Molly Weir

Aggie in 'Life with the Lyons' and Hazel the McWitch in 'Rentaghost'
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The Independent Online

The unmistakable Scottish tones of the housekeeper Aggie MacDonald in Life with the Lyons, on both radio and television, brought Molly Weir nationwide fame. The hugely popular sitcom featured the husband-and-wife former American film stars Ben Lyon and Bebe Daniels, along with their real-life children, Barbara and Richard, all playing themselves. The stories claimed to be exaggerations of the family's real-life antics.

Mary Weir (Molly Weir), actress: born Glasgow 1910; married Sandy Hamilton (deceased); died 28 November 2004.

The unmistakable Scottish tones of the housekeeper Aggie MacDonald in Life with the Lyons, on both radio and television, brought Molly Weir nationwide fame. The hugely popular sitcom featured the husband-and-wife former American film stars Ben Lyon and Bebe Daniels, along with their real-life children, Barbara and Richard, all playing themselves. The stories claimed to be exaggerations of the family's real-life antics.

After the initial success of the BBC radio series (1950-61), the cast recreated their roles for two film spin-offs, Life with the Lyons and The Lyons in Paris (both 1954), before starting the television version (1955-60). It switched to ITV in 1957 and such care was taken to mirror the Lyons' off-screen lives that, when they moved from Marble Arch to Holland Park, the colour schemes, decorations and furniture of their new home were recreated on screen.

Later, Weir - who stood at just 4ft 10in - became known to a new generation of television viewers when she starred as Hazel the McWitch in the children's series Rentaghost (1977-84). Originally commissioned for only five shows, the series about a group of ghosts up for hire eventually reached 58 episodes. In between, Weir was a familiar face in television commercials, proclaiming: "Flash cleans baths without scratching."

Born in Glasgow in 1910, Weir was brought up in a tenement in the Springburn area of the city by her mother and grandmother, following the death of her father in the First World War. On leaving school, she trained as a secretary and claimed to have reached an astonishing shorthand speed of 300 words a minute.

Influenced by her mother, who won prizes for old-time dancing, and her own love of singing and childhood trips to the cinema for the Saturday penny matinée, Weir eventually achieved her ambition of going on the stage. "I had taken careful note of the story of the 10 talents in the Bible and I was determined that not a single talent of mine was going to wither and die," she said.

She performed in amateur dramatics, then acted as a servant girl in The Pagans at the Glasgow Drama Festival, where the judge stood before the audience and announced: "If [the theatrical impresario] C.B. Cochran saw this girl, he would take her away to London at once." Although Cochran did not appear, Carol Levis later travelled to Glasgow on a talent-spotting tour and watched Weir do her impersonations of Marlene Dietrich, Gracie Fields and Tommy Morgan. She was beaten by a whistling bus conductor.

In 1939, she was cast as "Poison" Ivy McTweed in the Scottish radio serial The McFlannels, about a working-class family in a Glasgow tenement block. Then, as the Second World War was drawing to a close, Weir made her screen début as a gunner's wife in a Ministry of Information film, Birth-Day (1945), encouraging mothers to seek medical advice from the earliest stages of pregnancy and to take advantage of maternity services.

After the war, she acted in the Robert Burns feature film Comin' Thro' the Rye (1947). Her subsequent pictures included Floodtide (1949), Something in the City (1950), Flesh and Blood (1951), Forces' Sweetheart (1953) and Small Town Story (1953). Her big break came with the dual roles of Tattie Mackintosh and her mother in the long-running radio comedy ITMA (It's That Man Again). The star of the show, Tommy Handley, encountered Tattie, the bane of his life, on arriving in Scotland at Castle Weehouse. Then, Weir was cast in Life with the Lyons and enjoyed a stint alongside the Lancashire comedian Jimmy Clitheroe in the BBC radio series The Clitheroe Kid, which began in 1957.

Her other films included Carry On Regardless (1961), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969), Scrooge (1970) and Bless This House (1972). She also appeared on stage alongside Margaret Rutherford in The Happiest Days of Your Life.

Weir's many autobiographical books include Shoes Were for Sunday (1970), Best Foot Forward (1972), Toe on the Ladder (1973) and Stepping into the Spotlight (1977). Her brother, the broadcaster Tom Weir, hosted the Scottish Television series Weir's Way.

Anthony Hayward

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