'Coronation Street' actor Dilys Watling dies at the age of 78

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Dilys Watling has passed away at the age of 78 after a varied career in the arts. (Ballard/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Dilys Watling has passed away at the age of 78 after a varied career in the arts. (Ballard/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Coronation Street actor Dilys Watling, who played Merle Baker in the ITV soap, has died at the age of 78.

Her family said she passed away peacefully after a long struggle with illness.

Read more: This week on Coronation Street

Watling portrayed Baker for several months in 1966 and was also well-known for her work on The Two Ronnies and The Benny Hill Show.

Her brother Giles Watling — who is the Conservative MP for Clacton — said in a statement that she was "a much-loved sister" to himself and her late sister Deborah, who appeared in Doctor Who.

Watch: Coronation Street writer pays tribute to the late Johnny Briggs

“She led the way and was a real trailblazer for the rest of us,” he said.

Giles added: "She was eccentric in many ways, but was always incredibly generous, warm and loving.

“In her last few days, she recounted stories of her life that we thought she had long-since forgotten. After a long illness, she passed away peacefully.”

Read more: Tributes pour in for late Coronation Street star Johnny Briggs

Watling's career began in the 1960s on the stage, most notably when she took on her only Broadway role as the title character in the musical Georgy.

Her performance earned her a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical, losing out to Lauren Bacall's work in Applause.

Dilys Watling rose to global fame when she was nominated for a Tony Award for her work in musical 'Georgy' in the late 1960s. (William Lovelace/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Dilys Watling rose to global fame when she was nominated for a Tony Award for her work in musical 'Georgy' in the late 1960s. (William Lovelace/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

She went on to star in numerous British TV shows, as well as films including crime thriller Calculated Risk and alongside Christopher Lee in the horror movie Theatre of Death.

As well as her acting work on stage and screen, she also released several singles, including Don’t Say You Love Me.

Read more: Queen visits Rovers amid Corrie pandemic filming

Her final TV appearance was in a 1994 episode of the crime comedy series Minder.

Watling was married twice — first to Bruce Anderson and then later to Line of Duty and Game of Thrones actor Owen Teale, with whom she had a son.

Watch: The latest from Coronation Street

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