Jean Fergusson - Hylda Baker.....She Knows Y'Know!
By Robert Cope
Jean is best known to television audiences as the man-hunting bicycle-riding Marina in Last Of The Summer Wine, a role she has played on television since 1985.
Although she has played Marina for nearly quarter of a century, Jean has a wealth of television credits to her name including Caroline Herbert in Crossroads, Mrs. Tremayne in All Creatures Great & Small, Mrs. Minton in A Woman Of Substance, Helen Ashcroft in Coronation Street, Mildred in Dennis Potter’s Lipstick On Your Collar, Mary Newson in Peak Practice and most recently as Brenda Wallis in Doctors for the BBC.
On stage Jean has appeared in national tours playing Brenda in A Bedfull Of Foreigners, Marina in Compo Plays Cupid, Betty in Willy Russell’s Breezeblock Park, Ann Marten in Maria Marten and Eva in Five Blue Haired Ladies Sitting On A Green Park Bench. Her repertory appearances as similarly diverse and include the title role in The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie, Linda in Death Of A Salesman, Mrs. Hardcastle in She Stoops To Conquer, Mrs. Malaprop in The Rivals at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and Mrs. Northrop in When We Are Married at Birmingham Rep and with Cannon and Ball in Big Bad Mouse at Lincoln. Jean also played Miss Cowper in Ray Cooney’s Cash On Delivery in the West End.
In 1992 Jean began to research the life of Hylda Baker, initially through interest in the legendary comedienne which had begun when Jean was ten, and she could be found doing impersonations of Hylda in the playground. It became apparent that Hylda’s life was so colourful and bizarre it should be told in the form of a play. The show finally reached London’s West End at the Vaudeville Theatre where it received rave reviews and an Olivier Award nomination for Best Entertainment. Radio 4 commissioned Jean to adapt She Knows You Know! for radio and it was transmitted in 1997 as a Saturday Playhouse. Jean was also commissioned to write Hylda Baker’s biography which was published the same year by Breedon Books, now a collectors item !
As a result of playing Hylda Baker, Jean undertook a variety tour with Jimmy Cricket, Bob Carolgees and The Roly Polys (who managed to teach her to tap dance !)
Jean has written a screenplay of Hylda Baker’s story and is currently trying to attract interest from the major television companies so watch this space !
Her show, performed at the Vaudeville Theatre,
was nominated for a 1998 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award
for Best Entertainment of the 1997 season.
Listen to the recording, first broadcast on
BBC Radio 4.
31st May 1997