Mary O'Neil

Duration: 2:09 minutes
Accession No: TWCMS : 2009.345
This story has been viewed 11759 times

Brian's story is about his mum who was a music hall singer and actress in the 40s and 50s.

By Brian Thompson

Other information

This story was inspired by the Newcastle Story gallery at Discovery Museum.

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Video transcript

My mum was born Margaret Spark on the 18th May 1929 in Byker. Just after the war she joined producer and theatre cinema owner Teddy Hinge's Newcastle based touring music hall revue company and adopted the stage name Mary O'Neil, and because of her beautiful singing voice and girl next door looks was billed as Everybody’s Sweetheart, and became well known in local theatre with her as the star of the show. Although I did not hear her sing on stage as she had a short career I learned of her previous life as a child through the many photographs including portfolio shots and photos outside the theatre, on stage and relaxing with friends and other members of the company and relatives telling what a beautiful singing voice she had in her teens and twenties and on occasion asking her with some persuasion to sing a little something which she usually did singing in a faltering voice a snippet from one of her music hall songs. She appeared in panto at various theatres in the country including the Grand Theatre in Byker and entertained the troops doing their national service. Through my work with Tyne and Wear museums have learned that children could get into the Grand theatre matinee's with a jam jar and a farthing you would be sitting up in the gods trying not to lean to far forward or else you might end up in the stalls.

On her 18th birthday the company had a party for my mum where she was given a gold chain which I still treasure

My mum was at times reluctant to talk about her passed life, she had been married during her career in music hall which did not work out and all of the photographs of her previous husband were removed from the albums and destroyed.

I wish now 30 plus years on I had recorded her singing and reminiscing as all I have now are these photographs and fragments of memory.

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