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 played the character for 55 years from January 1961 to January 2016 (with a brief cameo in October 2019), making her the longest-serving female cast member in a British TV soap opera. She is the mother of sports journalist Oliver Holt. She was appointed an MBE in the 2010 Queens Birthday Honours list with her fellow co-star and friend, Barbara Knox.
|Years active||1948–2015, 2019|
|Known for||Role of Emily Bishop|
|Television||Coronation Street (1961–2016, 2019)|
|Spouse(s)||Thomas W. Holt (m. 1965)|
Eileen 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, first appearing as Miss Nugent in episode 15 in January 1961 (the character appeared as an extra in episode 4 in December 1960 played by an uncredited walk-on actress). The character was then given the forename Emily in 1962.
Eileen has 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.
She married retired engineer Thomas W. Holt on 1 April 1965, and the following year they had a son, Oliver. The couple have a cottage in Cheshire, and Eileen's interests include opera, reading, going to concerts and holidaying in Vienna and Venice.
Eileen has a reputation for reclusiveness. She never joins fellow cast members 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 twice appeared onscreen out of character, when in 1988 she gave a rare interview in a documentary tribute to cast member and good friend Margot Bryant. 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 is reclusive, pointing out that she is simply private, 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".
Eileen has been on a break from Coronation Street for personal reasons since December 2015. Her departure aired on 1 January 2016 and was originally billed as only a six-month sabbatical. She returned for a cameo appearance as part of the celebrations for Ken's 80th birthday in October 2019, being seen on a video message wishing him a happy birthday. Ken remarked that it would be her 90th birthday "next week", which makes Emily two years older than Eileen.
- "Emily Bishop". ITV Official Coronation Street site. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
- "Cope: 'Emily' should receive damehood - Coronation Street News - Soaps". Digital Spy. 2008-12-20. Retrieved 2012-01-27.
- Husband, Stuart (28 January 2007). "No comment". Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2012-01-27.
- "Minnie Caldwell Remembered - A Tribute to Margot Bryant (Part 2 of 3)". YouTube. 2009-11-03. Retrieved 2012-01-27.
- Booth, Jenny. "The Times". London.
- "Coronation Street". TVNZ Ondemand.
- "No. 59446". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 June 2010. p. 15.