Biography

Irish actress and comedienne. She was born in Fairview, on the north side of Dublin, the daughter of a commercial traveller, and educated at St. Mary's School. At the age of 7 she became All Ireland Junior Dancing Champion. Two years later she was spotted by the Dublin comedian Jimmy O'Dea at an amateur concert party; she began appearing in pantomime with him at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin. In 1937 she joined the English comic Jack Hylton's troupe, despite being officially too young to work, and toured England and Europe with them, billed as The Pocket Mimic (a highlight of the show was her Shirley Temple impression). In Germany in 1938 they performed before an audience including Hitler and the rest of the Nazi leadership. The outbreak of World War Two forced her to return to neutral Ireland where she resumed her partnership with Jimmy O'Dea at the Gaiety, O'Dea invariably playing the Dame ("Mrs Mulligan") at the theatre's Christmas pantomime and Potter his daughter. Initially his 'feed' or stooge, she came to be regarded as one equal half of a double act with him. After the war she appeared for a while on variety bills in England, with (among others) Ted Ray and Max Wall, but concentrated increasingly on Dublin. In 1959 she married Jack O'Leary, an Irish army officer whom she had first met in 1943 and who wrote most of her comic material. In the 1960s she began to work in Irish television, sometimes with O'Dea and, after his death in 1965, with dancer and comedian Danny Cummins, who had been a regular in the Gaiety pantomimes. From 1955 to 1970 she headlined every summer at the Gaiety in a revue called 'Gaels of Laughter', built around her and showcasing her various talents (including mimicry and dancing). In the early '90s, despite claiming to have retired from the stage (she was suffering from arthritis), she began a series of hour-long one-woman shows at Clontarf Castle, Dublin. She also wrote children's books.