Many people watching the 1970’s sitcom The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin will have been aware of Leonard Rossiter's Liverpool origins, fewer, however will have known that the actress who played his wife, Pauline Yates, also grew up in the city.
Pauline Lettice Yates was born on 16th June 1929 in St Helens, the eldest child of Thomas S Yates, a traveller in cough medicine and lung tonic, and his wife Marjorie who ran a corner shop. The family moved to Liverpool whilst she was a child and their home was at 75 Parthenon Drive L13. She attended Childwall Valley High School for girls, leaving when she was 17 intent on pursuing a career on the stage. Apparently she was given an ultimatum by her mother to find work within a year to train as a teacher. In fact Pauline Yates was to be that relatively rare case of an actor who was never out of work.
Her first job was as assistant stage manager at Oldham repertory company, going on to learn her trade with companies across the country. Well-schooled by her time on the stage she was soon finding regular work in the ever-expanding realms of TV soaps and sit-coms. Her TV c.v. reads like a directory of the top shows of the day, with appearances in Emergency Ward Ten, Z Cars, Softly Softly, Dixon of Dock Green, Maigret, Human Jungle and many more. In 1972 she starred in her own series on Thames TV, Harriet’s Back In Town, and in 1975 co-starred with another Liverpudlian, Derek Nimmo, in My Honourable Mrs, in which they both played Conservative MPs. It was her casting as Elizabeth Perrin which brought her a degree of national fame, with the memorable dialogue of “Have a nice day at the office…..I Won’t.”.
She married the actor and writer Donald Churchill in 1960 and they had two children, Polly, a writer, and Jemma, an actress. He died in 1991, aged 60, from a heart attack on the set of the TV programme El C.I.D. in Spain. In her later years she lived at Denville Hall, a home for retired actors, she died on 21st January 2015, aged 85.
In a delightfully affectionate obituary her niece makes reference to Pauline Yates’ great affection for swearing. She recalls that when visiting her at the nursing home “she characteristically rose to her full height in her wheelchair, looked at me looking at her, and, with perfect projection told me to “Fuck off!”.
Pauline Yates family home in Liverpool.
Pictured with fellow Liverpool actor Leonard Rossiter in Reginald Perrin.
© Liverpool Footprints