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Phyllis Martha Crane is a nurse and midwife from Leeds who joins Nonnatus House in Series 4, initially as a substitute for Sister Evangelina, but after Camilla Noakes announced her resignation Phyllis became a permanent resident of Nonnatus House. She is portrayed by Linda Bassett.

Overview[]

Phyllis is a private district nurse and midwife, arriving in 1960 as temporary cover for Sister Evangelina who is on sick-leave. From Leeds, she speaks in a strong Yorkshire accent.

She is incredibly forceful and not one to conform to society's expectations. She promptly distinguishes herself at Nonnatus House by arriving in a Morris Minor and announcing her vegetarianism.

Phyllis is the chalk to Sister Evangelina's cheese, and they clash immediately. She shares a room with the much younger midwife, Barbara, much to Barbara’s horror.

She is later shown to be an absolute brick and we all love and respect her.

Biography[]

Shortly after Barbara arrives at Nonnatus House, another new nurse shows up in the form of Phyllis Crane, a veteran. She initially comes across as a bit snobby. She is also a vegetarian and is not afraid to put her ideas forward. She initially infuriates the staff at Nonnatus, especially Sister Evangelina, with her officious manner, but her kinder side surfaces whilst helping Patsy and Barbara with a particularly difficult birth. In one episode, she confides in a the father of a terminated baby that she was an illegitimate child, but in spite of the stigma that went with it, she was determined to make something of herself.

In Series 5, Nurse Crane's past is explored more. It is revealed that because she was illegitimate; her mother's parents threw her mother out. Desperate and without any support, Phyllis' mother "did anything she could" to feed her child and provide her with shoes, implying she prostituted herself. Phyllis later states she didn't see how it "broke" her mother, and that she wished so much that her mother was alive so she could tell her how much she loved her, how good her mother is, and how strong she is.

Although a self-proclaimed spinster, Phyllis has had at least one relationship in the past. During World War II, she and a pilot met and became enamoured with each other. Phyllis later admits that they had sex, because neither knew what the future would hold due to the nature of war. She does not look upon the encounter with bitterness or regret, because she says that soon after he was shot down in the sea during a fire fight, it made her glad she had "seized the moment".

In the 2016 Christmas Special, Phyllis joins a mission to save a clinic in Apartheid-era South Africa from closure.

In Series 6, upon returning to Poplar, Phyllis and the others learn Sister Ursula is now in charge of Nonnatus House and places a series of restrictions on the staff in an attempt to cut out inefficiency, demoting Sister Julienne to Deputy Sister-in-Charge, and Phyllis is demoted to Nursing Sister. During this time Phyllis comes to the aid of Trudy Watts, a young mother pregnant with her second child, who is bullied by her criminal husband Lester, who has just been released from prison; to make matters worse, Trudy's mother Zelda sides with Lester. Phyllis eventually helps Trudy, her son Mickey, and her baby daughter to escape from Lester, and they leave Poplar for a fresh start. Phyllis becomes the Cubs' new Akela after Patsy leaves to care for her dying father. She also realises the full extent of the relationship between Patsy and Delia.

When Sister Ursula puts a 20-minute time limit on all ante-natal, post-natal, and district check-ups, Phyllis complains about this to Sister Julienne who explains that Sister Ursula was matron of the Order's cottage hospital which was closed down for inefficient practices, and she took it very hard, blaming herself entirely. The 20-minute appointment system had disastrous results when Barbara, distracted by the time limit, fails to notice that a newborn baby is suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning and ends up in hospital. Not wanting Barbara to face any blame, Phyllis confronts Sister Ursula and tells her that twenty minutes may be enough time for post-natal checks in a hospital, but tells her that in district practice one must look at the bigger picture, and Sister Ursula agrees to review the 20-minute appointment system. After the baby regains consciousness, Sister Ursula announces she will return to the Mother House, realising she is unfit to run Nonnatus House, thus handing the reins back to Sister Julienne.

In S06E07, Phyllis accidentally hits a young boy with her car after he ran across the road without looking, and Phyllis loses confidence in herself. After the boys brothers, who'd witness the accident and ran away, admit to Sargent Noakes that they were running away from a boy who was calling them names, their parents decided not to press charges against Phyllis. When expectant mother goes into labour, Phyllis is the only midwife on call, but is reluctant to get back behind the wheel, and requires the encouragement of Sister Monica Joan to spring into action. During the birth, Phyllis' confidence returns and she helps the mother give birth to a daughter. In the sixth series finale, Barbara announces she and fiancé Tom have agreed to bring the date for their wedding forward so that Barbara's Canon father can marry them before he departs for New Guinea, and Barbara asks Phyllis to be her bridesmaid, moving the veteran nurse to tears. When Phyllis asks Barbara who'll help her with her Spanish vocab now, Barbara answers "I don't know. But she's going to be very lucky".

In the sixth episode of series 7, Phyllis helps rescue an expectant mother and her two children when their apartment catches fire. Soon after the woman goes into labour and is delivered of twins by Barbara. However Barbara is soon taken ill and bedridden. Phyllis agrees to look after her while Tom is out, but when Phyllis discovers a rash on Barbara's arms, she rushes her friend to hospital where Barbara is diagnosed with meningitis and put in isolation. Tom is eventually allowed to sit with her after nurses declare there is no further risk of infection and Barbara seems to be getting better, but it is soon discovered three of her fingers are discoloured due to the septicaemia spreading. The nurses tell the devastated Tom and Phyllis that she is dying. Tom and Phyllis sit with Barbara reciting Psalm 23 as she takes her last breaths. Afterwards they return to Nonnatus House with Phyllis sitting down on the steps of the convent where she weeps for her friend.

At Barbara's funeral, she reads a poem called "Turn again to life" and also accompanies Tom out to the graveyard. It is implied that she is taking Barbara's death very hard and it has impacted her health, causing her bad back pain. When the other midwives offer to take on her work, Phyllis says no, insisting that things need to go back to normal.

In S08E06, Phyllis injures her back and is hospitalized. Her diagnosis is later confirmed as a trapped sciatic nerve and she is told she'll be off work for six weeks, so Mother Mildred travels to Nonnatus House to fill in for Phyllis while she recovers.

In the 2021 Christmas Special, Phyllis got emotional when she saw her colleague Lucille Anderson's wedding dress hanging from the picture rail, the same place where Barbara had hung hers four years earlier. Lucille later found the pearls that Phyllis had worn to Barbara's wedding and she gave them to her with a note, telling her to wear them for Barbara.

In Series 11 Phyllis gets a temporary roommate, that being Miss Higgins who while very close friends with isn’t very good to live with. The communal life Phyllis leads clashing with the methodical one Miss Higgins leads, in the end Sister Julienne arranges for Miss Higgins to get a new home at the cottage once belonging to her late friend Barbara and Tom, while she is slightly apprehensive of someone else living there the arrangement turns out very well.

Phyllis gets a letter telling her she has come into the possession of £5000 (the worth of tens of thousands in todays money) from a premium bonds her mother gave her at some point before her death. Phyllis is at first in absolute shock then she is angry that all she work she put into to securing comfort in old age was nothing now that she had money to burn. However in the end she secures over six weeks leave of absence from Nonnatus to take all the holidays she’s always dreamed of but never got to go on. She finds a motor coach that tours Bruges in Belgium, Arras, Paris, Nice and Montpelier in France and then to Spain which she always hoped to go to. Before she sets off her friend and colleague Lucille Robinson who was pregnant miscarries her baby and Phyllis tries to comfort her. She leaves at the same time as Trixie who is going to Portofino to care for her dying godmother. They are seen off by everyone dear to them but both will be returning to their home in Poplar.

Nonnatus faces a great catastrophe when an explosion caused by a train derailment causes mass damage in the street Nonnatus House is located. The nurses and their allies come together to try to save their community but as Dr Turner and Sister Julienne were both casualties and were taken to hospital she is summoned back early by Miss Higgins. She puts everyone into no nonsense order, telling them they must all do their best for the community and gets back into her work easily. Thankfully both Sister Julienne and Dr Turner survive and return to Nonnatus House.

In the 2022 Christmas special Phyllis gets a new car, saying that by the end her old cars age showed. Her friend Millicent Higgins gets her to agree to participate in talent show Poplartunity knocks that Fred is organising. Miss Higgins plays her recorder for the talent show with Phyllis on stage with her, Millicent isn’t very good on the recorder, and they don’t get a very strong applause. In S12 E04 when attending a ventouse extractor training course at St Cuthberts her age is called into question by the consultant running the course, after getting angry with him he decides to call her for a meeting at the board of health as she was working beyond the retirement age. Whilst this is happening she is overseeing the care of Simone Lucas who is very forward thinking and modern, she finds the idea of a home birth primitive and Phyllis too old fashioned for her, these both contribute to a fall in confidence however both Millicent and Sister Julienne do not think she should retire, Sister Julienne even calling her the backbone of Nonnatus. During the birth for Simone which she must have at home Phyllis is called to deliver a baby which was a boy. After a straightforward delivery Simone haemorrhages and Phyllis sends for the flying squad proving she is still capable as a midwife. When she goes before the board Sister Monica Joan goes to accompany her and stands up for her, stating that Phyllis is still younger than the three men trying to get her to retire, the men agree to allow her to stay working as long as she attends the refresher courses that she has neglected to attend while nursing.

Phyllis prepares to attend the wedding of her friend Trixie Franklin, before the wedding she finds out Nancy Corrigan is going for another job. This upsets her as all the other young midwives she has nursed with have left her and she is afraid of being left behind and irrelevant and out of work. But Sister Julienne assures her that won’t happen, Nonnatus House would not be closing as she took matters into her own hands and restarted the pupil midwife training scheme, meaning Nonnatus House would have young blood for her to take under her wing again. Later she attends the wedding of her colleague now known as Trixie Aylward.

Personality[]

Phyllis Crane is a very strong, career driven woman. When she first arrived at Nonnatus House, she came across as stern, uncaring and overall snobbish. Later, she becomes more caring and less rigid as she mentors the younger midwives.

Phyllis also has an emotional side as well, shown when she faces charges for accidentally hitting a child with her car, when her best friend Barbara dies, and when Lucille miscarries her unborn baby.

Despite her no nonsense demeanor Phyllis still maintains a sense of whimsey in life. During the 2020 Christmas special she insisted to her patient Mr. Percival, a circus ringmaster, "I'd be obliged if you didn't tell me how you make the magic. It might interfer with my imaginative process." She considers it giving the real world "such a buffing up".

Trivia[]

  • It is evident that Phyllis is from Leeds, revealed in the 2015 Christmas Special Part 1 ("My natal home was razed to the ground when they made "improvements" to the Kirkstall Road in Leeds.").
  • In the 2016 Christmas Special it is revealed that Phyllis is afraid of spiders.
  • Linda Bassett previously worked with Pam Ferris (Sister Evangelina) in the TV miniseries, Our Mutual Friend, in 1998.
  • Linda Bassett has also previously worked with Georgie Glen (Miss Millicent Higgins) and Annette Crosbie who played (Miss Clarice Millgrove) in the movie Calendar Girls in 2002
  • Phyllis is slightly prejudiced, assuming the Romani caravan travellers stole her car’s hubcaps and calling them the slur “gypsies”
  • Phyllis along with Barbara are the last nurses to have worn the original nurse’s uniform.
  • Phyllis is a vegetarian, though more because she can't stand the taste of animals rather than being sentimental about them, she was the only vegetarian at Nonnatus House until Rosalind Clifford moved in, in Series 13.
  • At the start of every other morning Phyllis does a Canadian Air Force routine to keep fit.

Family[]

Aside from her mother, another relative Phyllis has mentioned in the series is her Aunt Lillian (in S08E02), who was a suffragette and who was fed by force after going on hunger strike in Holloway Prison. She also has a cousin named Madge, who came down from Bridlington (S04E06). The pair also went to see the sound of music when it first came out in the theatre where Madge nodded off in the middle of the show.

Quotes[]

When I was in training we were always taught to say "Good morning", "Good afternoon" or "Good evening". "Hello" would not have been permitted... Unless you were talking to Americans, perhaps. - Phyllis' response to Barbara's greeting, Series 4, Episode 2

Oh, Hell's teeth! - Used on a few occasions.

Oh, Heavens to Murgatroyd - Used on a few occasions.

Every time the world goes up in flames they draft women in to pick up the slack. Then once it's over, it's back in your box and don't say boo-Series 4, Episode 4

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