Noel Purcell (actor)

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Noel Purcell
Born (1900-12-23)23 December 1900
Dublin, Ireland
Died 3 March 1985(1985-03-03) (aged 84)
Dublin, Ireland
Occupation Film, television and stage actor
Years active 1926–1984

Patrick Joseph Noel Purcell (23 December 1900 – 3 March 1985) was a distinguished Irish actor of stage, screen and television.

Family background[edit]

Noel Purcell was the son of auctioneer Pierce Purcell and his second wife Catherine, née Hoban, of 4 Ashbrook Terrace, South Circular Road, Dublin. He was born on 23 December 1900 and baptised six days later at Harrington Street Church.[1] Within a few months, the Purcell family had moved to 12 Mercer St. Lower.[2] In 1911, the Purcells were living at the same address, but the household was headed by Noel's maternal grandmother, Julia Hoban, a furniture dealer.[3]

He lost the tip of his right index finger while making cigarette vending machines, a feature which was exploited for dramatic effect in the film Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) and was also missing his entire left index figure due to a different accident while he was an apprentice carpenter.


Plaque in Noel Purcell Walk in Dublin, Ireland

Purcell began his show business career at the age of 12 in Dublin's Gaiety Theatre. Later, he toured Ireland in a vaudeville act with Jimmy O'Dea.[4]

Stage-trained in the classics in Dublin, Purcell moved into films in 1934. He appeared in Captain Boycott (1947) and as the elderly sailor whose death marooned the lovers-to-be in the first sound film version of The Blue Lagoon (1949). Purcell played 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 gameskeeper in The List of Adrian Messenger (1963), and a barman in The Mackintosh Man (1973), these two films directed by John Huston.

In 1955, he was an off-and-on regular on the British filmed TV series The Buccaneers (released to American TV in 1956), and Purcell narrated a Hibernian documentary, Seven Wonders of Ireland (1959). In 1962, he portrayed the lusty William McCoy in Lewis Milestone's Mutiny on the Bounty. He played 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 played the caring rabbi in the children's musical drama Flight of the Doves.

He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1958 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the BBC Television Theatre.

Purcell also gained some recognition as a singer. Shortly after World War II, songwriter Leo Maguire composed "The Dublin Saunter" for him. He performed the song live for many years and later recorded it for the Glenside label. However, the recording was not a hit. As Purcell recalled many years later, "I don't think one person in the world bought it." However, over time it became one of the most favourite songs about Dublin, receiving countless air-plays on radio programmes. In his latter years, Purcell was asked by RTE journalist Colm Connolly whether he had received many royalties down the years. Purcell replied: "Not a penny. I recorded it as a favour for a pal, Leo Maguire, who'd written it. No contract or anything, so I never got a fee or any payments."

In 1981, he recorded a spoken word version of Pete St. John's "Dublin in the Rare Old Times".[5]

In June 1984, Purcell was given the Freedom of the City of Dublin.[6] Nine months later, he died in his native city at the age of 84.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Baptismal register
  2. ^ 1901 census
  3. ^ 1911 census
  4. ^ The Irish Times, "Noel Purcell dies in Dublin aged 84", March 4, 1985
  5. ^ The Irish Times, "Noel Purcell - 81 and still performing", (p.5), December 24, 1981
  6. ^ The Irish Times, "Well deserved honour for Potter and Purcell", July 5, 1984

External links[edit]