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Last Updated: Friday, 9 July, 2004, 14:22 GMT 15:22 UK
Sierra Leone star dies
By Alice Martin
BBC African Performance

The Sierra Leonean actress Jeillo Edwards has passed away.

Sierra Leonean actress Jeillo Edwards was an excellent cook
Aunty J ran a restaurant in parallel to her profession as an actress
She will be remembered for her distinctive voice and imperious enunciation.

For four decades Jeillo performed on British television, radio, stage and films, most recently in the internationally acclaimed Dirty Pretty Things.

She was a regular on the BBC World Service, especially during the African Performance seasons.

One of her recent appearances on British TV was for the police drama The Bill, which echoes her very first role on British television in Dixon of Dock Green following her arrival in the UK during the 1960s.

She was the first African on the programme which was filmed in black and white and which still holds the record (21 years) for the UK's longest running police drama.


On radio, Jeillo will be remembered as Cash Madam, the cool rich sugar mummy with young lovers, whose pet phrase was "no sweat only perspiration".

Drama director Fiona Ledger who worked closely with Jeillo remembers that "she was always in demand not only because of her tremendous skills but also because of her good humour and good will which permeated every production."

Her good humour permeated every production
Fiona Ledger, Drama Director

Jeillo Edwards was born in Malta Street, Freetown, Sierra Leone in 1942.

Her earliest memory of performing was as a four-year-old, standing in for a nervous cousin in a church.

She read from the Bible, Mark chapter 12:17, which begins:

"Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar, and the things that are God's unto God".

It was a word-perfect performance and she never had any problems learning lines after that.

Jeillo best side
Jeillo's hearty laughter was infectious

She left Freetown in 1960 for Britain, eventually settling in Kennington, south London where the family home remains.

Jeillo became central to the local community involving herself in women's groups, church, school, family and friends.

As a teenager Jeillo had been to the Annie-Walsh Memorial school in Sierra Leone, like her mother and grand-mother before her.

Until her death she was still a vibrant member of the school's old-girl network.

In 1970 Jeillo married Ghanaian Edmund Clottey and they went on to have children and grand-children.

Their home became a focal point for the extended family, where she cooked for friends and relatives and she ran a large catering business as well.

For a few years Jeillo also ran a restaurant in Brixton, south London, known by the name given to her by everyone who knew her: Aunty J.



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