Obituary: Anne Haddy

ON SCREEN and off, Anne Haddy was beset with health problems. A string of real-life illnesses, including stomach cancer and a heart attack, preceded the Australian actress's role as worldly-wise Helen Daniels in the popular teen soap Neighbours. In the programme, her character bounced back from two strokes and a hip-replacement operation.

When the serial started, Helen was the widowed mother-in-law of Jim Robinson, and to the Robinson family she was known as "The Rock of Gibraltar". She was the diplomat and voice of reason to whom residents of Ramsay Street, in the fictional Melbourne suburb of Erinsborough, turned for advice.

But after 12 years on the programme her own ill-health finally forced her to leave Neighbours two years ago, after cheating death as she lay unconscious in hospital, her kidneys failing and heart weakening. Doctors were convinced she would not survive, but she confounded them by staging a remarkable recovery.

On being told of their pessimism by her actor husband James Condon, Haddy decided it was time to take life easier. "In the past, I have been seriously ill," she said, "but nobody ever told me I was going to die. Staying healthy is our only goal at the moment. To keep living, laughing and loving."

It signalled the end of a long and successful career on stage and television that Haddy had dreamed about in her teens. Born an only child in Quorn, South Australia, in 1927, she invented characters, dressed up and produced plays with other children. She also watched films as many as three times a day when she discovered the magic of cinema, and was a great fan of Bette Davis.

While at Adelaide High School, she performed in a play, Androcles and the Lion, for which her art teacher Keith Michell - who later found fame himself as an actor - applied her make-up. Later, she acted in radio plays and schools broadcasts while working by day in Adelaide University's book room.

Haddy left for Britain at the age of 23, hoping to find acting work, but ended up working for Kellogg's as a secretary. She met and married her first husband, Max Dimmitt, before returning to Perth, Western Australia, where she gave birth to two children. In 1960, the family moved to Sydney and Haddy found herself in demand in the theatre and on radio.

One of her most notable stage roles was as Sheila Larkin in the Jack Roffey courtroom thriller Hostile Witness, alongside Ray Milland, who starred in the film version. Her theatrical repertoire also included The Entertainer, Hay Fever, The Glass Menagerie, Twelfth Night, Richard III, Gaslight and 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, and she had roles in films such as Newsfront (1978), one of the "new wave" of acclaimed Australian pictures, in which she played the wife of company boss A.G. Marwood (actor Don Crosby).

In her early days on television, Haddy presented Play School and guest- starred in the popular series Skippy the Bush Kangaroo. Like many Australian actors, she appeared in a number of the country's major television serials. She played Alice Hemmings, estranged, dying mother of Doreen Burns, in Prisoner (retitled Prisoner: Cell Block H in Britain), Toni Lee in Skyways, Louise Francis in Cop Shop and, most memorably, the housekeeper Rosie Andrews in Sons and Daughters, as well as taking roles in The Young Doctors, The Flying Doctors and A Town Like Alice.

However, she was hampered by a string of personal tragedies. In 1971, while rehearsing the stage play National Health in Sydney, she fell and broke her wrist. Because the play was set in the ward of a London hospital, there were nurses on hand to give advice to the cast. Eight years later, she collapsed from a heart attack and had to have bypass surgery. Shortly afterwards, she fell and broke a hip. Then, she discovered she had cancer of the stomach, but it was diagnosed early and the growth was removed. In 1983, she was back in hospital, having one of her four heart bypasses unclogged.

In 1985, by now recovered, Haddy was invited to take the role of Helen Daniels in the new serial Neighbours. Reg Watson, who had returned to his homeland in 1973 after being the first producer of the much-maligned British serial Crossroads, created Helen to destroy the myth that all mothers-in-law were battleaxes.

Neighbours failed to attract audiences when it was first screened by the 7 Network in Australia, in March 1985, so it was axed after less than a year. However, the producers Grundy Television persuaded the rival 10 Network to buy the programme and, with changes that included Jason Donovan taking the role of Scott Robinson and Kylie Minogue joining the cast as Charlene Mitchell, it became a massive hit.

In Britain, BBC1 first screened Neighbours in October 1986, broadcasting each episode twice a day, five days a week. The combined daily audience figures meant that Neighbours was soon challenging Coronation Street and EastEnders at the top of the television ratings.

Helen was seen as the most glamorous granny on television, who enjoyed painting in her spare time. She gave wise advice when Scott's marriage to Charlene was on the rocks and was astute enough to run her own chauffeuring business, Home James, as well as helping her grandson Paul to run the Lassiters complex.

However, her trusting nature was taken advantage of when a charming conman, Douglas Blake, cheated Helen out of her life savings after promising to marry her. Blake was, in fact, played by Haddy's real-life husband, James Condon. More heartbreak came when she married the debonair Michael Daniels, cousin of her late husband, but he was later revealed to be a bigamist. Even worse, Helen's next husband, Reuben White (also played by Condon), died just a few weeks after their wedding.

After several illnesses, Helen was last seen (in an episode shown in the UK in April 1998) dying peacefully at home as she watched a video of her grandson Scott's 1988 wedding to Charlene, recalling for viewers the soap's glory days when Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue made teenage hearts flutter.

During her final years in the serial, Haddy bemoaned the increasing amount of sex in the programme:

There's been more sex brought into Neighbours, particularly more teenage sex, which is sad. I have nothing against sex, but there can be too much of it on TV. You turn your set on and that's all you find. I get bored with it. Sex was never what Neighbours was about. It was about family values. The relationship between Scott and Charlene was very innocent. There was no hanky-panky and they got married. But society has changed and, as much as I hate it, Neighbours has naturally changed with it.

When she left the serial in 1997, Haddy was the only surviving member of its original cast. She was also the longest-running, although veterans Anne Charleston and Ian Smith, who joined Neighbours in its first two years, later returned to it.

In 1988, the programme and Anne Haddy's popularity were honoured when Oxford University undergraduates made her an honorary member of Corpus Christi College.

Anne Haddy, actress: born Quorn, South Australia 5 October 1927; married first Max Dimmitt (one son, one daughter; marriage dissolved), second James Condon; died Melbourne, Victoria 6 June 1999.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury


Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas


Arts and Entertainment


Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7


Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary


Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions