With a career spanning six decades, Margaret D’Arcy, who has died at the age of 100, was the doyenne of Northern Irish theatre.
In her native Belfast she established long associations with the city’s Group Theatre and Lyric Theatre (where she featured in several important Northern Irish plays) and was seen at the Gate and Abbey theatres in Dublin. She joined the Group in 1942, notable appearances including Joseph Tomelty’s Is the Priest at Home? (1954) – The Stage review remarked she had “a compelling force about her work” – and Louis MacNeice’s theatre debut Traitors in Our Way (1957).
At the Lyric Theatre, she was seen alongside a young Liam Neeson in Brian Friel’s The Loves of Cass McGuire (1976), in
Robin Glendinning’s Culture Vultures in 1982 (which transferred to London’s Tricycle Theatre), and as a memorably testy fortune teller in Christina Reid’s Tea in a China Cup the following year and at the Riverside Studios, Hammersmith in 1984.
A familiar voice on radio drama, having made her debut on the Home Service in 1949, she was the gossipy, eavesdropping telephone exchange operator in several series of Christopher Fitz-Simon’s Radio 4 comedy Ballylenon, coming out of retirement in 2002, aged 84, to reprise her role.
Significant screen credits included Sam Thompson’s Cemented With Love (1965), William Trevor’s Elizabeth Alone (1981), Graham Reid’s The Hidden Curriculum (1984) and Ronan Bennett’s Love Lies Bleeding (1993) on television, and the 2002 film of Spike Milligan’s Puckoon.
Appointed an MBE in 1997, Margaret Mary D’Arcy was born on May 22, 1918 and died on September 18. During her last days in a nursing home, a consultant enquired “Miss D’Arcy, I believe you were an actress?” She replied: “I still am.”