seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Jimmy O’Dea, Actor & Comedian

Jimmy O’Dea, Irish actor and comedian, is born at 11 Lower Bridge Street, Dublin, on April 26, 1899.

O’Dea, born James Augustine O’Dea, is one of eleven children of James O’Dea, an ironmonger, and Martha O’Gorman, who keeps a small toy shop. His father has a shop in Capel Street. He is educated at the Irish Christian Brothers O’Connell School in North Richmond Street, Dublin, where a classmate is future Taoiseach Seán Lemass, by the Holy Ghost Fathers at Blackrock College, and by the Jesuits at Belvedere College. From a young age he is interested in taking to the stage. He co-founds an amateur acting group, the Kilronan Players, in 1917, but his father will not hear of it. He is apprenticed to an optician in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he qualifies as an optician.

O’Dea returns to Dublin where, at age 21, he sets up his own business which he eventually gives to his sister, Rita. In his spare time he takes part in amateur productions of Henrik Ibsen and Anton Chekhov. From 1920 he is in the Irish theatre in Hardwicke Street working with actor-producer John MacDonagh. In 1922 he makes a series of comedy films for Norman Whitten. After working in plays by George Bernard Shaw for a few years he rejoins MacDonagh in revues, the first of which, Dublin To-Night, is produced at the Queen’s Theatre, Dublin in 1924. In 1927 he takes to the stage full-time. In 1928, the company’s first production Here We Are wins international acclaim, and in December of the same year it produces its first Christmas Pantomime, Sinbad the Sailor.

O’Dea forms a partnership with Harry O’Donovan whom he first meets in a production of You Never Can Tell in 1924. Their first show is Look Who’s Here at Queen’s Theatre. For more than two decades beginning in 1929 the duo produces two shows a year in Dublin, first in the Olympia Theatre, then in the Gaiety Theatre. They create O’Dea’s most famous character, Mrs. Biddy Mulligan. The role draws on O’Dea’s previous manifestations as “Dames” in Variety performances and pantomimes. Biddy Mulligan is the representation (caricature, parody and stereotype) of a Dublin street-seller, with all the working-class repartee, wisdom and failings implicit. He makes a number of recordings of sketches starring Mrs. Mulligan. Biddy Mulligan is referenced in many Dublin music hall songs such as “Biddy Mulligan the Pride of the Coombe,” “Daffy the Belle of the Coombe” and “The Charladies’ Ball.”

O’Dea makes some film appearances, such as Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959) in which he plays King Brian of the little people and Johnny Nobody (1961). He also has a successful career in pantomime and tours Ireland and England many times, and is much associated with actress Maureen Potter, with whom he often partners.

O’Dea is also a prolific songwriter in his day. Many of his songs are still well known to this day, some of them having been sung and recorded by Dublin singer Frank Harte.

O’Dea marries Ursula Doyle, a theatrical impresario, in September 1959 with Seán Lemass standing in as best man and Maureen Potter as the bridesmaid. O’Dea had been best man at Lemass’s wedding in 1924.

Jimmy O’Dea dies at Dr. Steevens’ Hospital, Dublin, at age 65, on January 7, 1965. Seán Lemass, at the time Taoiseach, gives the valedictory oration at his funeral. He is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.


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Birth of Irish Entertainer Adèle King

Adèle King, Irish entertainer better known as Twink, is born on April 4, 1951 in Dublin. She is the mother of singer Chloë Agnew from the group Celtic Woman.

King begins singing and acting at the age of five. She is a Gaiety Kiddie and works in pantomime with performers such as Jimmy O’Dea, Milo O’Shea and Maureen Potter. She is also a Young Dublin Singer, from which is formed the trio Maxi, Dick and Twink.

King spends more than 30 years in Dublin’s theatres, 26 years in the Gaiety Theatre, two years in the Point Theatre and five years in the Olympia Theatre. At the Olympia Theatre she co-produces and co-writes much of the shows. She has been described as Ireland’s “Panto Queen.” She has roles in a number of theatrical productions in Ireland, including Dirty Dusting at the Gaiety Theatre and Menopause: The Musical.

King appears on Irish television regularly since the late 1960s. She stars in her own series Twink on RTÉ. She spends ten years on Play the Game, and makes many appearances as a guest on a wide range of programmes, including RTÉ’s The Late Late Show, being the subject of a tribute on that show in 2005. She also is the subject of a weekend visit by the television programme Livin’ with Lucy with Lucy Kennedy.

In 1993 King is the guest act at a Christmas concert by Perry Como at Dublin’s Point Theatre, televised to a worldwide audience of 880 million. In 2003 she takes part in RTÉ’s Celebrity Farm and in 2011 she wins TV3‘s Celebrity Head Chef, receiving €10,000 for charity as a result.

King has written an agony aunt page for the Irish magazine TV Now. In 2011, she is given an agony aunt programme on TV3 called Give Adele a Bell. However, after a delay, the programme is cancelled in June 2012 without an episode being made. She wins a Jacob’s Award for her performance in her 1981 Christmas Light Entertainment Special on RTÉ2.

King establishes a performance school in the summer of 2002, the Adèle King Theatre School in Castleknock and Greenhills. Pupils of the school have appeared on television, in films, and in commercials in Ireland and abroad. The school does not re-open for the 2008 autumn term.

King marries oboist David Agnew in 1983 and has two children, Chloë in 1989, who sings with the group Celtic Woman, and Naomi in 1993. The marriage ends after 21 years, in October 2004.

King describes the Irish singer Linda Martin as a “cunt” during a tirade in May 2010. The two had been friends for 30 years but afterwards both say they have no plans to speak to each other again.

King has pet dogs, cats, birds, and a donkey. She lives with her daughters in Knocklyon, Dublin. In April 2015 it is reported that she and her ex-husband face a bid by the Bank of Scotland to repossess a house which is mortgaged in both their names. The application for possession against King had already previously been adjourned by the court.

In September 2014 it is widely reported across major Irish media outlets that King’s dog, Teddy Bear, had been kidnapped. Commenting on the events, she is quoted describing Linda Martin as being “a very powerful woman in the dog world” and that the kidnapping marked her own personal “Erin Brockovich moment.” On September 24 she is reunited with her dog after a public tip-off leads to the police arrest of a man in Dublin.

(Photo credit to Crispin Rodwell, The Sun Dublin)


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Birth of Actor Noel Purcell

noel-purcellPatrick Joseph Noel Purcell, distinguished Irish actor of stage, screen and television, is born in Dublin on December 23, 1900. He appears in the 1956 film Moby Dick and the 1962 film Mutiny on the Bounty.

Purcell is the son of auctioneer Pierce Purcell and his second wife Catherine (née Hoban) of 4 Ashbrook Terrace, South Circular Road, Dublin. He is baptised six days after his birth at St. Kevin’s Church, Harrington Street. Within a few months, the Purcell family moves to 12 Mercer Street Lower. He is educated at Synge Street CBS. He loses the tip of his right index finger while making cigarette vending machines, and also loses his entire left index finger due to an accident while he is an apprentice carpenter, a feature which he exploits for dramatic effect in the film Mutiny on the Bounty (1962).

Purcell begins his show business career at the age of 12 in Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre. Later, he tours Ireland in a vaudeville act with Jimmy O’Dea. Stage-trained in the classics in Dublin, he moves into films in 1934. He appears in Captain Boycott (1947) and as the elderly sailor whose death maroons the lovers-to-be in the first sound film version of The Blue Lagoon (1949). He plays a member of Captain Ahab‘s crew in Moby Dick (1956), Dan O’Flaherty in episode one, The Majesty of the Law, of The Rising of the Moon (1957), a gamekeeper in The List of Adrian Messenger (1963), and a barman in The Mackintosh Man (1973). The last two films are directed by John Huston.

In 1955, Purcell is an off-and-on regular on the British filmed TV series The Buccaneers and he narrates a Hibernian documentary, Seven Wonders of Ireland (1959). In 1962, he portrays the lusty William McCoy in Lewis Milestone‘s Mutiny on the Bounty. He plays a taciturn Irish in-law to Lebanese American entertainer Danny Thomas‘ character Danny Williams in a 1963 episode of The Danny Thomas Show. In 1971, he plays the caring rabbi in the children’s musical drama Flight of the Doves.

Purcell is the subject of This Is Your Life in 1958 when he is surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the BBC Television Theatre. He also gains some recognition as a singer. Shortly after World War II, songwriter Leo Maguire composes “The Dublin Saunter” for him. He performs the song live for many years and later records it for the Glenside label but the recording is not a hit. However, over time it becomes one of the most favourite songs about Dublin, receiving countless air-plays on radio programmes.

In 1981, Purcell records a spoken word version of Pete St. John‘s “The Rare Ould Times.” In June 1984, he is given the Freedom of the City of Dublin. Nine months later, on March 3, 1985, he dies at the age of 84 in Dublin. He is buried in Deans Grange Cemetery in Blackrock, Dublin.