 50th anniversary, also the anniversary of original street star Bill Roache playing Ken, whose real-life son Linus Roache played Lawrence – and who also played Ken’s other son Peter Barlow for a brief stint in the mid 1970s. Keeping up?
10. Carla’s real dad makes her a Connor by birth (Coronation Street)
A new branch of Corrie‘s established Connor clan were introduced in 2015, headed by Michelle’s dad’s cousin Johnny. Carla had grown up in the same ‘hood as the Connors so had known Johnny for years, but it turned out he’d known her dead mum Sharon Donovan pretty darn well, as they’d had a fling and Carla was the result.
Finding out Johnny was her dad was a bit retcon icky for Carla, as it meant she’d slept with two men (Paul and Liam) who it transpires were blood relatives. Come to think of it, that means she’s also distantly related to Michelle’s son Ali, which she must’ve realised but obviously didn’t care about. Whatever floats your boat, Carla luv.
11. Flathead and menacing Morag revealed as Bobby’s parents (Home and Away)
A real time warp this one, but fans of a certain age will fondly recall rebellious foster kid Bobby’s search for her real parents in the very (as in 1989) early days of Home and Away. Teen tearaway Bobby (a mixture of Liv Flaherty and a young Stacey Slater, if you can imagine that) was a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, with her antics putting her at odds with school headmaster Donald ‘Flathead’ Fisher.
So imagine everyone’s shock when he confessed to an affair back in the day with Alf Stewart’s scary older sister, fearsome magistrate Morag Bellingham, and they were Bobby’s real parents. Stone the flamin’ crows!
Fun facts: Bobby’s violent adopted dad Al Simpson and his daughter Sophie were played by future Neighbours legends Terence Donovan (Doug Willis, also Jason Donovan’s dad) and Rebekah Elmaloglou (Terese Willis, his on-screen daughter-in-law). Ah, the small world of Aussie soaps…
Digital Spy Soap Scoop video – hit play below for all the latest EastEnders spoilers, as Mick ends up in bed with Hayley, and Martin decides who he wants to be with.
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