2003-07-04 14:30:31 UTC
<Times May 5, 1986>
Music hall comedienne who found fame on television
Hylda Baker, the diminutive Lancashire comedienne with the
catchphrase, "she knows, y'know!", has died at the age of 78.
The words came from her most famous act in which her stooge was a
statuesque blonde called Cynthia, who was played by a man and never
spoke. Looking up to this bizarre figure, Hylda would tell the
audience: "She just looks through ya! I wouldn't care, but she knows,
The essence of Hylda Baker's humour was a woman's desire to better
herself without the education and bearing to do so. Her attempts at
posh speech ended in malapropisms, and her tatty clothes and raucous
accent immediately ridiculed her pretentions as a social climber.
Her popular stage technique of silently mouthing words in an
exaggerated manner was learned during a short spell in a Lancashire
clothing factory were it was impossible to converse normally because
of the noise. And her voice, a mixture of strangulated North Country
and perculiar camp refinement, was her hallmark.
She was born in Farnworth, near Bolton, the daughter of a comedian,
Harold Baker, and made her first stage appearance at the age of 10 at
the Opera House, Tunbridge Wells. She was a leading lady by the age of
14 and went on to write, produce, direct and star in her own touring
But she did not develop the Cynthia routine until the Second World
War, and she was in her late 40s when she became a national figure
through appearances in the television music hall show, "The Good Old
During the 1950s, she had her own summer show three years running at
Blackpool, and she made her West End debut in 1956 when she topped the
bill at the Prince of Wales Theatre.
In 1968, she starred with Jimmy Jewel in a popular television comedy
series, "Nearest and Dearest". They played a brother and sister, heirs
to a Lancashire pickle factory, and the show's appealing vulgarity
kept it running for nearly 50 episodes.
A film version followed in 1972 and among her other pictures were
"Saturday Night and Sunday Morning", in which she had a small but
telling straight role as a back-street abortionist, "Up the Junction",
She was married briefly but had no children.