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Saturday 20 July 2019

Corrie, Fr Ted, The Royle Family, Fair City... Doreen spent her lifetime in our living rooms

Standing ovation for Doreen Keogh as hugely popular actress on stage and screen for many years is laid to rest

Star power: Doreen Keogh with Sue Johnston in ‘The Royle Family’.
Star power: Doreen Keogh with Sue Johnston in ‘The Royle Family’.
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

IN terms of final curtains, it was an Oscar contender. As the coffin of actress Doreen Keogh was carried from the church, the priest addressed the mourners, saying: "Every actor deserves a round of applause and final acknowledgment. So let's give her that before we leave this church today."

Right on cue, the congregation rose as one - and the resounding applause rang out through the small church in Inistioge, Co Kilkenny.

Doreen Keogh first came to fame as the original barmaid on the soap opera Coronation Street. Her character, Concepta Riley - an excitable Irishwoman - began pulling pints at the Rovers Return in the fifth episode of the soap and stayed with the series for four years.

In 1964, she was written out by an axe-wielding new producer.

The character Concepta occasionally returned to Coronation Street, making her last visit to Weatherfield in 1975. But the actress Doreen Keogh kept coming back to the TV screens.

Doreen Keogh was born in Dublin on February 5, 1926, and left school aged 15 to train with the Abbey Theatre School, before her father's job took the family to London in the war.

An early episode of ‘Coronation Street’ with Doreen Keogh as Concepta, Doris Speed as Annie Walker and Violet Carson as Ena Sharples
An early episode of ‘Coronation Street’ with Doreen Keogh as Concepta, Doris Speed as Annie Walker and Violet Carson as Ena Sharples

As well as Coronation Street, she appeared in numerous TV series, including Ballykissangel (playing Imelda Egan), Z Cars and Crossroads, and in the late 1990s, had recurring roles: as Pete Gifford's dope-smoking mother Audrey in Cold Feet, and she was exceptional in The Royle Family playing Mary Carroll, the Royles' gossipy, orange-haired Irish neighbour.

She also played the character Mrs Dineen in two episodes of Father Ted.

At home in Ireland, she was a cast member of Fair City from 1989 until she left the soap opera in the early 1990s.

Her stage credits (for various companies) include Shadow of a Gunman, Ducking Out, Juno and the Paycock, Look Out Here Comes Trouble, Once a Catholic, Summer, Heartbreak House and Purple Dust.

On the big screen, her roles included Mary in Two A Penny (1967), Emma in Darling Lili (1970), Beryl in Take It Or Leave It (1982), Mrs Truscott in To The Lighthouse (1983), Mrs Buckley in Widows' Peak (1994), Nonie in Brylcreem Boys (1998), the Mother Superior in Some Mother's Son (1996) and Miss Celestine in The Honeymooners (2005). The same year, she played the shopkeeper in Neil Jordan's Breakfast on Pluto.

A versatile performer, along the way she had time to coach Barbra Streisand to speak with a cockney accent for the 1970 film On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.

Despite her Coronation Street character giving birth, she did not have children in real life.

Her friends were many, however, and on Thursday they gathered at Inistioge's St Colmcille's Church to say farewell. One close friend said the occasion was more of a celebration than a funeral.

The chief mourner was Doreen's husband Jack Jenner and among those who attended was actor Barry McGovern.

Foliage from her garden was brought to the church and used to bless her coffin.

Fr Richard Scriven, who delivered the sermon, said the 91-year-old actress brought "huge joy" to those who watched her on television.

"We celebrate her time from in Corrie to her distinguished role of as Mrs Dineen in Father Ted, where she feuded with Mrs Doyle - and anyone who fights with a parish priest's housekeeper has to be a formidable and commendable individual," he laughed.

Keogh also had a strong passion for animals and owned two donkeys. Her nephew Laurence fondly recalled how her pets "lived like kings".

"Doreen loved her animals," he said. "They pretty much won the animal lottery and were the luckiest beasts on God's earth. She made sure they lived liked kings and as a result her donkeys had the most beautiful coats you can imagine."

Close friend Brenda Falconer said the actress was also a long-standing patron of the donkey sanctuary in Co Cork. "She had those donkeys for about 20 years and loved them with all her heart. Everyone greatly respected her down there. She will be sorely missed."

Family members also spoke about how well the 91-year-old was treated by the staff at St Columba's Hospital in Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, where she spent her final days.

During the service, a collection of the theme songs from all the many shows she appeared in was played. A Bible and cross were placed on her coffin by family members, symbols of her strong faith. As the sermon was brought to a close, Gerry & the Pacemakers' version of You'll Never Walk Alone was played as her coffin was carried out of the church.

The coffin was then brought to Cappagh Cemetery, Co Kilkenny, where Doreen Keogh was laid to rest.

Doreen Keogh's first marriage, to actor Frank Singuineau, was dissolved. She is survived by her second husband, Jack Jenner.

Sunday Independent

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