Pint-sized Eileen Young may be 90 but she's still sparkling as the fairy who no-one loves at 40.

SUPER trouper Eileen Young marked her 90th birthday this week by reprising her party piece - No One Loves A Fairy When She's Forty - and by threatening to kill the photographer.

Whatever they might think of fairies at 40, however, at 90 this one is absolutely amazing.

Known among theatricals as Aunty Eileen, the 4ft 10in mighty atom - bright as Brasso, bouncy as a beachball, more faculties than the University of Durham - has no plans for a final curtain after almost 75 years' rolling them in the aisles.

"It's being busy that's kept me quite fit," she says, further fortified by a drop of brandy in her coffee. Though a member of Darlington Amateur Operatic Society for 59 years, her forte is comedy and her speciality the Fairy story - wearing gold lam shoes and the costume made by her tailoress mother during the Second World War.

"Me wand's a bit dilapidated now, it needs a bit more tinsel," she says, admitting also that she's added sleeves to the ensemble. "No one wants to see your arms when you're my age."

And the fancy drawers? "Well, everyone wore drawers in those days, I'm trying to bring them back into fashion."

A playbill also described her as an "elocutionist", which meant she recited monologues - still does, word perfect, though hopeless on names. A word in edgeways is thus happily impossible.

Eileen, who never married, was born in Darlington but had moved with her parents to Saltburn when she first had a whiff of the grease paint.

"Those were the days of the Pierrots and the comedian used to teach the kiddies little songs. I was always first on stage; I think that's perhaps where I got the yen."

At 17, still just 3ft 6ins tall, she made her stage debut playing a child in The Farmer's Wife at Ulverston, where the family home then was.

"They said they wanted me to be a little girl. It was miles beneath my dignity, of course, but I loved it. It was absolutely wonderful."

Long back in Darlington, she sits surrounded by bouquets and birthday cards and by irresistible scrapbooks - Maid of the Mountains in 1937, Buttons at Middleton St George not long afterwards ("their Buttons had let them down"), Desert Song with John Reed, who become comedy lead with the D'Oyly Carte.

"That was Aladdin, one of them anyway, that was the last bit of the posh panto, that's Rigoletto, that's something with Joy Beadell, that's Merrie England..."

It was always merry England with Auntie Eileen. "Eeeh," she says, "we've had an awful lot of fun."

She also compered the wartime radio programme Workers' Playtime when it came to the munitions factory at Aycliffe. "We entertained there lots of lunchtimes, me and Jenny Conlon, wonderful singer, from Shildon."

She's appeared on the same bill as Wee Georgie Wood in Barnard Castle, played pantomime despite breaking her arm two weeks earlier - "I was doing the dashing white sergeant at the butchers' dance in the Imperial Hotel" - appeared before 2,000 troops and their wives at the Odeon, Dumfries, at just about every church and village hall in the North-East and, on one occasion, in a cattle shed.

There was also the occasion when she was persuaded to take the stage in a Spanish nightclub and had the senors in stitches. "I wouldn't care," says Eileen, "I'd forgotten to take me cardigan off."

Her first concert party was the Good Companions and she's also acted with the Pilgrim Players - "Straight? Straight enough for me" - appeared with the Richardson Singers, for whom she made a pretty cool snowman, and helped form Darlington's first accordion band with her brothers.

And still the show goes on, "the Fairy" referred to in the same affectionately ineluctable way as Roger de Courcey simply calls Nookie "the Bear".

Once an operatic contralto, she now speaks the Fairy - "I think you can give it more expression that way" - rather than singing it.

Always amateur - "I can probably count on one hand the times I've been paid" - she admits a gift for comedy timing. "People think you can just walk on stage and do it, but it's far harder than that. I'm not great, I've just done a lot of it.

"There are all sorts of things I'd have liked to develop but my height was always against me and I've been very happy just being ordinary. People talk about medals but all those audiences have been my OBE. They say I should have written a book, but I'd rather talk about it. I'd still have had a wonderful life if I'd just been 3ft 6in.

"I go to my little church and I think God has given me this talent and allowed me to carry on doing it this long. When he wants me to stop, then I expect I'll have to."

Ninety years young and there is not the slightest sign of it happening. The Fairy, and her alter ego, are pure magic.