|Portrayed by||Anne Haddy|
|First appearance||18 March 1985|
|Last appearance||17 October 1997|
|Created by||Reg Watson|
|Introduced by||Reg Watson|
Home James Director (1986–89)
Helen Daniels (née Simpson) is a fictional character from the Australian soap opera Neighbours, portrayed by Anne Haddy. Following the death of Jim Robinson in 1993, she remained the only original character left in the series until her own death in 1997, making her the second longest-serving original character after her grandson Paul.
Character casting and development
In 1985, Haddy was invited by Neighbours creator Reg Watson to play Helen Daniels in a bid to portray a mother-in-law out of conjunction with the battleaxe stereotype. In 1997, Haddy was forced to quit the serial due to her own ill health.
Helen is a caring woman, often being portrayed as "a shoulder to cry on" for her friends and family, Helen has a sympathetic nature and offers motherly advice to anyone who needs it. Helen's storylines have sometimes been tragic, but she always remains the voice of reason and helps those around her.
In the Neighbours twentieth anniversary book she is described as being the serial's matriarch for over 12 years. Also described as "having a heart of gold" and "not only being the linchpin of the Ramsay Street community, but she opened her heart and home to anyone in need of care and attention."
She married her first husband Bill Daniels at age seventeen and remained married to him for over thirty years until his death in 1969. Years after she was devastated to find out he had an affair with her best friend Grace. The couple had a biological daughter, Anne, and an adopted daughter, Rosemary (Joy Chambers). Anne married Jim Robinson (Alan Dale) and had three children with him – Paul (Stefan Dennis), Scott (Darius Perkins / Jason Donovan) and Julie (Julie Mullins) – before dying whilst giving birth to Lucy. After Anne's death, Helen moved into the Robinsons' home at 26 Ramsay Street, to help Jim with the family.
In the show's storyline Helen helped run the Robinson household. During her time in Erinsborough she endured the deaths of her son-in-law Jim, as well as her grandchild Julie. Her other grandchildren gradually departed, and Julie's widower Philip Martin (Ian Rawlings) and his children, Debbie (Marnie Reece-Wilmore) and Hannah Martin (Rebecca Ritters) moved into the Robinson house. During her 12 and a half years on the show, Helen was charged with drink driving, buried a granddaughter, had an affair with her daughter's fiancé, was kidnapped, was evicted, was widowed, told her daughter she was adopted and had a bout of depression after son in law Jim Robinson died. In the storyline Helen remarried twice, first in 1991 to Michael Daniels (Brian Blain), her first husband's cousin. Michael was soon revealed as a bigamist and so the marriage was annulled. She later married Reuben White (James Condon) in 1995; however, he died soon afterwards.
After becoming increasingly frail and spending a long time in hospital, Helen returned home on her birthday in 1997. After watching a ten-year-old video of Scott and Charlene's wedding, with Philip, Debbie, Hannah and her friends Harold (Ian Smith) and Madge Bishop (Anne Charleston) around her, she fell asleep on the sofa and died. A memorial service was held at Lassiter's lake where her ashes were laid. At the end of the episode, Helen became the third character to have her death marked by the sad piano theme tune and tribute stills. However, for the first, and so far only time, there were no actual credits shown, given her exceptionally important and long-standing role in the show.
Anthony Hayward of The Independent described Helen for Anne Haddy's obituary, he stated: "When the serial started, Helen was the widowed mother-in-law of Jim Robinson, and to the Robinson family she was known as "The Rock of Gibraltar". She was the diplomat and voice of reason to whom residents of Ramsay Street, in the fictional Melbourne suburb of Erinsborough, turned for advice." He also branded her "the most glamorous granny on television". Ruth Deller of television website Lowculture gave Helen a 5 out of 5 for her contribution to Neighbours, during a feature called "A guide to recognising your Ramsays and Robinsons". Deller called Helen "The most respected elder of the Robinson clan". She added "Helen was a local artist renowned for her 'interesting' paintings of the locals and her tendency to take in waifs and strays. She also had an unfortunate habit of marrying conmen, bigamists or men who died shortly after their wedding. Helen was always the voice of reason, and when she died (sadly followed closely by Anne Haddy, who played her), the street lost perhaps its most beloved character ever".
In 2010 to celebrate Neighbours' 25th anniversary Sky, a British satellite broadcasting company profiled 25 characters of which they believed were the most memorable in the series history. Helen is in the list and describing her they state: "According to the mid-nineties joke, what will be left at the end of the world? Cockroaches and Helen Daniels. Well, you could guarantee that in such an event, Helen would take in the waifier, strayier cockroaches and rehabilitate them off the path to juvenile centre. Helen was a far gentler matriarch than her British equivalents, dealing with the problems of all the neighbourhood teens, which presumably revolved around waxing for her own grandkids Debbie and Hannah. Her name lives on in her eponymous charity foundation, and as the painter of that dreadful portrait of the Kennedy children in Karl and Susan's front room." Editor of MSN TV, Lorna Cooper branded Helen a 'kindly matriarch' for caring for many of the shows teenagers.
ATV News labeled Helen one of their icons, describing her capacity to love as great, even after all the tragic events she had lived through, subsequently branded her as a shoulder to cry on for all of her neighbours. They also compared her to Meg Richardson, a fellow fictional character from UK serial drama Crossroads, which was also created by Reg Watson, stating they are well known to be similar and often drew these comparisons in Helen's time in the serial. Josephine Monroe in her book "Neighbours: The first 10 Years", describes Helen as being the "linchpin of Neighbours", adding that everyone wanted to be her friend and would turn to her for help and that she is universally loved.
In her book "Soap opera", Dorothy Hobson describes Helen as breaking the stereotype for older women stating: "She was a very attractive woman, probably in her sixties, who had a successful career as an artist a number of romances and led a completely independent life, whilst still providing stability within the family."
- Hayward, Anthony (8 June 1999). "Obituary: Anne Haddy". The Independent (UK). Retrieved 6 May 2010.
- "Neighbours hits 15 years of success". BBC. 26 October 2001. Retrieved 3 January 2011.
- Shaun Linden (15 March 2010). "ATV Icons: Helen Daniels". ATV News Network. Retrieved 26 May 2010.
- Johnston, Tony (2005). Neighbours: 20 years of Ramsay Street. News Custom Publishing. p. 40. ISBN 1-876176-78-4. Retrieved 27 August 2010.
- Deller, Ruth (23 July 2009). "A guide to recognising your Ramsays and Robinsons". Lowculture. Retrieved 27 May 2010.
- "Neighbours: 25 Top Characters". Sky.com (British Sky Broadcasting). 2010. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
- Cooper, Lorna (17 March 2010). "TV's Neighbours: where are they now?". MSN. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
- Monroe, Josephine (1996). Neighbours: the first 10 years. Michael Joseph LTD (Penguin Group). p. 44. ISBN 0-7181-4212-8.
- Hobson, Dorothy (2003). Soap opera. Blackwell Publishing Ltd. p. 16. ISBN 0-7456-2655-6.