Veteran Irish actress was first barmaid in the Rovers Return

Doreen Keogh obituary: Born February 5th, 1926 – Died December 31st , 2017

Doreen Keogh returned to Ireland some years ago, settling at Inistioge in Co Kilkenny

Doreen Keogh returned to Ireland some years ago, settling at Inistioge in Co Kilkenny

 

From playing Concepta Riley, the original barmaid in Coronation Street who pulled the first pints in the Rovers Return, to a hilarious episode of Father Ted when as Mrs Dineen she was involved in a fight over paying the bill in a tea shop with her friend, Mrs Doyle, the veteran actor Doreen Keogh, who has died at the age of 91, starred in many long-running British and Irish TV shows, plays and films.

What is remarkable about her long career as an Irish actress is that she had made her name by breaking into the British TV soap scene long before her talents were realised here. By then she had become so successful in Britain that she is credited with coaching Barbara Streisand in the art of speaking in a cockney accent for her 1970 film On A Clear Day You Can See Forever. Among her other film roles was a part in the 1960 Blake Edwards directed musical Darling Lili with Julie Andrews and Rock Hudson.

In tribute to her memory, the creative director of ITV Studios, John Whiston, said Keogh held a “unique place” in Coronation Street history. “There have been many barmaids in the Rovers over the years, dispensing pints and wisdom in equal measure,” he added. “But Doreen played the first and so has a unique place not just in the history of the show but in the affection of all who watch The Street.”

Born in Dublin, Keogh was bitten by the acting bug at a very early age and left school when she was only 15 to pursue her ambitions, training with the Abbey Theatre School where she first trod the boards before moving to London.

A consummate professional, she kept a detailed CV of her performances from the time she first appeared in the TV movie Death at Newtownstewart in 1948 at the age of 22 until her final appearance in 2007 when she was 81 years old.

Keogh also starred as Mary Carroll, the Royles’ neighbour, in the long running Royle Family. A BBC One sitcom, it dealt with a dysfunctional family which could easily have been mistaken for the goings-on in the British royal family. She also starred as Pete Gifford’s mother Audrey in Cold Feet,as well as featuring in Ballykissangel, Father Ted, Fair City, Z Cars, Crossroads and other TV series.

Though in Coronation Street, a lighthearted soap about a working-class community, her character began life as Concepta Riley, a year later she had married, becoming Concepta Hewitt. Significantly, in her role as Hewitt she was involved in storylines which included the birth of a son, Christopher, who was later kidnapped, while her mechanic husband exited the show by being crushed to death underneath a vehicle. Ironically, Keogh was one of 12 actresses whose characters gave birth during the show but who never had a child in real life.

Opening a window on British culture, within six months, the show was being viewed by record audiences. underpinning the success of Granada Television and ITV. She did a four-year stint as the barmaid at Rovers Return, returning in 1967 and in 1975.

Keogh returned to Ireland some years ago, settling at Inistioge in Co Kilkenny. She last acted in 2007 at the age of 81 as Mary in How About You.

Twice married, previously to actor Frank Singuineau from 1954 until 1963, she is survived by her husband Frank Jenner, brother John and an extended family of nieces and nephews as well as grandnieces and grandnephews.