Hilda Braid

Scatty Nana Moon in 'EastEnders'


Hilda Braid, actress: born Northfleet, Kent 3 March 1929; married Brian Badcoe (died 1992; one son, one daughter); died Brighton, East Sussex 6 November 2007.

In the character of Nana Moon, Hilda Braid brought warmth to EastEnders, a soap that has always thrived on friction. The Moon family arrived in Albert Square in December 2002, with Braid playing Victoria, scatty grandmother of Alfie and Spencer Moon.

Nana Moon was a one-man woman whose husband had died in the Second World War, two months after she had given birth to their son. The only man who turned her head and persuaded her to marry him was another pensioner, Wilfred Atkins, whom she met on a seaside holiday. However, on their wedding day, Alfie – bar manager of the Queen Vic – exposed Wilfred as a con-artist whose aim was to steal Nana's possessions, so the marriage never went ahead. "Oh, Alfie" became Nana Moon's most familiar utterance.

It was a tragedy for the whole Moon clan when, in 2005, Nana was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm. Deciding not to chance an operation at the age of 84, she drew up a list of challenges to attempt before her death. In a particularly moving episode, she paid a first visit to the grave of her husband in Normandy on Armistice Day. She also had tea with the Queen (the waxwork at Madame Tussauds), played poker for the first time and won, and managed to get arrested for assaulting a policeman.

On Christmas Day, as Alfie was hanging the ornamental snowman that she had specially requested on the tree, Nana died peacefully on the sofa. Her ambition to go to the races and place a bet went unfulfilled – but she left money for Alfie to do so. Nana's death marked the end of Hilda Braid's three-year run in EastEnders, during which she provided the Cockney soap with a popular, sympathetic character.

Born in Northfleet, Kent, in 1929, Braid won a scholarship to train at Rada, where she won the Lord Lurgan Award. After experience in repertory, she took West End roles as Sidonia in The Waltz of the Toreadors (directed by Peter Hall, Criterion Theatre, 1956-57) and Rachel Wardle in the musical Pickwick (Saville Theatre, 1963-64).

Later, she played Gertrude in the Tom Stoppard play On the Razzle with the National Theatre Company (1982-83) and Rebecca in Arthur Miller's The Crucible (Young Vic Theatre, 1985-86). With the RSC (1973-75), her roles included Queen Elinor in King John and the Duchess of York in Richard II.

Braid made her television début in the police series No Hiding Place (1960). She then appeared in many television plays, taking roles such as Mrs Smeeth in the BBC serialisation of J.B. Priestley's Angel Pavement (1967), and was seen as Louisa Chick in the 13-part adaptation of Charles Dickens's Dombey and Son (1969).

Then came public recognition as Florence Johnson, the hopelessly stupid mother of Shirley, girlfriend of Wolfie Smith, the inept Tooting Popular Front leader, in Citizen Smith (1977-80). The sitcom featured Robert Lindsay as the urban revolutionary famed for the battle-cry "power to the people", with Braid's conservative character mirroring his subversive antics.

Braid followed it with two more situation comedies, playing the bank manager's wife Mrs Davies in L for Lester (1982), and Mrs Bright, mother of the imprisoned Lionel, in The Bright Side (1985), written by Willis Hall and about a jailbird's wife (played by Paula Wilcox) struggling to cope with her predicament.

Over the years, Braid appeared in several soaps, as Winnie Plumtree in Crossroads, P. Morphett in Emmerdale, Mrs Miller in Couples (1976) and Alan Partridge's mother Molly in Brookside (1984), before joining EastEnders. Her other television roles included Mrs Bedwin in the BBC's 12-part Oliver Twist (1985), the receptionist-secretary Enid in the talent agency sitcom The 10%ers (1994 and 1996) and Gran in the children's comedy show Gogglewatch (1997-98).

Anthony Hayward

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