Eileen Derbyshire

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Eileen Derbyshire
Born (1931-10-06) 6 October 1931 (age 84)
Urmston, Lancashire, England
Occupation Actress
Spouse(s) Thomas W. Holt (1965–present, 1 child)
Children Oliver Holt (born 1966)
Relatives 3 grandchildren

Eileen Derbyshire, MBE (born 6 October 1931) is an English actress, best known for her role as Emily Bishop in the soap opera Coronation Street. She has played the character since 1961, making her the longest-serving female cast member in a British soap opera. She is the mother of sports journalist Oliver Holt. She was made an MBE in the 2010 Queens Birthday Honours.

Early life[edit]

Derbyshire was born in Urmston, Lancashire and from the age of 17, was appearing in plays broadcast on the radio. After several small parts on television, she joined the cast of Coronation Street, firstly as an extra in episode 4, broadcast Wednesday 21 December 1960.[1] In episode 15, her character was named as Miss Nugent, then a year later she was given the forename Emily.

Derbyshire took a degree in teaching, trained at the Northern School of Music, and also passed her examination at the Royal Academy of Music. She began teaching speech and drama, but had always wanted to act. While on the bus one day, she passed Chorlton Repertory Theatre, and asked for an audition. She was enrolled as a student, and later became assistant stage manager. From there she joined Century Theatre's mobile touring company, and appeared in theatre all over the country, subsequently appearing in repertory theatre throughout Britain.

Personal life[edit]

She married retired engineer Thomas W. Holt on 1 April 1965, and the following year they had a son, Oliver. The couple have a large cottage in Cheshire, and Derbyshire's interests include opera, reading, going to concerts and holidaying in Vienna and Venice.

Eileen Derbyshire has a reputation for reclusiveness.[2] She does not join the rest of the cast at awards ceremonies or other events, and has never yet appeared in any of the publicity videos on the Coronation Street website. She has only once appeared onscreen out of character, when in 1988 she gave a rare interview in a documentary tribute to cast member Margot Bryant.[3] In 2005 she also gave an interview for an ITV programme aimed at deaf viewers, speaking about working with the deaf actress Alison Briggs, who was playing Emily's niece, Freda Burgess, for which she was interviewed on the set and dressed in character.

Her son Oliver Holt has denied that she collects tropical parrots, pointing out that she is simply a lover of all animals, and "one of the last of a dying breed of old-fashioned actresses who do it for the love of acting, not for all the attendant publicity".[4] She rarely signs autographs in public although she has been known to respond to fan mail.

She is a grandmother to Oliver's children Alice, Warren, Klaxon and Joe. Eileen is also a godmother to William Roache's three children[5] and Barbara Knox's daughter Maxine.


Derbyshire was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours, for services to drama.[6]


  1. ^ "Cope: 'Emily' should receive damehood - Coronation Street News - Soaps". Digital Spy. 2008-12-20. Retrieved 2012-01-27. 
  2. ^ Husband, Stuart (28 January 2007). "No comment". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 2012-01-27. 
  3. ^ "Minnie Caldwell Remembered - A Tribute to Margot Bryant (Part 2 of 3)". YouTube. 2009-11-03. Retrieved 2012-01-27. 
  4. ^ Booth, Jenny. The Times (London) http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/article811225.ece.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ http://tvnz.co.nz/coronation-street/eileen-derbyshire-plays-emily-bishop-3604882
  6. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 59446. p. 15. 12 June 2010.

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