Home and Away and The Young Doctors actress Cornelia Frances has passed away aged 77.

The cast of The Young Doctors in 1976 Cornelia is the 5th from the left in the middle row. Image: Grundy TV/Darren Gray

Australian personality Cornelia Frances, best known for her serial roles in shows such as Grundy Television’s The Young Doctors and Seven Network’s Home and Away, has died aged 77 following a cancer diagnosis two years ago.

Liverpool-born Frances, 77, made her acting debut in the UK theatre world, later starring in movies and television in the sixties, however relocated to Australia in 1970; and was soon making appearances in Aussie classics such as crime dramas Cop Shop, Matlock Police and Homicide as well as The Box which revolved around the staff and personalities of a local television station, she featured in 1975 as Doctor Winter, it, however, would be as Sister Scott, later a matron, in Grundy’s The Young Doctors that Frances first became well known to television audiences.

The series, airing on the Nine Network down under, followed the lives and loves of the patients and staff of the Albert Memorial Hospital. The programme was a rating smash and would go on to become the longest-running drama serial in Australian television history, beating the previous record which had been held by the raunchy Number 96.

The Young Doctors was the first Grundy drama production to sell overseas and proved a worldwide hit. It soon established a loyal following here in the UK on ITV and proved so popular that it later enjoyed a repeat run on Sky One.

The Young Doctors was popular on Nine Network in Australia and on ITV in the UK. Grundy TV
Frances became a popular cast member of the Home and Away series for Seven Network.

The veteran actress also made appearances in other Grundy productions including family saga Sons and Daughters, for the Seven Network, and female jail drama Prisoner: Cell Block H on Channel 10. It was however back over on Seven where her long-running stint as Morag Bellingham would make her a household name in Australia and in the UK on ITV. A regular in the early years of the fictional Summer Bay based ‘soap opera’ she over the next 29 years often returned to the series when the storylines required. Morag was the sister of stalwart Alf Stewart, and in the beginning both were seen regularly in the local shop, her television roles of strong, and forthright women, saw her become ‘Australia’s Anne Robinson’ in the 2000s when she took on the mantle of presenting their version of The Weakest Link game show.

Cornelia was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2017, and spoke about it on the Nine Network News earlier this year, saying she had ‘always played the strong ladies’ in the TV sagas and she would ‘fight it [cancer]’. In an interview in January, she revealed that she had also suffered a recent hip bone fracture and an ulcer in her throat. The Home and Away production house, Seven Network, announced her passing earlier today..

Reflecting on her career in the telly interview she said she had loved working on every ‘soapie’ she had appeared in.

Cornelia also hosted the Aussie version of The Weakest Link.
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