Actress best known as the wife of television's iconic Inspector Wexford famously married her leading man
Published 20/03/2011 | 05:00
Louie Ramsay, who died on March 6 aged 81, was best known to television viewers as Dora, the spiky but down-to-earth wife of Chief Inspector Reg Wexford in the hugely popular Ruth Rendell Mysteries series on ITV.
Not only did she play the policeman's wife on screen, but Ramsay also married George Baker, the actor who played him, after his second wife, Sally, died of cancer in 1992. Ramsay had first set eyes on her future husband in the Fifties in the Buckstone Club, a favourite haunt of young actors near the Haymarket Theatre. She thought he was "outstandingly good-looking", but their paths did not cross again until they started working on the Inspector Wexford series in 1987. Her own marriage to the Irish actor Ronan O'Casey had ended in divorce some years earlier.
While life in the Wexford household was not always easy -- Dora had to deal with her husband's moods, her daughter Sylvia's unhappy marriage and her other daughter Sheila's unsuitable boyfriends -- her marriage to George Baker was blissfully happy. Together they created a beautiful garden at their cottage near Devizes.
Louie Ramsay was born on November 25, 1929, in South Africa of Scots parents. She was brought up in London, where her father worked as a specialist in infectious diseases at the Royal Free Hospital. As a girl she became a cricket fanatic and recalled wanting to be the cricketer Denis Compton.
She was educated at the North London Collegiate School and after training at Rada, where she became friends with Alfred Hitchcock's daughter Patricia, took a small role in Hitchcock's Stage Fright in 1949.
Her first outing in the West End was in 1951 as part of the chorus line in South Pacific, when she became known as "Spotty Lou" after breaking out into a terrible rash (it turned out that she was allergic to the make-up).
After the show ended she joined the Players' Theatre, where in 1955 she starred in Twenty Minutes South, Maurice Browning and Peter Greenwell's musical comedy about the romantic entanglements of office workers, directed by Hattie Jacques and starring John Le Mesurier. The following year she took a leading role opposite Max Bygraves in Meet Me on the Corner.
Her promising musical theatre career was cut short in the late Fifties when she was diagnosed with Reiter's syndrome, a painful disease that attacks the joints. She was told that she might never walk again, but recovered, and in 1971 joined the National Theatre, where Laurence Olivier cast her as Lillian in JB Priestley's Eden End.
She also appeared in Equus, The Cherry Orchard, and The Misanthrope.
In the Eighties she took leading roles in the BBC television dramas King's Royal and Strike It Rich before going on to Inspector Wexford.
Louie Ramsay is survived by her husband and by the son of her marriage to Ronan O'Casey.