Pat PHOENIX (1923-1986)

Pat Phoenix This Is Your Life
  • The first Coronation Street cast member to be featured as a subject of This Is Your Life

programme details...

  • Edition No: 335
  • Subject No: 336
  • Broadcast live: Wed 15 Nov 1972
  • Broadcast time: 7.00-7.30pm
  • Repeated: Wed 20 Jun 1973 7.00pm
  • Venue: Grand Hotel, Manchester
  • Series: 13
  • Edition: 1
  • Code name: Sixpence

on the guest list...

  • Alan Browning
  • Peter Adamson
  • Doris Speed
  • Jack Howarth
  • Bernard Youens
  • Eileen Derbyshire
  • Jennifer Moss
  • William Roache
  • Kenneth Farrington
  • Graham Haberfield
  • Betty Driver
  • Neville Buswell
  • Diana Davies
  • Julie Goodyear
  • Bryan Mosley
  • Barbara Mullaney
  • Irene Sutcliffe
  • Stephen Hancock
  • Tony Warren
  • Charles Simon
  • Marilyn Thomas
  • Sandy Powell
  • Betty Alberge
  • Dorothy Manley
  • Freddie Bracegirdle
  • Bill Nadin
  • Mrs Mullings
  • Kit - aunt
  • Filmed tribute:
  • Father Kevin O'Mahoney

production team...

  • Researcher: unknown
  • Writer: unknown
  • Director: Margery Baker
  • Producer: Malcolm Morris
  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
related pages...

Street Life

from Elsie Tanner to Eddie Yates

ITV This is Your Life

A special edition celebrating ITV's 21st anniversary

A Life Remembered

tributes to the original presenter


the show's fifty year history

The secret life of Eamonn Andrews

Weekend Magazine feature on the show's popularity

Peter Adamson

Betty Driver

Jack Howarth

Bryan Mosley

Sandy Powell

William Roache

Pat Phoenix This Is Your Life Pat Phoenix This Is Your Life Pat Phoenix This Is Your Life Pat Phoenix This Is Your Life Pat Phoenix This Is Your Life Pat Phoenix This Is Your Life Pat Phoenix This Is Your Life Pat Phoenix This Is Your Life Pat Phoenix This Is Your Life Pat Phoenix This Is Your Life Pat Phoenix This Is Your Life Pat Phoenix This Is Your Life

Photographs of Pat Phoenix This Is Your Life

Pat Phoenix's autobiography

Pat Phoenix recalls her experience of This Is Your Life in her autobiography, All My Burning Bridges...

Not present at my stuck-to-the-spot snake dance was a little boy who nevertheless was charmed by my mere appearance. His name was Kevin O'Malley, who declared his love with the sweet shyness of a nine-year-old and saved to buy me a large bar of chocolate for my birthday. My first suitor! The trouble was, Kevin, who lived a couple of streets away, was younger than I was. He was nine and I, by then, was ten and I knew that was not quite the natural age order of romance. He would call for me and we walked to school together and one of our romantic rituals was exchanging comics.

My favourite poet at that time was Omar Khayyam and I am sure I used to bore the poor lad stiff by reciting great chunks to him. Kevin became a teacher and then a priest, but we saw each other only three or four times in the long intervening years. The last time I heard his voice was over the telephone in November, 1972, when I was the subject of This Is Your Life. I was stunned and delighted when they said that Father Kevin O'Mahoney was calling from an African mountain mission in Ethiopia. He reminded me of the chocolate, the comics and the Rubaiyat. Mickey-taking friends who knew about Kevin have often reminded me since, that after a flirtation with Phoenix one lad was so shaken, he took to the priesthood. It's utter rubbish, but it raises a laugh.

Something very odd was going on in our house. Alan was getting mysterious telephone calls and whenever I came into the room he hung up. Once I heard him say: "I can't talk now. She's coming in."

Now I'm not jealous by nature but I was beginning to get a bit suspicious – but then my birthday was coming up – and knowing Alan, he could be planning a surprise. He was going out more frequently, too. When I asked him where he was going he would say airily: "just popping over to Stockport to see my mother."

Now, Alan is very fond of his mother and visits her often – but four times in one week!

Alan and Elsie Howard were supposed to be having a big night out in the script. It entailed night shooting on the outside set of the Street.

"Wear one of your own dresses for the scene," said producer, Eric Prytherch.

"Thank you very much," I retorted indignantly. Was he suggesting you couldn't tell the difference between our evening gowns and the dresses more suited to Elsie?

"Well, it's a very special occasion for her," he hedged.

"Alan is taking her out and she would have spent a lot of money."

"Elsie Tanner would not spend that amount on an evening dress. She could not afford it, you Welsh nitwit," I scolded.

I couldn't figure it out. Here he was urging me to wear something fancy when usually he was complaining I spent too much. He made a fuss about what I wore, too.

"Something with a bit of cleavage, you know," he kept suggesting.

It was winter and I had a cold. I wasn't too keen on hanging around outside in an evening dress freezing to death: in fact I was playing hell about it.

"You're trying to kill me off, aren't you?" I complained.

"You can put your mink coat round your shoulders," said Taff.

"What!" I cried. "For the take! You must be out of your mind. A posh dress is one thing, but you can't put Elsie in a mink."

Taff looked confused.

"Oh, I was forgetting," he said lamely.

Peter, Alan and I were just getting ready for the take – I was moaning bitterly about the cold and couldn't understand why Peter and Alan kept grinning – when I heard those four little words that must have struck a chill into most who hear them.

"Patricia Phoenix. This is you life."

And there was Eamonn Andrews.

It seems that friend Keith McDonald, a journalist on the Manchester Evening News, overhearing a conversation in a television studio about the next This Is Your Life subject, suggested Pat Phoenix.

"We can't get her," they said. "She is working in Manchester." Keith suggested they do it live and the whole of Granada Television co-operated. That is how Eamonn Andrews came to be wandering down Coronation Street with a red book in his hand with my name on the cover. When I realised what was happening, I panicked.

"Taff, I'll bloody kill you," I said to our luckless producer. They had all been involved in the plot. I think everyone's first instinct must be to run away. I know I was frightened to death.

I backed away trying to escape through a door of anonymity but Peter, Alan and Eamonn held on like grim death.

My confrontation with Eamonn had to go out live. Apart from the fact that I rarely visit London, Alan and I were sitting watching This Is Your Life one night when the subject had been conned into going to a dinner at a television centre. I said to Alan: "Nobody would ever catch me with one of those lunches or dinners."

So they rigged it on the set instead.

After meeting Eamonn and composing myself, they took me to a hotel in Manchester where the rest of the programme was filmed. All I could think of was that whoever came on the floor I must instantly recognise them whether I really did or not. I need not have been so anxious. I knew them all at once. As anyone who has been on This Is Your Life knows, it is a very genuinely emotional thing. My brain was going thud, thud, thud with the effort to think who would come on next and I was so busy worrying about them that I didn't have time to worry about myself.

All my mates from Coronation Street were there. It had struck me when I came into the studio earlier that the cast were all dressed up like dog's dinners for some reason. It even occurred to me they might be snubbing me and had all arranged to go somewhere without me.

The day before I was moaning to Doris about my dreadful cold and having to do an outside shot feeling the way I did.

"Well, I'm just not going to turn up," I told her. She rushed off to Alan in a panic.

"Alan, Alan, Pat says she's not turning up tomorrow."

"Now, you know what she's like," soothed Alan. "Pat's just blowing off. She'll be there."

And I was. So were many dear faces from my years in rep, like lovely Charles Simon and Marilyn Thomas. Sandy Powell, with whom I made Cup Tie Honeymoon all those years ago, came along and one of my best-loved teachers from central school days and many, many other dear and familiar faces. And, most important of all, my beloved Aunt Kit flew in from Canada.

When it was all over I suddenly thought of something extraordinary. That my best friends, all of whom I thought I knew so well, had turned out without exception to be the most accomplished and practised liars. And so had Alan! Visiting his mother, indeed.

We had a steaming row about it.

"My God!" I raged at him. "You've got a marvellous talent for lying."

"Ah, well," I heard him tell a friend later, "I told you what she'd say when they said 'Patricia Phoenix. This is your life.' She'll say, 'Alan Browning. This is my fist.'"

Roy Bottomley This Is Your Life book

Scriptwriter Roy Bottomley recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book, This Is Your Life: The Story of Television's Famous Big Red Book...

Pat Phoenix was the Street's first Life subject. In the late afternoon of 15 November 1972, there was a knock on the door of Number 11, Elsie Tanner's Coronation Street address.

She had just played a scene with Len Fairclough (Peter Adamson) expressing annoyance that her screen husband (later her real-life husband, Alan Browning) was late and they had to go to a party.

He came around the corner and Elsie slammed the door in his face. He banged on the door.

'Elsie, love, don't make matters worse. Get this flamin' door open.'

The door is flung open. Angrily Elsie blurts open, 'I treat myself to a new frock, new hairdo...'

Then it dawned. Her 'husband' had swapped places with a stranger in the Street – Eamonn Andrews. He walked the still-stunned Pat to another Granada studio, from where we made the programme. By this time, Pat had already been a Street resident for twelve years. She was in the very first episode, on 9 December 1960.

Pat Phoenix This Is Your Life

Pat Pilkington was her real name and when she hit hard times as a struggling young actress in London, working on a market stall and sharing one pair of stockings with her flat mate, she decided to change her name.

Staring into the fire one night she said, 'I'm going to change my name to Phoenix. It's a bird that rises from the ashes.'

It was to prove prophetic. She went to Manchester to read for a part in a new six-week series called Florizel Street. When its creator, Tony Warren, heard her read his words, that was it. Said Tony: 'I knew I had found my Elsie Tanner.'

Pat Phoenix This Is Your Life

BBC News Online 20 August 2005

Elsie's red book given to charity

The famous red This Is Your Life book given to Coronation Street actress Pat Phoenix has been donated to a charity shop in Greater Manchester.

The actress, who played glamorous Elsie Tanner on the ITV soap in the 1960s, appeared on the programme in 1972.

The book contains photographs of the star alongside her famous friends and Coronation Street colleagues.

It was given to the Springhill Hospice charity shop in Rochdale anonymously and will be auctioned next month.

Phoenix died of lung cancer in 1986 aged 62, shortly after marrying the actor Tony Booth, father of Prime Minister's wife Cherie Blair.

She was handed the red book when she appeared on This Is Your Life by presenter Eamonn Andrews.

The programme documented the lives of celebrities, and the mementoes would be kept in a large red book which would be handed to the star at the end of each show.

A spokeswoman for the shop said: "We don't know why the person decided to give us the book but it was a wonderful gesture."

"We hope it raises plenty of money for the hospice, as it is a real one-off treasure for Coronation Street fans."

Manchester Evening News 20 August 2005 UPDATED 12 January 2013

Mystery of Street star's book

THE red book given to Coronation Street legend Pat Phoenix when she appeared on This Is Your Life has turned up at a charity shop.

And the showbiz treasure, which will raise vital money for a hospice, is at the centre of a mystery.

The book, packed with fascinating photos of Pat and other Corrie stars, is a collector's item for any Street fan. Pat, who played glamorous, fiery Elsie Tanner, died in 1986 aged 62 from lung cancer – and the book will be auctioned, potentially for thousands of pounds, to help care for the people in the hospice.

It was handed in to the Springhill Hospice charity shop in Rochdale – but the name of the donor is a mystery as people donating gifts do not have to leave their name.

It could be that he or she was a fan or even a member of Pat's family, but the reason why they decided to part with it is unknown. Manchester-born Pat, who lived near Hyde, appeared on TV's This Is Your Life in 1972 at the height of her fame.

The host of the show at the time, Eamonn Andrews, carried a large book which contained his script. At the end of the show he always appeared to hand the book to the guest, saying the famous words "This is your life". The Rochdale treasure is a souvenir of Pat's episode, that was given to the actress.

The auction takes place at Central Auction Rooms on September 17 from 2pm and items are available to view from 10am.

The Mirror 22 August 2005 UPDATED 4 February 2012


By Brian Roberts

THE famous This Is Your Life big red book given to Coronation Street legend Pat Phoenix has turned up in a charity shop.

The 1972 book is packed with photos of the actress, who played glamorous maneater Elsie Tanner in the ITV soap for 24 years.

Inside the cover is the inscription: "Presented to Pat Phoenix as a memento of her appearance as the subject of This Is Your Life".

Pictures of famous friends and Street stars, including stalwarts Ena Sharples, Albert Tatlock, Stan Ogden, Minnie Caldwell and Annie Walker, make it a collector's item.

The book was given to the Springhill Hospice shop in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, by a mystery donor. It is set to raise thousands of pounds when it is auctioned in aid of the hospice next month.

A spokeswoman for the shop said: "We don't know why the person decided to give us the book, but it was a wonderful gesture."

"We hope it raises plenty of money for the hospice, as it is a real one-off treasure for Coronation Street fans."

TV's This Is Your Life host Eamonn Andrews would read from the red book as he presented the show, in which celebrities were given surprise reunions with old friends and family. At the show's finale, he would hand over the book as a keepsake.

Pat's private life was almost as colourful as her TV persona. She married three times in both. She died in 1986, aged 62, following a long fight against lung cancer, just days after marrying actor Tony Booth - father of the Prime Minister's wife Cherie.

Series 13 subjects

Pat Phoenix | Bill Griffiths | Shirley Bassey | Warren Mitchell | Dudley Moore | Phyllis Calvert | Larry Grayson | Clive Sullivan
Bill Shankly | Willie Carson | Jack Smethurst | Mary Peters | Noele Gordon | James Corrigan | Pat Reid | Diana Coupland
Dulcie Gray | Janet Adams | Rita Hunter | Leslie Crowther | Jimmy Logan | Spike Milligan | Jackie Pallo
John Gregson | Jackie Charlton | Francis O'Leary