Old Mother Riley

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Arthur Lucan and Kitty McShane as Old Mother Riley and her daughter Kitty

Old Mother Riley was a music hall act which originally ran from about 1934 to 1954 played by Arthur Lucan,[1][2] and from 1954 to the 1980s played by Roy Rolland.[3]

Old Mother Riley was an Irish washerwoman and charwoman character, devised by Lucan (born Arthur Towle).[1][4] His wife Kitty McShane played Old Mother Riley's daughter, Kitty.[1][4] It was essentially a drag act but also a double act. They were hugely successful at the time, playing music halls, theatres, radio and films. Such was their popularity that the Film Fun comic included an “Old Mother Riley” strip cartoon for many years in the 1940s; and Lucan was voted sixth biggest British box office star by the Motion Picture Herald in 1943.[5][6] They also gave Jimmy Clitheroe his big break in 1939 in an Old Mother Riley pantomime called The Old Woman who Lives in a Shoe,[7] and then the following year a part in their film, Old Mother Riley in Society.

Roy Rolland was Lucan's understudy and stand-in, and after Lucan's death in 1954 he continued to play the Old Mother Riley character in pantomime, on television and in cabaret until the 1980s.[3]

Old Mother Riley is referenced in the Kinks song "The Village Green Preservation Society" from their 1968 album The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society.[8]

The Old Mother Riley films[edit]

Made on a minuscule budget, but extremely profitable, 15 of the 17 films made by Arthur Lucan featured him as Old Mother Riley:

At the time of Lucan's death he was scheduled to film Old Mother Riley's Trip to Mars.


  1. ^ a b c "Obituary Roy Rolland". The Independent on Sunday. 26 August 1997. Retrieved 12 June 2011. 
  2. ^ Old Mother Riley homepage
  3. ^ a b http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/obituary-roy-rolland-1247384.html
  4. ^ a b "Britmovie". Old Mother Riley: The Life and Career of Arthur Lucan. Britmovie. Retrieved 13 June 2011. 
  5. ^ Matthew Coniam (2009-09-13). "The 1944-45 Motion Picture Almanac". Movietone News. Retrieved 2014-03-03. 
  6. ^ http://www.brent.gov.uk/media/7031206/Arthur%20Lucan%20-%20the%20man%20who%20was%20Old%20Mother%20Riley.pdf
  7. ^ "Vintage British Comedy". Old Mother Riley. Retrieved 13 June 2011. 
  8. ^ "Magnet Magazine". Ray Davies revisits The Kinks "The Village Green Preservation Society". Magnet Magazine. Retrieved 13 June 2011.