A scene from the first Eurovision Contest in Frankfurt in 1957

Patricia Bredin: A Life Well Lived

"She was absolute magic"
August 23, 2023

There will be many of the older generation who might remember the singer and actress Patricia Bredin, 88, who hailed from Hull, and who died last week in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Patricia, earned her fame after becoming the first Eurovision song entrant for the United Kingdom in Frankfurt back in 1957, where she finished seventh in the competition with the song All.

That appearance, by the former Newland School for Girls pupil, would prove the crucial catalyst in opening up a window on the world of glamour and celebrity where she found a fleeting period of fame and a life beyond her wildest dreams.

Paying her final respects, Patricia's comanion and carer Sherry Doucet said even in death she felt close to her: "Patricia was like wildfire. If you were fortunate enough to come within range, you couldn’t help but grab the reins and hold on for dear life, hoping the ride would never end. 

"She was warmth and light and humour and she had a seemingly endless supply of unconditional love to share. She was absolute magic."

Following that momentous appearance in Germany, Patricia detailed how she even came to the attention of the BBC in an interview with Gordon Lewis the then editor of the Eurovision fan magazine Vision“I worked for an insurance firm, but I was absolutely hopeless at book-keeping but my boss was very nice and what I did most of the time was organise tea parties for his business guests.

“In Hull, I used to sing in church and at amateur singing festivals until a friend suggested that I apply to the BBC for an audition. They weren’t over keen, though they did send me a contract and I sang for both radio and TV.”

As if to underline Patricia's ability to be a good judge of character, she also explained to Eurovision readers of Vision back in 2007, that some of the BBC officials organising the 1957 contest in Frankfurt, were "slightly more important than God".

"I felt like an appendage with the entourage of very important BBC officials. All the other performers had their own make-up artistes and hairdressers with them. I had me! 

"Eric Robinson, a favourite with the BBC, was conducting the orchestra and was accustomed to working with important people and here he was with me, a nobody. He conducted the song as if I were accompanying him. It went at his tempo and not mine."

She added: "Of course my song didn't win because it simply wasn't the right song for the event, but it was no excuse from me. I was just thrilled to do my best for my country."

Following the contest, the former Hull Operatic Society girl was now rubbing shoulders with celebrities from both stage and screen appearing in the lead part of a number of British film comedies including: Left Right and Centre with Ian Carmichael; The Treasure of Monte Cristo with Rory Calhoun and John Gregson; Desert Mice, with Sid James and John Le Mesurier. In between her film appearances, she played opposite Roger Moore on the West End musical stage with the highlight of her career playing Guinevere opposite Richard Burton in Camelot on Broadway, a role which she took over from Julie Andrews. While in New York, she often dined with Burton and his wife Elizabeth Taylor.

Patricia Bredin and her companion and carer Sherry Doucet (Image: Sherry Doucet)

In 1964 she married Welsh singer and sometimes actor Ivor Emmanuel, but as she admitted the marital bliss didn't last very long and it was dissolved two years later.

Speaking about the marriage with Emmanuel, who is probably best known as playing the Welsh sergeant leading his men into battle in the film Zulu: "I married and divorced Ivor Emmanuel, the Welsh singer and womanising buddy of Richard Burton, following a very unhappy marriage."

Among her singing engagements in 1969, she was contracted to work on the maiden voyage of the QE2 from Southampton to New York.

According to Sherry it was a voyage that completely changed the course of her life: "Over a game of shuffleboard, she was introduced to the Canadian businessman named Charles MacCulloch. Patricia later reminisced: 'From our first kiss under a star studded sky, we were one'.

"The two maintained a many year international love affair, flying one way or the other across the Atlantic, for a few precious hours together, before he asked her to give up her career and move to Nova Scotia with him. 

"The couple married in June 1978, at Monte Vista, a two thousand acre estate they had purchased on the shore of Grand Lake, Nova Scotia."

She added: "They spent the first 16 months of their marriage preparing their home, before leaving on their honeymoon. Because they had met on a cruise, they chose one for their honeymoon. They boarded The Love Boat for the South Pacific. On the second day, at the afternoon dance, Charles returned to his seat next to Patricia and died." 

In grief, she returned to Monte Vista alone and decided to throw her efforts into nursing three sick calves back to health, eventually building up a bigger herd over eight years, which were shown at fairs while attending attending to all their needs.  

Eventually, Patricia moved to a new home in Northwest Cove where according to Sherry she started a new life: "Patricia made some wonderful friends in Northwest Cove, including the Hubbards, who she lovingly referred to as “the pals”. She also taught herself to paint and then taught others. She wrote a book “My Fling On the Farm” as well as a number of stage plays. She threw lavish dinner parties for her friends, often playing her piano and harp, complete with multiple costume changes throughout the evening!" 

Gordon told Mag North that although he had never met Patricia personally, he had spoken with her many times in late night Transatlantic telephone conversations, in which she came across as vivacious and humorous, the life and soul of any conversation, but didn't like being judged for her own life choices and actions.

Gordon said: "A case in point was the occasion she told me that she had had facial treatment, but some of her Canadian friends had claimed it had all been a waste of money. 

"Her response to them was that it had been money well spent and added: "If it's good enough for Joan Rivers; it's good enough for me!"

Sherry added: "I have been so very, very blessed to have her by my side. I will carry her in my heart forever."