Eileen Derbyshire

Eileen Derbyshire MBE (born 6th October, 1931 in Urmston, Lancashire) is a British actress best known for playing Emily Bishop in Coronation Street from January 1961 to January 2016, and briefly in October 2019. She is the longest-serving actress on the programme, and the second longest-serving performer after William Roache. Eileen trained at the Northern School of Music (now the Royal Northern College) and was a speech and drama teacher before she turned her attentions to acting full-time, appearing in repertory theatre throughout Britain as part of the Century Mobile Theatre Company and doing radio work from the age of seventeen and had her stage debut at the age of eighteen in Private Lives prior to joining the Street as Miss Nugent in January 1961. The character's Christian name Emily was not given until about a year later, and the character was always credited as "Miss Nugent" until the late 1960s.

Eileen in 1960s

Publicity photo of Derbyshire as Emily Nugent in the 1960s.

Eileen is renowned for maintaining her privacy, refusing to join her fellow cast and crew members at award ceremonies and other publicity events. She very rarely signs autographs for fans, although it has been noted that she will occasionally respond to fan mail. She married garage owner and builder Thomas Holt on 1st April 1965 in Wilmslow. They had met when he came to carry out repairs on her house and, as he didn't watch television, he had no idea who she was. Her departure from the programme to have a baby was announced on 9th December of the same year. Their son, Oliver, was born in 1966 and is now a tabloid sports journalist. She returned after a year's maternity leave in January 1967. Her interests include opera, concerts, literature and holidays in Florence or Venice. She contrasts herself with the part she plays, having said of Emily, "She's a very neat, sewn-up sort of lady, while I seem to live in a permanent state of chaos."

In November 2015 it was reported that Eileen requested six-months leave from the show for personal reasons, which was approved by producers and the character of Emily departed in the New Year of 2016. The character remained absent beyond her initial six month break, but despite this the producers have said that the door is open for whenever Eileen is ready to come back. She returned for a cameo appearance in October 2019, in which Emily contacted Ken through Skype as part of his 80th birthday celebrations.

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