Jill Summers

Honour Margaret Rosell Santoi Fuller, better known as Jill Summers (8 December 1910 – 11 January 1997), was a British music hall performer and comedian. Her career in entertainment lasted eighty years and in later life she achieved stardom as Phyllis Pearce, in Granada Television’s long-running soap opera Coronation Street.

Summers was born in Eccles, Lancashire. She first performed on stage aged six, in a comedy double act with her brother Tom. When her mother died when she was only 13, she went to work in a cotton mill. Later she ran a combined hairdresser’s and newsagent’s with her first husband (who was more than 20 years older than she was). He died only a few years into their marriage.

During World War II, she entertained troops as part of ENSA, and was known as Lancashire Comedienne Jill Summers, the Pin-Up Girl of British Railways. Most of her variety material was written by her second husband, Dr Clifford Simpson-Smith, with whom she stayed married until his death in 1986. She became a comedian when she tripped up on stage and swore, which the audience lapped up.

Summers first appeared in Coronation Street (very briefly) in 1972, playing Bessie Proctor, a cleaner with Hilda Ogden. In 1982, she reappeared as Phyllis Pearce, a blue rinsed pensioner, forever lusting after pompous ex-serviceman Percy Sugden. She starred in the series until her death in 1997.

Other appearances by Summers include Agatha (alongside Dustin Hoffman and Vanessa Redgrave), Play For Today, Sez Lez (with Les Dawson), Ready When You Are, Mr McGill, and performing a Victoria Wood scripted monologue in 1982’s Wood and Walters, as well as appearing in her TV play Nearly A Happy Ending.

Summers died of kidney failure in January 1997. In their autobiographies, released in different years, former Coronation Street stars Jean Alexander, Bill Waddington, Lynne Perrie, Julie Goodyear and Amanda Barrie described Jill as a true professional actress who was witty, hilarious and outspokenly funny.