Per the request of an Afternoon Tea viewer, Jean Fergusson, who played Marina in Last of the Summer Wine, is our featured actor this week. Fergusson, who was actually the only true Yorkshire-born and bred born actor in the series, was born December 30, 1944, and is twenty years younger than Robert Fyfe who plays the love of her life, the hapless Howard.
Some of Fergusson's fondest childhood memories are of her life in the village of Woolley near Wakefield where she was born. The family later moved to Wales, where Fergusson learned her acting craft at "The Castle" (the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama). Before getting the role of Marina, which she played for twenty-four years until LOTSW concluded in 2010, Fergusson mainly worked in the theatre. Rarely was she out of work, since her first job at the Oldham Coliseum, where she performed for two years in a variety of roles on numerous national tours. Fergusson also appeared in several television shows. You might for instance remember her as Mrs. Tremayne in All Creatures Great & Small.
Joining the cast of LOTSW came about in 1984 when Fergusson sent a "Get Well Soon" card to a director she had worked with in the '70s after he'd fallen ill. The day he received the card, he also received a phone call asking him to recommend someone to play "a blowsy blonde" in the LOTSW stage show. The director recommended Fergusson, who accepted the role and thus was born Marina. The character was such a big hit in the stage show that Roy Clark decided to incorporate Marina - along with Howard and Pearl - into his television series. The director who had recommended Fergusson for the role later told her had it not been for the card she'd sent, he'd have never thought of her, as it had been a decade since they'd worked together. Talk about good timing, eh?!
While making LOTSW, in the 1990s, Fergusson also researched, wrote, directed and starred in the one woman show She Knows, You Know!, about the life and tragic decline of one of England's best loved comedienne's, Hylda Baker. Although nothing like Baker, who was very short and very plump, as a child Fergusson used to entertain her playmates in the school playground by imitating Baker. Little did she realize at the time that one day she'd be performing as Baker in London's West End, let alone receiving a Best Actress nomination for the UK's equivalent of the Tony Awards.
After LOTSW ended Ferguson starred in Britain's longest running soap opera, Coronation Street. More recently, she has been making headlines in the UK by selling off the vintage bicycle her character Marina used in LOTSW. The 1950 bicycle was given to Fergusson when they got Marina a new bike in the mid-1990s. Before taking it home in her hatchback, Fergusson had several of her cast mates - many of whom have since died - sign it. She then hung it on a couple of hooks in her garage and there it has stayed for the last couple of decades.
This past March, when Fergusson moved from Yorkshire to London, she realized she had no space for the bike in her new home and sadly had to get rid of it at auction, where it sold for £500.
"If I could have kept it, I would have done", said Fergusson, "but I'll let some wonderful fan have the pleasure of it."
You can see Fergusson as Marina, weekdays at 1:30pm in Last of the Summer Wine on Afternoon Tea.
If there's someone you'd like to find out more about who appears in an Afternoon Tea show, drop me a line.
To contact Heather:
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117