Belfast, Northern Ireland.
|Occupation||Actor and pantomime dame|
|Known for||Charity work/Panto Dame|
John Linehan was a car mechanic before he rose to fame in the guise of his plain-speaking, gap-toothed housewife character, May McFettridge. Eamonn Holmes, a relative, had asked Linehan to phone his then radio show, to liven the programme up. Linehan pretended to be a Belfast housewife, and the banter between the two attracted an unprecedented number of positive phone calls to the radio studio, many asking for a return of the women as a regular on the show.
Linehan invented the name and the character by ad libbing — the first name being that of his mother-in-law and the surname being that of an Antrim hurler by the name of Olcan McFettridge, whose exploits in a National Hurling League game had made headlines in the local newspaper, The Irish News, which happened to be beside Linehan when put on the spot.
The character became a regular on Downtown Radio. Since that time, Linehan has topped the bill as his character in the Christmas Pantomime in the Grand Opera House in Belfast for twenty-five consecutive years (2014).
On the 2nd of December 2014, John was presented on stage with a bust of May McFettridge to mark his 25th consecutive year of performing at the Grand Opera House's pantomime. The bust will be kept permanently on view in the Grand Circle of the theatre opposite the bust of Frank Matcham, the architect of the building.
He/she was recently described by John Daly as 'the face that sank a thousand ships' during a charity event at the Odyssey in Belfast.
Linehan is also involved in charity work, appearing regularly in Northern Ireland's Children in Need broadcasts, and organising events such as golfing tournaments to help raise money for Children of the Crossfire. He was awarded the MBE in 2006 for charitable services in Northern Ireland.
Linehan starred as McFettridge every year in the Grand Opera House Pantomime, which are huge successes. He usually plays a very comical role in the show and leaves every audience in stitches of laughter. Here are some of his panto roles:
- 2014-2014 Queen May in 'Sleeping Beauty'
- 2011-12 Dame May Trot in "Jack and the Beanstalk"
- 2010-11 Nurse May in Snow White
- 2009-10 Widow May Twankey in " Aladdin "
- 2008-09 Mother Goose in Mother Goose
- 2007-08 The Fairy Godmother in Cinderella
- 2006-07 Mrs Smee in Peter Pan
- 2005-06 Nurse May in Snow White
- 2004-05 Dame Trott in Jack and the Beanstalk
- 2003-04 Sarah the Cook in Dick Whittington
- 2002-03 The Fairy Godmother in Cinderella
Linehan appeared in the film Divorcing Jack as the 'Announcer'. Later European versions of the 'Divorcing Jack' DVD had May McFetridge segments edited out due to social sensitivities in Eastern European countries such as the Czech Republic or Slovakia.
He is married to Brenda, and they have two daughters.
In his early teens, Linehan's Key Stage Three English Literature coursework, 'A World without Windows' was published in a compilation of teenage idealist prose, and was subsequently re-written in the Irish Language and published in a Gaelgoir poetry book named An Shiopa Geotta. The prose, laid out in four stanzas (in both English and Irish version) details a dream of Linehan's detailing a world where neighbours could not look through each other's kitchen windows and judge each other. The piece was so well written that teachers from his school were prompted to contact his home to inform guardians that he had been plagiarising already published texts (the lines "I look through not my neighbour's window, for I don't know the great crescendo, for what may ring throughout my ears, I dare not open to those peers" were compared to the written words of Wordsworth, among others). These claims were found to be false and Lineham was praised nationally with the awards for "Gaelgoir of the Young Generation", and internationally with the John Lennon "Imagine" Literary award for Young People. Lennon's wife, Yoko Ono was scheduled to meet Lineham several years later as a "follow up" on her much speculated, but never materialized Irish tour named "Aislingacht- the Irish Visionary Tour", which was shelved due to various financial, critical, and time related constraints. In recent times, not much else has been revealed about Linehan's literary past or more recent writings. John never appeared to collect his award from the South Eastern Education and Library Board however, citing in a later interview that he did not agree with their stances on the Eleven Plus examination, and believed that every child in Northern Ireland should be entitled to attend a grammar school.
In the early 1980s, Linehan was diagnosed as having syringomyelia and he had neurosurgery in 1983 following which he had meningitis. The syringomyelia has caused muscle wastage and some loss of sensation on his left side.