Sister Evangelina's death on Call the Midwife - played marvellously by Pam Ferris - left not a dry eye in the country.
Now, Pam has revealed that real reason she had to leave the show was because of her beloved dogs.
"We filmed the first couple of series of Call the Midwife in north London and that was a do-able train commute from my home in East Kent, although it still meant very early mornings and not getting home until eight or nine at night.
"But when the set moved to Surrey, I had no choice but to drive and that took forever because the M25 was always jammed. I started staying in a hotel but that meant I was never home and so didn’t get to see much of my husband or my two dogs – a Lurcher called Stanley and Elsie, aParsons’ Jack Russell. I tried to find a flat to rent so that my husband and dogs would be able to spend half the week with me but I couldn’t find anywhere that would take dogs.”
Pam adores dogs and didn’t have to think twice when Blue Cross asked her to become an Ambassador for them.
She became involved with Blue Cross some years ago, after seeing them featured on the TV programme, Pet Rescue.
“Do you remember that show?” she asks. “It highlighted animals and pets who needed homes. We had one Jack Russell at the time and we wanted a companion for him. Two elderly female dogs were shown – one was a Corgi/Jack Russell cross and the other was a funny little Yorkie. They were tea-and-biscuit dogs, lapdogs, and both had been abandoned. They were sitting in a cage and looking forlorn as if to say, ‘What have we done wrong?’ They were both about 11.
"We thought we’d be able to give them three or four years of happy life. We drove to Burford in Oxfordshire, Blue Cross HQ, and met the dogs. Then there was a home visit to see if we were suitable and happily we were. It turned out that Sophie, the Corgi/Jack Russell cross was nearer eight than 11 – she’d appeared older because she was so unfit and depressed. But once she was with us, she lived for another nine years.
"Now we have Stan and Elsie – and they’re both amazing. Stan was a rescue dog – he’d been dumped with his two sisters at nearly a year old. He was just a scabby skeleton when we first saw him – now he’s so beautiful he stops the traffic. We’ve had Elsie from a puppy. We wanted company for Stan and it was easier to integrate a puppy than another full-size dog. He’s elegant, athletic and lazy while Elsie is excitable, tireless and passionate.”
And do they get on?
“Yes – although she likes to put her head in his mouth on a daily basis,” Pam laughs.
“When he’s relaxing, she’ll come over and poke and pull at his mouth until he opens it. Then she puts her head inside and shrieks when he tries to close his teeth. It’s very funny – rather like seeing a very naughty girl doing what she likes with a big, sleepy bloke.”
Pam on the work on the Blue Cross
In her role as Ambassador of Blue Cross, Pam has visited their hospital for pets in London’s Victoria.
“The staff do an incredible job for minimal costs – there is no official funding, the charity relies entirely on donations,” she says. “Vet fees can be so expensive and many people can’t afford them. But why should they be deprived of the company, love and companionship of their pets because they can’t afford the bills?
“The love of a pet can be vital to the wellbeing of its owner. In this sense, Blue Cross help people as well as their pets.”
- Words and interview by Alison James
- Find out about Pam's dementia heartache
- For more information about Blue Cross call 0300 777 1897, or visit www.bluecross.org.uk
- For more star chat, pick up the latest copy of Yours magazine
Did you know...?
- Pam was born in Hanover, Lower Saxony, Germany, to Welsh parents, while her father was serving in the Royal Air Force
- In 1986, she married actor Roger Frost
- In the last series of Call the Midwife Pam starred in, her character Sister Evangelina struggle to cope after suffering a stroke and losing movement in her right arm. She said she could no longer work as a midwife.
- Pam is good friends with co-star Judy Parfitt, 80, who plays eccentric Sister Monica Joan
- Pam starred on television as Ma Larkin in The Darling Buds of May, and as Laura Thyme in Rosemary & Thyme, and has played parts in family films based on works by British authors as Miss Trunchbull in Matilda and as Aunt Marge in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban