Phyllis Crane is a nurse and midwife from Leeds who joins Nonnatus House in Series Four. She is portrayed by Linda Bassett.
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.
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 a son 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.
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 and when her best friend Barbara dies.
- 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.
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' respone to Barbara's greeting, Series 4, Episode 2
Oh, Hell's teeth! - Used on a few occasions.