Margaret John

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Margaret John
Born (1926-12-14)14 December 1926[1]
Swansea, Wales
Died 2 February 2011(2011-02-02) (aged 84)[2]
Swansea, Wales[3]
Nationality British
Ethnicity Welsh
Occupation Actress
Years active 1956–2011
Television Crossroads
The Boy Merlin
The District Nurse
Eyes Down
Tea and Biscuits with Maggie Pritchard
High Hopes
Gavin and Stacey
Spouse(s) Ben Thomas (1974–1978)
(his death)[4]

Margaret John (14 December 1926 – 2 February 2011) was a Welsh, BAFTA award-winning actress, best known for her role as Doris in Gavin & Stacey. She has been described, by fellow actress Ruth Jones, as "an absolute national treasure".[5]

Early life[edit]

Born in Swansea, as a child she wanted to be a nurse or veterinarian, but she could not stand the sight of blood.[1] She occasionally acted at school with her sister Mair. Spotted while acting in a chapel pagent competition, after an audition John trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, graduating in 1950.[6]


Margaret John's first public appearances were at Swansea's Grand Theatre, where she had small parts in weekly repertoire.[7] Not being a fluent Welsh speaker, she found some productions in Welsh at times challenging.[5] After appearances on radio and in the theatre, she made her television debut in 1956 in a Welsh language drama.[1] Her television roles included appearances on episodes of The First Lady, The Troubleshooters, Softly, Softly, The Mike Yarwood Show, Doomwatch, Blake's 7, Secret Army, Lovejoy, My Family, High Hopes, The District Nurse, Casualty, and Doctors. On Radio 4, she appeared on Linda Smith's A Brief History of Timewasting and played Mrs Stone, the school secretary, in the original ten series of King Street Junior from 1985 to 1998.

In a career that spanned more than fifty years, she appeared in such television programmes including: Coronation Street, Dixon of Dock Green, Z-Cars, Doctor Who, Little Britain, Emmerdale, Last of the Summer Wine, Crossroads, Gavin and Stacey and The Mighty Boosh.

In the early 1980s, she enjoyed a long run on ITV's daily soap opera Crossroads as doctors' receptionist Marian Owen. But between 2007 and 2010, she portrayed the suggestive neighbour Doris, cannabis-smoking, raunchy and much given to toyboys, in the BBC comedy series Gavin & Stacey.

At the 18th BAFTA Cymru Film, Television and Interactive Media Awards on 17 May 2009, at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay, in a ceremony hosted by Gethin Jones, John was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award.[8]

In September 2009, John appeared in the graphic short film Cow by director Peter Watkins Hughes warning of the dangers of texting while driving.[9]

Also in 2009, John appeared in The Vagina Monologues, before which her last theatre production was in the 1980s in Medea at London's Young Vic Theatre, opposite Eileen Atkins. John appeared on stage in Calendar Girls at the Wales Millennium Centre from 27 July to 7 August 2010 and at Venue Cymru, Llandudno from 9 to 14 August 2010, alongside fellow Welsh actress Ruth Madoc, playing Lady Cravenshire, the judge of the WI's cake competition.[10] She also starred in the 2009 low-budget film A Bit of Tom Jones?, a bawdy farce about the Welsh singer's penis.[11]

In March 2010 she appeared in the BBC One Wales programme Margaret John – National Treasure, which featured clips from the last 50 years of television and special guest interviews with, among others, Ruth Jones, Eve Myles and Joanna Page. The programme was broadcast again, in tribute to John, on 5 February 2011.[5] She also featured in a short BBC video in which she cooked Welsh cakes for St. David's Day.[12]

Her last appearance on screen was in the new HBO drama Game of Thrones on 8 May 2011. [13]

She also had still been busy working in the previous month.

Personal life[edit]

Aged 48, she married Ben Thomas, a viola player who performed with both the London Symphony Orchestra and Frank Sinatra.[14] He died aged 39, three years after they married, and she did not remarry. They had no children.[15] Ben also did world tours with Gladys Knight and the Pips, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Sammy Davis Jnr. He was a Top of the Pops band member for several years and appears on many music albums as a session musician the 1970s, from the Moody Blues (he plays a solo on "Knights in White Satin) to Frank Zappa. He was in the front row of the band in the famous Morecombe & Wise sketch with André Previn.[16]

An obsessive jigsaw fan, knitter, and solitaire player, she regularly worked for many charities, including: Sport Relief, Children in Need, Comic Relief, the PDSA and the George Thomas Hospice. She was also the face of the National Lottery AdvantAGE campaign, created to provide opportunities for older people.[1]

In her eighties she would happily drive to London and usually turned down any offer of a lift to the studios or locations.


Margaret John died in hospital in her home town of Swansea on 2 February 2011 after a short illness of Liver carcinoma.[17]

Just before her death, Swansea University awarded her an Honorary Fellowship for her exemplary and inspiring character in relation to old age, particularly as she continued acting until she became ill shortly before her death. The award was received by her close nephew, Chris Davies, at a ceremony in the Brangwyn Hall, Swansea.[16]

Selected film and television appearances[edit]


External links[edit]