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Arthur Lucan

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Arthur Lucan


Donald Daniel Towle

Arthur Lucan Arthur Lucan British actor Posters amp Prints by Tuck and Sons

May 17, 1954, Kingston upon Hull, United Kingdom

Kitty McShane (m. 1913–1954)

Old Mother Riley Meets the, Old Mother Riley - MP, Old Mother Riley in Paris, Old Mother Riley, Old Mother Riley's Ghosts

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On Your Way Riley - (1985 - Arthur Lucan/Old Mother Riley drama)

Arthur Lucan (16 September 1885 – 17 May 1954) was an English actor who performed the drag act Old Mother Riley on stage, radio and screen, with a series of comedy films from the late 1930s to the early 1950s.



Arthur Lucan httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediaenthumbb

Lucan was born on 16 September 1885 in Sibsey, Lincolnshire as Arthur Towle, the third of seven children born to Tom Towle, a groom, and his wife Lucy Ann Mawer. When he was five years old, the family moved to nearby Boston, Lincolnshire, where Arthur later made his first acting appearance at the town's Shodfriars Hall. After leaving school, he left home to pursue a career in music hall. He gained a job with a family troupe called the Musical Cliftons, and later as sidekick to a comedian called Will Pepper.

'Old Mother Riley'

Arthur Lucan Book launch of The Man Who Was Old Mother Riley by

Arthur was appearing in Dublin when he met and married the 16-year-old Kitty McShane in 1913. The couple had one son, Donald Daniel Towle (b. 2 October 1915, Dublin –d. 1970), and became a successful double act. They achieved some success with a sketch called "Bridget's Night Out". For this he first wore drag, and began to develop the character of Old Mother Riley. Whilst in Dublin, he changed his name to Lucan, and they continued to perform as 'Lucan and McShane'. The act was featured in the 1934 Royal Command Performance at the London Palladium, the most prestigious engagement of its time.

Arthur Lucan The Gallery Arthur Lucan Old Mother Riley

After the Royal Command Performance, there followed a film career, a radio series and even a strip cartoon in the Radio Times and Film Fun. In all, Arthur Lucan made 17 films, 16 as Old Mother Riley; and in 1943, the Motion Picture Herald voted him the sixth biggest "money-making star" in British films. However, his marriage proved to be a volatile union, and Lucan and McShane separated in 1951.

Arthur Lucan Arthur Lucan amp Kitty McShane Old Mother Riley39s Past

Lucan was a member of the Savage Club. In recent years, the club has held Old Mother Riley evenings, as a tribute to Lucan's talent.

Arthur Lucan On Your Way Riley 1985 Arthur LucanOld Mother Riley

Lucan, as 'Old Mother Riley' was last seen on stage at the Theatre Royal, Barnsley on 14 May 1954 in a stage adaptation of Old Mother Riley in Paris. The following Monday he was due to take the show to the Tivoli Theatre, Hull, as part of his UK theatre and music hall tour. Ellis Aston was the first on stage to compere the forthcoming show. But Lucan had collapsed in the wings and died shortly afterwards in his dressing room. He was 68 years old. The site now houses a bakery and cafe, where there is a memorial bust of Arthur Lucan, together with various memorabilia from his career. He is buried in Hull's Eastern Cemetery.

Following his death Lucan's understudy Roy Rolland took on the role of Old Mother Riley, performing with Kitty McShane until her death in 1964, before then performing solo in cabaret, pantomime, theatre variety shows and summer seasons, until the 1980s when he retired.

In 1982, Alan Plater wrote a play, On Your Way, Riley, about the life of Arthur Lucan, with songs by Alex Glasgow. This was also broadcast on ITV in 1985 with Brian Murphy and Maureen Lipman in the leading roles.

A Greater London Council blue plaque, unveiled in 1978, commemorates Lucan at his home, 11 Forty Lane in Wembley.


Lucan died, aged 68, at the Tivoli Theatre, Hull on Monday 17 May 1954. Ellis Aston was the first on stage to compere the forthcoming show. He introduced Lucan on to the stage, but obviously there was not any form of response or reaction from Lucan as he had suffered a heart attack in the wings and had collapsed. Slim Ingram, who was working at the theatre, carried Lucan to his dressing room in order to try and revive him there, but his attempts failed and Lucan died shortly afterwards. Ingram then walked on to the stage and explained to the audience that Lucan was unwell, before introducing Frank Seaton, the understudy who went on for Lucan that night. Frank remembered it as a difficult experience, since he’d never previously gone on for Arthur - and hadn’t really had enough rehearsals in the part! The site now houses a bakery and cafe, where there is a memorial bust of Arthur Lucan, together with various memorabilia from his career. He is buried in Hull's Eastern Cemetery.


Actor (and writer where stated)

  • Stars on Parade (1936)
  • Old Mother Riley (1937)
  • Kathleen Mavourneen (1937)
  • Old Mother Riley in Paris (1938)
  • Old Mother Riley, MP (1940)
  • Old Mother Riley Joins Up (1940)
  • Old Mother Riley in Society (1940)
  • Old Mother Riley's Circus (and writer, 1941)
  • Old Mother Riley in Business (1941)
  • Old Mother Riley's Ghosts (and writer, 1941)
  • Old Mother Riley Overseas (and writer, 1943)
  • Old Mother Riley Detective (and writer, 1943)
  • Old Mother Riley at Home (1945)
  • Old Mother Riley's New Venture (1949)
  • Old Mother Riley Headmistress (1950)
  • Old Mother Riley's Jungle Treasure (1951)
  • Mother Riley Meets the Vampire (1952)
  • References

    Arthur Lucan Wikipedia

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