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, and from 1954 to the 1980s played by Roy Rolland.[1][2]

Old Mother Riley was an Irish washerwoman and charwoman character, devised by Lucan (born Arthur Towle).[1][3] His wife Kitty McShane played Old Mother Riley's daughter, Kitty.[1] It was essentially a drag act but also a double act. The couple played music halls, theatres, and broadcast on radio and appeared in films. Lucan was voted sixth biggest British box-office star by the Motion Picture Herald in 1943.[4][5] They also gave Jimmy Clitheroe his break in 1939 in an Old Mother Riley pantomime called The Old Woman who Lives in a Shoe,[6] and then the following year a part in their film, Old Mother Riley in Society. The Film Fun comic included an “Old Mother Riley” strip cartoon in the 1940s.

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.[1]

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 d Gifford, Denis (26 August 1997). "Obituary Roy Rolland". The Independent. Retrieved 12 June 2011. 
  2. ^ Old Mother Riley homepage
  3. ^ "Britmovie". Old Mother Riley: The Life and Career of Arthur Lucan. Britmovie. Retrieved 13 June 2011. 
  4. ^ Matthew Coniam (2009-09-13). "The 1944-45 Motion Picture Almanac". Movietone News. Retrieved 2014-03-03. 
  5. ^ http://www.brent.gov.uk/media/7031206/Arthur%20Lucan%20-%20the%20man%20who%20was%20Old%20Mother%20Riley.pdf
  6. ^ "Vintage British Comedy". Old Mother Riley. Retrieved 13 June 2011. 

Robert V Kenny, The Man Who Was Old Mother Riley - The Lives and Films of Arthur Lucan and Kitty McShane, BearManor Media, 2014, 428pp. http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Man-Who-Mother-Riley/dp/1593937717