Jimmy O’Dea Reached In To Homes All Over Ireland And Became A Famous Irish Entertainer
When we consider contenders for incorporation in our All Ireland Hall Of Fame – Irish Heritage category – we search for personalities who in their own lifetime became household names all over the island of Ireland.
Jimmy O’Dea was an Irish entertainer, actor, singer and comedian and Irish people would ensure their battery radio was fully charged when Jimmy was on Radio Eireann in the first half of the 20th century.
The Dublin born icon was born at Lower Bridge Street, which straddles the southside inner city, on the 26th April 1899.
The family heritage had allegiance to the Noreside city of Kilkenny on both of his parents lineage but Jimmy O’Dea truly made his name as a famous Dubliner. Like many couples in the Ireland of the 19th century, marriage partners often had a considerable age difference on the occasion of a marriage.
This age difference was almost the exclusive property of the male person who had no qualms taking the hand of a much younger bride. The age difference in Jimmy’s parents was eighteen years in favour of Jimmy senior.
From the famed primary school academy of O’Connell School in Richmond Street, Dublin, Jimmy advanced to Blackrock and Belvedere Colleges respectively. Equipped with a sound level of education the budding entertainer emigrated to Edinburgh, Scotland, and qualified as an optician in 1920 and soon after returned to Dublin where he set up his own opticians business.
Ireland was now in a major political state of chaos from 1916 up to the Irish Civil War of the early 1920’s and Dublin, with Michael Collins at the helm, was the nerve centre of most of the turmoil.
As the political turmoil extended through the Civil War, Jimmy O’Dea began dabbling in amateur drama productions and then made a conscious decision to engage his sister in his opticians business. He finally handed over the business reins to his sibling in 1927.
From 1927 onwards theatre became Jimmy O’Dea’s full time occupation and just a mere twelve months following his major career decision, he rose to international fame with his appearances in “How Are We” and “Sinbad The Sailor”.
Also in 1927 he went on his maiden British tour but despite reaching out to a wider audience, doubts began to emerge if he had made a wise career choice.
While walking on a Dublin street Jimmy met well known Dublin man, Harry O’Donovan, an entrepreneur and fellow actor in the entertainment business. Over a chat and a few beers, the budding duo decided on a partnership, an association that had a slow beginning in 1928.
Their first production was “Here We Are” at the Queen’s Theatre, Dublin, and this proved a smash hit at the box office. Two shows annually followed up their maiden venture and for two decades the Olympia and Gaiety Theatres hosted numerous successful productions.
When Irish senior citizens speak of Biddy Mulligan, they still fondly remember Jimmy O’Dea as the rogue street vendor and dressed up in women’s attire. The song “Biddy Mulligan The Pride Of The Coombe” became a huge hit when recorded by Jimmy. The song was penned in 1930 by Séamus Kavanagh.
Many actors and actresses shared many stages with Jimmy O’Dea and Maureen Potter was a stand out partner who touched the lives of thousands of Irish people. Actors such as Cecil Sheridan, Danny Cummins, Noel Purcell, David Kelly and Cyril Cusack, all shared centre stage with the famous Dublin actor.
In film circles “The Rising Of the Moon” in 1957 and “Darby O’Gill And The Little People” in 1959, new horizons opened for Jimmy with cinema fans. His RTE radio fans especially looked forward to his musings over the annual Christmas festive period and when RTE Television made its way into Irish homes in the early 1960’s with the ever popular “O’Deas Your Man” in 1964, Jimmy O’Dea had reached the pinnacle of his professional acting career.
On the 7th January 1965, 65 years old Jimmy went to his eternal reward and was laid to rest at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, with an oration by the Taoiseach of Ireland, Mr. Seán Lemass at the graveside.
Jimmy O’Dea’s married life to film impresario, Ursula Doyle, commenced in 1959 when he was a mere 60 years old and terminated on his untimely death.
The famous Dubliner belongs to a generation of Irish people who grew up to adult life before televisions became part and parcel of every Irish home and the legacy he left as an exceptional entertainer in comedy and music. is now preserved for current and future generations of Irish people in our All Ireland Hall Of Fame Online Gallery.
Profile by Editor
Derry JF Doody
@ All Ireland Hall Of Fame Gallery.