Actress and comedienne Maureen Potter dies


The much-loved Dublin actress and comedienne Maureen Potter died "peacefully" in her Clontarf home at the age of 79, her family said this afternoon.

Maureen Potter: died peacefully in her Dublin home today
Maureen Potter: died peacefully in her Dublin home today

Born in 1925, a fifth generation Dubliner, she was christened Maria Philomena but went by the name Maureen.

She is survived by her husband Jack and two sons, John and Hugh.

A survivor of the great age of variety, Potter performed in revues, cabaret, political satire, and was synonymous with panto in Ireland.

She started her career at the age of seven and went on to perform in plays by O'Casey, Shaw, Sheridan and Beckett.

Trinity College honoured her with a doctorate in 1999, the year she was given the freedom of Dublin.

Her Dublin roots were tremendously important to her. "I was born in 1925 and I'm a Dub, a northsider," she told Eileen Battersby in The Irish Timesseveral years ago. "The south side is beautiful but there's no space. There's lots of space on the northside, I love space. I grew up in Fairview. You know it? We're all Dubs from way back."

Her first taste of the panto came in 1935 following an audition with entertainer Jimmy O'Dea who had seen her in a concert party at Bray. She appeared in his version of Jack And The Beanstalk, where she played a fairy.

Before teaming up with O'Dea she also worked for impresario Jack Hylton in Dublin.

She auditioned for near the end of the school term, and was offered a role in the "The Pocket Mimic" in the Theatre Royal. She soon joined Hylton's troupe and set off for London where she toured all over England, Scotland and Wales.

The troupe also hit continental Europe where she famously performed in front of Adolf Hitler at Berlin's Scala Theater in 1938. "There we were at the Scala, Berlin," she told The Irish Times."And who's in the audience one night? Only Hitler, Goebbels and Goering."

Goebbels and Goering came backstage to meet her. As a farewell present she was given a silver and blue wreath: "It came with some words on it from Hitler himself, quite a souvenir," she says. Her mother was less impressed. "When I got home I gave it to her and she said, 'that filthy man Hitler' and threw it in the bin. That was the end of it. A little piece of history."

Long established as a national institution, she was the subject of a Late Late Showspecial tribute in 1976.

In 2001, she became the first star to place her handprints in the walk of fame outside the Gaiety Theatre and in January of this year she made an appearance on a special Late Late Show aired to mark the 100th Anniversary of the Abbey Theatre.