Margaret John

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Margaret John
David Lyn Margaret John How Green.jpg
Margaret John as Bronwen Morgan and David Lyn as Ivor Morgan in How Green Was My Valley (1960)
Born(1926-12-14)14 December 1926[1]
Died2 February 2011(2011-02-02) (aged 84)[2]
Swansea, Wales[3]
Years active1956–2011
Notable work
A Bit of Tom Jones?
The Boy Merlin
The District Nurse
Eyes Down
High Hopes
Gavin & Stacey
Game of Thrones
Ben Thomas
(m. 1974; died 1978)

Margaret John (14 December 1926 – 2 February 2011) was a Welsh, BAFTA award-winning actress, best known for her role as Doris O'Neill in Gavin & Stacey.

Early life[edit]

Born in Swansea, as a child she wanted to be a nurse or vet, 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 pageant competition, after an audition John trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, graduating in 1950.[5]


Margaret John's first public appearances were at Swansea's Grand Theatre, where she had small parts in weekly repertoire.[6] Not being a fluent Welsh speaker, she at times found Welsh language productions challenging.[7] After appearances on radio and in the theatre, she made her television debut in 1956 in a Welsh-language drama.

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 50 years, she appeared in such television programmes as: Coronation Street, Dixon of Dock Green, Z-Cars, Doctor Who, Little Britain, Emmerdale, Last of the Summer Wine, Crossroads, Gavin & 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. Between 2007 and 2010, she portrayed Doris in 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; prior to that, she had not appeared on stage since the 1980s, when she appeared in Medea at London's Young Vic Theatre, with Dame Eileen Atkins. John subsequently 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.[7] 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, broadcast one month after her death, was in Game of Thrones as Old Nan, an elderly servant in the Stark household, who was slated to be a recurring character.[13]

She was called by fellow actress Ruth Jones as "an absolute national treasure".[7]

Personal life[edit]

Aged 48, she married Ben Thomas, a viola player who performed with the London Symphony Orchestra and Frank Sinatra. He died aged 39, three years after they married, and she did not remarry. They had no children.[4]

John regularly worked for charities, including Sport Relief, Children in Need, Comic Relief, the PDSA and the George Thomas Hospice. She was the face of the National Lottery AdvantAGE campaign, created to provide opportunities for older people.[4]


Margaret John died in hospital in Swansea on 2 February 2011 from liver cancer.[14]

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.

Selected film and television appearances[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1960 How Green Was My Valley Bronwen BBC adaptation[15]
1967 Z-Cars Betty Nutall Episode: "When Did You Last See Your Father?"
1968 Doctor Who Megan Jones Serial: "Fury from the Deep"
1973 Seven of One Mrs Owen Episode: "I'll Fly You for a Quid"
1977 Last of the Summer Wine Foggy's ladyfriend Episode #26: "Who Made a Bit of a Splash in Wales Then?"
1977–1978 Pobol y Cwm Clare Leyshon Regular Role
1978–1984 Crossroads Marian Owen
1978 Blake's 7 Arbiter Episode: "The Way Back"
1999–2008 High Hopes Mrs Elsie Hepplewhite
2005 The Mighty Boosh Nanatoo Episode: "Nanageddon"
2006 Doctor Who Granny Connolly Episode: "The Idiot's Lantern"
2007–2010 Gavin & Stacey Doris O'Neill
2007 Run Fatboy Run Libby's Grandmother
2009 A Bit of Tom Jones?
Cow Joyce Richards
2010 Skins Eunice
2011 Game of Thrones Old Nan Posthumous release.


  1. ^ a b "Margaret John". London: Daily Telegraph. 2 February 2011.
  2. ^ McCarthy, James (2 February 2011). "Gavin & Stacey star dies". Wales Online. Retrieved 2 February 2011.
  3. ^ "Gavin & Stacey actress Margaret John dies at 84". BBC News. 2 February 2011. Retrieved 2 February 2011.
  4. ^ a b c "Margaret John obituary". The Daily Telegraph. London, UK. 2 February 2011.
  5. ^ "Swansea Life - News, views, gossip, pictures, video - Wales Online".
  6. ^ "Margaret John: Actress acclaimed for her portrayal of the saucy".
  7. ^ a b c Margaret John – National Treasure,; accessed 6 March 2015.
  8. ^ Nations & Regions Awards Archived 22 March 2010 at the Wayback Machine,; accessed 6 March 2015.
  9. ^ "Graphic film about dangers of texting is internet hit",; accessed 6 March 2015.
  10. ^ Price, Karen (29 April 2010). "Margaret John stars in Calendar Girls". Western Mail. Cardiff, Wales: Trinity Mirror. Retrieved 24 April 2010.
  11. ^ "Gavin & Stacey star Margaret John dies",; accessed 6 March 2015.
  12. ^ "Margaret John's St David's Day Video",; accessed 6 March 2015.
  13. ^ "Gavin & Stacey star Margaret John dies",; accessed 6 March 2015.
  14. ^ "Gavin & Stacey star Margaret John dies". Guardian. 2 February 2011. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  15. ^ "BBC - Wales - Arts - Margaret John".

External links[edit]