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A night to remember city funnywoman Jill

Jill Alex and Charlie Drake

Jill Alex and Charlie Drake

She was never a household name, but Jill Alex had a reputation for entertaining an audience.

The Sheffield comedienne started as a singer on the working men’s clubs’ circuit in 1960, before progressing to compere at venues such as Batley Variety Club and The Aquarius in Chesterfield, alongside big names such as Johnny Mathis, Des O’Connor and Neil Sedaka.

TV included Wheel Tappers and Shunters Club, Game For A Laugh, The Generation Game and Variety Showtime.

Inevitably, she was compared sometimes with fellow Sheffield funnywoman Marti Caine – and her heyday will be recalled in a memorial concert at Woodseats Club in The Dale on September 10.

To mark what would have been her 70th birthday, it is being organised by her son, Jonathan, himself a club performer, as an updated version of Wheel Tappers and Shunters.

“With some great one-liners and a cheeky twinkle in her eye, she was superb at exuding humour,” said Jonathan.

“Right to the end, she had the nursing staff in stitches!”

Aged 69, Jill died of cancer last April after a 30 year career in showbiz.

She was born Gillian Yeardley, originally working in comedy with her sister, Jean, as the Alex Sisters.

Jill would impersonate Charlie Chaplin, going into the audience and having a drink out of some man’s pint or even cutting his tie in half!

One of Jill’s final shows was in the stage play, Happiest Days Of Your Life, with Richard Murdoch and Charlie Drake whose friendship with Jill lasted until the comedian’s death in 2006.

Local musican John Firminger said she was a “tremendous entertainer. She had a lovely bubbly personality and was fabulous company. She was very much like Marti Caine – a cheeky Yorkshire lass”.

In retirement, Jill and husband, ex-policeman Geoff, ran the Eyam Tea Rooms. Jill was to move to Cromer in Norfolk and then to Florida. 
But she came back to the UK, to Matlock. She was one of a group of ‘old pros’ swapping stories at The Chantrey in Dronfield, home of fellow entertainers Roland Roy and Jackie Toaduff.

The concert features Jon Alex, with Shaun Whittaker playing the part of Colin Crompton and Mathew Johnson, Bernard Manning. Also lined up are Ruth Stanford, Jo Mansfield, Robbie H and Silvia Jubilee and bands The PreFABS, Junkyard Dog and Sneakin’ Stupidy.

Admission is £5, with proceeds split between Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Cystic Fibrosis and cosmetic therapy charity Look Good, Feel Better. Tickets: 07834 382782.

 

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