, Eileen Derbyshire as Emily Bishop (2009)
Coronation Street character
1961, 1962-66, 1967--
27 January 1961
Stuart Latham (1961), H. V. Kershaw (1962), Jack Rosenthal (1967)
The Life and Loves of Elsie Tanner (1987)
Retired, (Former shop assistant, secretary, accounts clerk, café worker, barmaid, charity shop volunteer, hospital volunteer)
3 Coronation Street
Brenda Nugent, Joan Corrie,
Ernest Bishop (1972-78),
Arnold Swain (1980)
Emily Bishop (née Nugent, previously credited in the early days of the show as Miss Nugent) is a long-standing fictional character in the UK television soap opera, Coronation Street. Portrayed by actress Eileen Derbyshire, the character is the longest-standing female character in the series, having first appeared onscreen during the episode which aired 27 January 1961.
1 Character biography,
5 Video and DVD references,
7 External links,
1929-1962: Early life: Emily Nugent was born in Harrogate on 18 October 1929, the daughter of James and Agnes Nugent. Her mother died when she was eleven and she spent the next fifteen years bringing up her siblings with no help or praise from her father. Although shy in comparison to her brother and four sisters, Emily was independent and by the early 1960s ran her own baby linen shop in Rosamund Street, Weatherfield, handling all matters involving the shop by herself and living alone in the flat above, leaving her roots and family home behind. A devout Christian, Emily spent much of her free time engaged in secretarial work for the Weatherfield Mission committee or helping out at the Glad Tidings Mission Hall with Leonard Swindley. Emily greatly admired her pompous colleague but while they were never more than friends, their apparently close relationship was noticed by Emily's father, who was keen for Emily, at thirty-one, to marry soon and thought Swindley would make a good husband for her.
In 1961, Emily's shop faced closure as the lease was up. She was delighted when, after she broke down in front of Swindley, he proposed an amalgamation of her shop and his drapers Swindleys Emporium. Emily graciously accepted, but came to regret it as she did not always enjoy working with Swindley, and he himself was not financially secure. In 1962, he was forced to sell to Niklos Papagopolous's clothing empire Gamma Garments to avoid bankruptcy. The Emprium was taken over but Swindley remained manager, with Emily and Doreen Lostock as assistants.
1962-1966: The unwilling spinster Over time, Emily herself began to worry that she would never marry. She held out hope that Swindley would come to see her as more than an assistant and was elated in 1963 when Swindley saved her job by threatening to resign in protest of Emily's sacking from Gamma, when it was decided the shop's low takings could not support Emily's wages. With Emily on probation, friends and neighbours did more shopping at the store to ensure Emily kept her job. The increase in custom earned Swindley a promotion to Head Office, and his replacement was Neil Crossley, who caused concern for Emily as he stole from the shop's takings and intimidated her with his confrontational manner. Emily reported him and he was sacked. For a short time, Emily ran the shop as manager quite successfully. Even at that, she missed Swindley and when she saw how unhappy he was at Head Office, she resigned so that he could return to his former position.
1964 saw Emily and Swindley grow closer when Emily supported Swindley after he had a nervous breakdown. After some time away, he returned and Emily, realising that waiting for Swindley would mean waiting forever, took advantage of the leap year by proposing marriage. After an initial reaction of shock and terror, Swindley accepted and they planned a wedding for July of that year. As the wedding approached, Emily started having doubts. On her wedding day, with the guests waiting at the Mission, Emily realised that marrying Swindley would make a mockery of the institution of marriage, which she felt should be built on love, and as she didn't love him she couldn't go through with it. When she explained her decision to Swindley, he admitted that he felt the same but didn't have the courage to back out.
As Emily and Swindley had come to a mutual understanding, they were able to continue working together, their relationship continuing as it was. In 1965, Swindley left Weatherfield to take a job as Area Manager of Gamma Garments and Emily took over his responsibilities at Gamma and the Mission. Emily took on Elsie Tanner and Sandra Petty as assistants at Gamma and threw herself into the work.
In 1966, a friend invited Emily to manage a souvenir shop in Majorca. Emily immediately made preparations to leave, but then learned that her father had had a stroke and that the family expected her to look after him, as she was his only unmarried child. Aware that refusing would mean her father going into a home, Emily eventually bowed to family pressure and moved back to Harrogate to nurse him, he passed away in 1968.
1967-1969: A modern woman In 1967 Emily returned to Weatherfield to take over Gamma Garments on Papagopolous's request, having convinced her sisters to take turns to look after their father. Emily moved into the Corner Shop flat in Coronation Street, living in the Street for the first time. With Emily under orders to attract younger custom at Gamma, she gave Dennis Tanner and Lucille Hewitt jobs, only to be accused by them of putting off teen shoppers with her outdated image. To encourage Emily to work on her appearance, Lucille set her up with a friend of hers, Brian Thomas. An already doubtful Emily was alarmed when Brian became infatuated with her, and she decided to introduce him to a young friend of hers, Audrey Hargreaves, to divert his attentions. Fortunately, the ploy worked.
Emily continued to harbour a desire to marry and later that year signed up at a marriage guidance bureau. Through the bureau, she met farmer Frank Starkie. The couple got on well but Emily ended the relationship when she found his farm too much work and realised she was frightened of the cows.
Emily's next contact from the bureau was Douglas Preston, a man dominated by his sister Amy. When Emily realised Amy was against their relationship, she decided to shock Amy by making plans to move into a flat with Douglas, realising that Douglas had seen the bureau as a means of escape from Amy. Once Emily had given him the confidence to stand up to his sister, she broke off the relationship.
The following year, Emily fell for Hungarian demolition expert Miklos Zadic. While they made an unlikely couple, Miklos agreed to go out with Emily and they found they got on well, with Emily thrilled by his passion. The relationship hit the rocks when Emily refused to have sex before marriage, prompting Miklos to take a job in Newcastle, deciding they were wrong for each other. He offered Emily a holiday in Scotland with him before he started his new job. Emily accepted the invitation and returned to Weatherfield, having lost her virginity. On her return, Emily moved into the Rovers, which led her to put in the occasional shift behind the bar. Later in the year, Emily and Lucille lost their jobs at Gamma Garments when Papagopolous declared bankruptcy. As he hadn't told them the news until the day of the shop closure, they rebelled by using the shop's phone to make long distance calls.
With no money to pay rent, Emily found work for an Import and Export Office. Emily quickly realised her bosses were crooked and walked out after tipping off the police. Fortunately, Emily soon found a secure position at St. Mary's nursery through her friendship with Reverend Reggie James.
Emily continued at the Rovers until 1969 when landlady Annie Walker threw her out for causing her son Billy to fall out with her; Annie had been against his relationship with Jasmine Choong as she was Chinese, but put on an act of kindness which Emily warned Jasmine was false. Billy had left the Rovers in anger at Annie. After a brief spell living with Elsie at No.11, during which time Emily annoyed Elsie with her clear disapproval of her relationship with married man Dave Smith, Emily returned to the Rovers.
1969-1972: A bride at last Later that year, Emily was offered a job at Ernest Bishop's camera shop, and accepted it on the condition that her friend Ena Sharples was given the position of resident caretaker. Ernest was a lay preacher and like Emily was often engaged in Mission work, so they saw a lot of each other and quickly became friends.
In 1970, Emily stopped working at the Rovers when Ernie told her that the Mission committee disapproved, although Emily continued to live there. The following year, Emily joined a protest against plans for a mail order warehouse to be built in the Street to accompany the new Community Centre. The protest failed and ironically Emily soon took a job as a clerk at the warehouse, to accompany her new position as secretary at the Centre, with Emily elected to the committee over Ernie. Emily enjoyed spending time with Ernie, but Emily broke off their budding relationship when it was discovered that Ernie was behind a series of caricature sketches of the neighbours which Emily deemed offensive. However, they quickly realised that they were right for each other and reconciled, with Emily accepted a marriage proposal from Ernie soon afterwards.
The wedding plans were put on hold later in 1971 when Ernie was arrested in Spain for offending against public morality by taking photographs of topless models on a beach. He had been on a job for William Piggott and Emily had taken over his camera shop in his absence, quitting her job at the warehouse to do so. Ernie returned early in 1972 and the couple finally made preparations to marry. The service, held at Mawdsley Street Chapel on 5 April, went perfectly although Ernie had last-minute doubts after hearing that Emily had jilted Swindley. The couple honeymooned in Edale and moved into 3 Coronation Street, with Ernie buying the house.
1972-1978: Marriage to Ernest Married life for the Bishops consisted largely of trying to make ends meet on a limited income, and ironing out the differences in their relationship. In 1973, Ernie tried to boost the business's takings by employing Rita Littlewood as a rep. Emily was annoyed that he had taken on the extra work himself rather than give her the job, and proved her worth by taking an assignment photographing strippers. Ernie was impressed when Emily handled herself well and formed relationships with the strippers.
By 1974, the Bishops found they were arguing too much for their liking, having clashed over Ernie's production of The Importance of Being Earnest, with Ernie walking out during rehearsals when the actors stood up to him for being too grumpy. When they fell out over a planned visit to see Sheila Crossley, with Ernie eventually letting Emily go on her own, Emily was shocked on her return to find out Ernie had been to the Marriage Guidance Bureau to ask for advice.
On Emily's suggestion, the Bishops registered as foster parents, hoping that looking after children would unite them as a couple. They were given Lucy and Vernon Foyle to look after and while tired by the work they enjoyed having children in the house; Emily had come to accept that she would never have children. They were disappointed when the children's father returned early to collect them.
Money continued to be a worry for the Bishops. In 1976, things took a turn for the worse as the lease on the shop was trebled and Ernie couldn't afford the rent. When he was refused a loan, he took his accountant's advice and went into liquidation. As Ernie was signing on the dole, he didn't want Emily to take work out of pride, as he would have been ashamed if Emily was to be the sole bread-winner for the household. When Emily took work as an orderly at the hospital and sold her engagement ring for £100 to help raise capital, Ernie agreed to play the piano at the Gatsby club in desperation. Emily was furious with Rita for getting Ernie the job and made him give it up, determined that they would never stoop quite so low.
Their fortunes improved when Mike Baldwin arrived in the area to open denim factory Baldwin's Casuals in Coronation Street and gave Ernie a job as wages clerk. Emily kept on her job at the hospital for extra income and for a time the Bishops lived life comfortably. With more money in the bank, they were able to spend more on luxuries, and in January 1978 they were planning a holiday abroad. On 9 January, while making up wage packets at the factory, Ernie was interrupted by two men, Ed Jackson and Dave Lester. Armed with a shotgun, they demanded the factory's petty cash and a powerless Ernie obliged. After he handed the money over, however, Mike Baldwin entered the office. He knocked the arm of one of the men, causing the gun to go off. Ernie was shot in the chest. Emily noticed the ensuing chaos at the factory and fainted when she was told that Ernie had been shot. Ernie later died on the operating table.
Emily tried to cope alone following Ernie's death but accepted help from friends and neighbours. She stayed with her sister Norah Seddon for a while but it was Deirdre Langton who helped Emily out of herself.
Fortunately, Emily soon had peace of mind as the culprits were quickly caught and sentenced to life imprisonment. Emily went to court to see them receive their sentences.
Later in the year, Emily tired of her hospital work and took a job in charge of the new Dawson's Cafe in Rosamund Street. She also let single mother Deirdre and her daughter Tracy live with her at No. 3 following Deirdre's separation from husband Ray after his affair with Janice and his departure to Holland.
1979-1981: Arnold Swain - the bigamist In 1980, the cafe was bought by Jim Sedgewick, who turned it into a transport cafe. Emily decided to quit as she didn't like the roughness of the lorry drivers. She spent a short time looking after Tracy at home while Deirdre looked for work, but quickly grew weary of being taken for granted and admitted to Deirdre that she felt trapped in the house. They hit on an idea to go into business together and formed the Coronation Street Secretarial Bureau, with Emily doing the bookkeeping for clients and Deirdre typing.
One of their clients was pet shop owner Arnold Swain, who quickly asked Emily on a date. Emily was initially worried about his intentions as he kept asking questions about her finances, leading Emily to wonder if he was interested in her for her money, but when Deirdre investigated and found out that he was well invested, Emily began a relationship with him. She was astonished when he proposed marriage after a few weeks, and she instinctively turned him down, telling him she only wanted a friend. A short time later he asked again, and this time Emily accepted. The wedding took place at Weatherfield Register Office on 10 September, with Emily following Arnold's wishes that they not be married in a church as he wasn't religious. A difference of opinion followed on where the Swains would live; Emily wanted to stay in Coronation Street where she had many friends but Arnold persuaded her that they should move to a cottage in Derbyshire.
On 3 December, an insurance agent called at the pet shop while Emily was in charge and told her that a Margaret Swain - Arnold's wife - wanted to finish her policy. When questioned by Emily, Arnold explained that his marriage to Margaret wasn't real in his mind as they had separated after three weeks, and she had been dead to him for years. Emily refused to accept his poor justification for bigamy and threw him out of the house. After finding the courage to face the neighbours, Emily spoke to the police as she wanted to confirm that she wasn't legally married. In doing so, she set the police onto Arnold, much to her regret as she hadn't wanted to get him into trouble.
In March the following year, Emily came home one evening to find Arnold waiting for her, having let himself in. Arnold, showing signs of severe mental distress, refused to let Emily leave the house and tried to convince her to join him in a suicide pact so that they could be together in the next life. Emily managed to escape when Arnold went upstairs to get her Bible, but when she returned with Len Fairclough for protection she found he had fled. Although terrified, Emily was worried about Arnold and felt guilty when she agreed to act as bait, allowing the police to arrest him. Arnold was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, where he died at the end of the year. The following year he left Emily £2,000 in his will. Emily didn't feel comfortable keeping the money so decided to spend it on a new trampoline for the Community Centre and a hospital bed in Ernest's name. After making the commitments, Emily was visited by Margaret Swain, who revealed that Arnold had left her on their honeymoon, and not the other way around as he had told her. Emily felt sorry for Margaret and gave her £2,000 for her own money as she felt she deserved equal compensation.
1981-1988: The lodgers move in Having dissolved the Secretarial Bureau, Emily looked for work and found a job as a wages clerk at Baldwin's Casuals; Ernie's old job. Emily developed a good working relationship with Mike but wasn't always comfortable with him bending the rules and his usual harshness with the machinists. As Deirdre and Tracy had moved out when Deirdre married Ken Barlow, Emily was starting to feel lonely and gave binman Curly Watts a room at No.3 in 1983 when he was looking for lodgings. She was worried at first that with his youth would bring noise and worry but he quickly proved himself to be considerate and reliable. Curly was followed in 1985 by Kevin Webster, who was homeless when his father and sister moved away, but when Kevin found Emily too strict and her house too old-fashioned he moved in to No.13 with Hilda Ogden.
In 1986, No.3 was burgled when Emily let in two men she thought were from the water board. Emily's engagement ring was stolen as well as Curly's telescope. When the insurance company didn't pay out as Curly was a lodger, Emily felt guilty and gave him the money to pay back the Hire Purchase company he was buying the telescope from. Curly repaid Emily's kindness by giving her a job doing the accounts for his antiques business, Cheap and Cheerful, which he ran with Terry Duckworth. The business folded the following year.
Curly moved out in 1988, to move into the shop flat with Shirley Armitage. Emily wasn't alone for long as Percy Sugden, having been forcibly retired from his caretaker position at the Community Centre, was waiting to move into flat 11 Parliament Street and as it wouldn't be ready for two months he dumped himself on Emily, who agreed to take him in, although the insufferable war veteran deceived Emily by initially claiming his stay would be a mere two weeks. Upon moving in, Percy immediately took charge of No.3, doing all the chores, although Emily fought his attempts to run her life. She was relieved when he moved into his new flat but upon seeing his new living conditions and his unhappiness she steeled herself to offer him a room at her house permanently. Percy jumped at the chance, although much to Emily's disappointment he was no less insufferable a lodger than a houseguest.
1989-1992: Retirement The following year, Emily rumbled a plot by Mike to sell the factory to property developer Maurice Jones. When the sale was complete, the factory and Community Centre were demolished, losing Emily and the factory girls their jobs, with little to no notice. As Jones was responsible for the redundancies, Emily tackled him for compensation. When he refused, Emily, backed by her former co-workers, picketed the building site and arranged a sit-in, forcing Jones's hand. Now sixty, Emily was forced by circumstances into retirement, but continued to busy herself with charity work. In 1991, she opened a charity shop at the empty 2 Coronation Street shop unit, designed to raise funds for the Friends of Weatherfield Hospital. The shop operated until December of that year.
After a relaxing holiday at Rhos-on-Sea, Emily started thinking more about where she wanted to spend her retirement and decided to sell No.3 and move to Rhos-on-Sea. Percy didn't take the news well and tried to put off potential buyers in a hope that Emily would change her mind. Nevertheless, Percy moved out just as Emily found a buyer for the house, but as Emily basked in a Percy-free house she realised that she didn't want to move, she only wanted peace and quiet, and decided not to sell. She felt guilty when Percy was rushed to hospital after suffering an allergic reaction to his new landlord's cat. While he quickly recovered, with nowhere else to go Percy was to be moved to an OAP home. When Emily found out, she reluctantly asked him to move back in with her.
1992-1996: Breakdown and recovery Early in 1992, Emily fell into a depression and started exhibiting odd behaviour, such as forgetting engagements and becoming easily confused. Percy became worried but Emily refused help and friends, who hadn't noticed anything out of the ordinary, accused Percy of being too interfering. When Emily signed over a £10,000 loan to Mike, ignoring Percy's attempts to stop her, Percy decided to move out, but changed his mind when Emily asked him to stay. From there, he tried to protect her reputation and state of mind by covering up her lapses in memory. In June, Emily had an episode and wandered out of the house in her slippers. She was found by Percy and Alf Roberts at the train station, and was taken to hospital, where she received psychiatric treatment. Emily assured Percy she didn't blame him and thanked him for everything he had done for her.
When she returned home, Emily was upset to find Percy and Ken had turned on Mike for "conning" Emily out of £10,000, even though Emily was still adamant that she was of sound mind when giving Mike the money. Mike was preparing to sue Ken for slander but dropped the case, ostensibly for Emily's benefit (but in reality because no one would testify against Ken for him). While attending a wedding the following year, Emily met vicar Bernard Morton and they quickly became friends. Emily started helping out at his parish and worked with him on the Crisis at Christmas campaign, which saw her distribute food and clothes to the homeless on Christmas Day 1993. In the new year, Bernard told Emily he was leaving the church because of a crisis of faith. Taking up Emily's suggestion that he begin his new life with a holiday, Bernard invited Emily to go on a walking holiday in the Dales with him. Emily agreed, with the pair sleeping in adjoining rooms. As they had agreed that they only wanted a friendship, Bernard felt they should stop seeing each other when he told Emily he had developed real feelings for her. He later told her he loved her and proposed. Emily responded to his interest in her and agreed to marry.
Unsurprisingly, Percy was slow to wish the pair well but he eventually so. When he did, he let slip to Bernard about Emily's breakdown, which caused Bernard great concern, as he had nursed his mentally ill mother for years and couldn't bear to go through it again. Emily was heartbroken as he broke off the engagement.
1997-2000: The eco-warrior In 1997, the Battersby family moved into No.5. The noisy family caused distress for the other Street residents and Emily was disturbed to find out Les Battersby was entering the other houses using the loftspace and violating their homes, including her own. Percy, who was finding it especially difficult to live next door to them, decided that living in a home at Mayfield Court was preferable to his current living conditions and moved out.
Later in the year, Emily's nephew Geoffrey "Spider" Nugent asked if he could stay with her. Emily was delighted with ecologist Spider's company as he made her feel young by involving her in his various campaigns against the Council. One such campaign, in January 1998, saw Spider lead a protest against a Council plot to build on the Red Rec, Weatherfield's largest green space. Emily was keen to help and climbed up a tree so it couldn't be cut down. Having braced the cold and spent the night in the tree, Emily's story made the front page of the Weatherfield Gazette. Fortunately, the discovery of a Roman bath house resulted in the Red Rec being declared a historical site, making the protest a success. Emily was so thrilled that she went on to help Spider with further protests and persuaded him to stand for the Council so he could fight for his beliefs. Emily was briefly given the job of being Spider's campaign manager but stood down when she decided her ideas were out of date. Spider stayed until 1999, when he moved into a bedsit with Toyah Battersby.
In 1999, Emily returned to work as she took a job at Mike's new factory Underworld. She quickly found however that the new technology was beyond her understanding and she struggled to operate the computer. When she thought she had deleted the payroll, she resigned, deciding she was no longer cut out for such work.
When Emily's house was ransacked by burglars, Emily was petrified and for a time lived in her living room, scared that the thieves would return. Spider stayed to look after Emily for a while but soon left to go travelling. Emily, unwilling to live alone, offered her spare room to Norris Cole, who gratefully accepted. Like Percy, Norris was something of a busybody but as Norris had a full-time job behind the counter at the Kabin, Emily had enough space that she didn't feel as invaded by his presence.
2001-2003: Richard Hillman In 2001, Spider returned from his travels and told Emily about his plan to open a juice bar in London. Emily wanted to invest in the business so that Spider could realise his dream and raised £15,000 by selling her house to a company in a home reversion plan, which would see her receive monthly payments for the house which would see her live comfortably for the rest of her life. Norris was wary of the scheme, which was a suggestion of Richard Hillman, a financial adviser and neighbour. Norris found out that Richard was a director of the company which now owned Emily's house. Nevertheless, Emily was grateful for Richard's help.
The following year was a difficult time for Emily as she went through an extended period of illness, suffering consistent migraines and flu. Norris remained suspicious of Richard, but the more he warned Emily about him, the more Emily trusted him and encouraged him to call round any time he liked. Unknown to Emily, Richard had indeed become determined to gain access to the money he had tied in Emily's house and had decided to kill her. After a failed attempt to smother her with a cushion on Christmas Day, Richard executed a plot to hit her with a crowbar while she was babysitting Joshua Peacock, and framing Aidan Critchley for the murder. Richard carried out the plot as planned, but was interrupted by Maxine Peacock, who he also knocked out before fleeing. Emily survived the attack, but Maxine died, leaving Emily full of guilt. However, she and the neighbours believed that Aidan had carried out the murder until Richard confessed the crime to his wife Gail. Richard died in March after unsuccessfully trying to kill his entire family.
As her house was owned by Richard's company, Emily was worried that the escapade would leave her homeless, but fortunately this was not the case and Emily retained ownership of the house.
2004-: Moving on: Despite her advancing years, Emily remained active in the community, and arranged a demonstration outside the Council offices to protest a Council tax increase, which Emily objected to in light of the plan for an expensive memorial fountain for the late Mayor Alf Roberts to be built by the Council. Emily refused to pay her Council tax and received a summons, although before she could take matters further Norris paid the bill, much to her fury.
Emily continued to take in occasional lodgers, with Ray Langton and Mel Hutchwright occupying her front room for brief periods in 2005, Jed Stone in 2008, Ernest's niece Freda Burgess staying for short periods in the late 2000s, and Tracy and her daughter Amy in 2012 for a short period, although she put Tracy out due to her scheming towards Norris. In 2006, Emily became friends with churchgoer Ed Jackson. She was stunned when he admitted that he was the man who had shot Ernest dead in 1978. Having since served a life sentence, he claimed to be a changed man and that his interest in the church was genuine. He had sought Emily out to seek her forgiveness so that he could live with his act. Emily couldn't bring herself to offer forgiveness and had a crisis of faith as she felt that by refusing to forgive she wasn't following the way of God. She told Ed that she hated him and wanted him dead. In doing so, she had trouble going to church as she felt like a hypocrite. Upon hearing that Ed was suicidal, however, Emily forced herself to offer genuine forgiveness, begging Ed not to kill himself as she didn't want his death on her conscience.
In 2009, Norris's half-brother Ramsay Clegg arrived in Weatherfield from Australia. He received a frosty reception from Norris, despite their not having seen each other for fifty years. Emily and Rita befriended him and found him to be a friendly, interesting man and tried to encourage Norris to bury the hatchet. Emily in particular warmed to Ramsay and Norris failed to notice them developing feelings for each other, concerned only with his own resentment of Ramsay dating back to the very short time they knew each other as children. Norris's refusal to make peace with his brother eventually caused Ramsay to return to Australia, devastating Emily who launched into a tirade at the uncompassionate Norris. She was further stricken to learn that Ramsay had died on the flight back to Australia, and that he had a brain tumour he hadn't told anyone about. His visit to Weatherfield was a last attempt to make peace with Norris before his death. Rita consoled Emily with the fact that at least Ramsay had found her.
Now 83, Emily continues to live at No.3 Coronation Street with Norris as a lodger.
The character of Emily was introduced when actress Eileen Derbyshire took on the role for Episode 15 on Friday, 27 January. The character had formally been introduced in Episode 4, when Ena Sharples fainted and "Miss Nugent" comes to her and Leonard Swindley's aid. At first, the character was simply called "Miss Nugent"; it wasn't until 1962 that she was given the name "Emily" by the show's writers. She continued to be credited on the programme as "Miss Nugent" until 1969.
Although rarely seen, the set of Emily's kitchen is the oldest surviving set. (The second oldest set is Ken's kitchen, with the famous avocado-green tiles.) All other sets have been redecorated at least once since we first saw Emily's kitchen. Emily's back room/parlour, however, was redecorated off screen. In the story a fire was caused by a candle left unattended by Spider and Toyah when they made their way upstairs after a romantic evening. Spider was able to track down matching wallpaper to cover up the fire damage so that Emily would not know what had happened, but in reality, the wallpaper was no longer obtainable, so the whole set was re-decorated in a very similar style. Emily has lived at No. 3 Coronation Street since 1972.
In December 1960, actress Eileen Derbyshire was approached by Granada to play a part in the show, but the actress was tied up in a Christmas stage play. Of this Derbyshire said: "Four weeks after it started (airing) they said I could either wait until they introduced a new family into the programme or take the tiny part of a little, shy woman helper at the Mission Hall" going on to say "I have always been a fatalist, so I took the bird in one hand, not realising what a momentous decision I was making".
In January 2009, a Coronation Street spokesperson denied claims that the character of Emily, along with other established actresses who portray characters Rita Sullivan and Betty Williams were axed by producer Kim Crowther in a bid to save money on salaries.
During an interview in 1991, Derbyshire spoke about her character's thirty years in the show, stating: "The writers have a tough enough task as it is, trying to find new storylines for a character who has been in the serial for three decades." Going on to say "I just get on with it. Emily has had a more colourful past than you might think. She has had lots of men friends and liaisons. In the early days, when they were stuck for something to do with her, I think the writers used to say 'Let's give Emily another boyfriend.' I've lost count of the number of men friends she has had".
Over the years, the character has proved her good neighbour image by taking in a number of lodgers, most notably Percy Sugden, Curly Watts, her nephew Spider, Rita Tanner and current lodger Norris Cole.
In 2001, a storyline involving Emily lending her nephew Spider £15,000 for a new business venture was criticised for not being authentic. Journalist Tony Bridgland writing for the Telegraph said of the plot; "It is beginning to look as though Coronation Street's researchers failed to do enough homework to make their plot watertight."The Guardian compiled a list of ten favourite Christmas moments from soap; on the list was the 2002 Christmas episode where Richard Hillman came close to suffocating Emily with a pillow as she slept.
Discussing the scene where Emily was attacked by Richard Hillman in 2003, critic Chris Diamond wryly commented: "Surely Emily wouldn't be in the line of fire? Poor, drippy, sensible shoes Emily? But she was and the scene where Richard laid the blow on her was one of the most genuinely shocking things I have ever seen on television. I just couldn't believe my eyes. And that was where the genius of the episode lay. I knew Emily was going to get it. I saw Richard creeping up behind her and I was fully cognizant of the fact that the crowbar in his hand was not for snagging her cardie. But I was sure that even at this point something was going to happen that would divert Richard from his target. When the blow actually fell I was utterly amazed."
Dek Hogan writing for media website Digital Spy in 2005 praised Eileen Derbyshire's comedic abilities; "the book club storyline doesn't exactly fill me with joy but does have the advantage of giving some fine comedic material to the underused talents of Eileen Derbyshire. As Emily Bishop she has shown a major flair for these scenes in the past." In 2006, writer Eve-Marie Wilson in an article criticised the plot which saw Emily forgiving her husband's killer: "...on Coronation Street recently, Emily Bishop was having a crisis of conscience, could she or couldn't she forgive Ed, the man who had killed her husband all those years ago. After two or three episodes the matter was resolved. Had that incident occurred on a soap opera she'd still be undecided six months later!"
In 2009 Ruth Deller of entertainment website Lowculture commented that Emily is underused in storylines, but praised her stating: "Emily is one of those characters who seems to have always been around but rarely gets singled out for attention, yet she can be both funny and heartbreaking. She's really stood out in her scenes this month and has been the only good thing about the Norris/Ramsay storyline of infinite tedium." In the book "Women and soap opera: a study of prime time soaps", Christine Geraghty describes Emily as being "shy, frightened of speaking out until roused, a spinster type whose complex marital history is seldom referred to".
Video and DVD references:
Coronation Street: The Early Days. Video. Granada Media Group, 2001.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license