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Patricia Anne Haddy (1930–1999)

by Michelle Arrow

This article was published online in 2023

Anne Haddy, by Rennie Ellis, c. 1990s

Anne Haddy, by Rennie Ellis, c. 1990s

State Library of Victoria, 49301077

Patricia Anne Haddy (1930–1999), actress, television presenter, and voice artist, was born on 5 October 1930 at Quorn, South Australia, only child of Allan Ross Haddy, bank clerk, and his wife Mona Lowas, née Graham, both South Australian born. Anne attributed her love of performing to spending so much time alone as a child. She harboured an ambition to act from a young age. When her parents gave her the complete works of Shakespeare for her fifteenth birthday, she reportedly inscribed the letters IWTBAA on the spine: ‘I want to be an actress.’ After attending Gawler Primary, she progressed to Adelaide High School, where she acted in a production of George Bernard Shaw’s Androcles and the Lion. Her mother was hesitant about a creative career and insisted that she learn shorthand and typing, skills which led to a job at the book room of the Workers’ Educational Association at the University of Adelaide from 1947. As Haddy later remarked, this was ‘fatal’ (Fidgeon 1997, 8) because the university had a theatre department. She made her radio debut with the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) in 1948 and took part in local amateur theatre, starring in shows such as the Adelaide Repertory Theatre’s production of Claudia (1950), in which she delivered ‘an adventurous performance’ marked by ‘perfection of movement, studied control of voice and imaginative development of every facet of character’ (Bunyip 1950, 3).

In 1953 Haddy travelled to England, hoping to find acting opportunities. She performed in The Pied Piper at the West End’s Adelphi Theatre with the Australian Drama Group but largely worked as a secretary. While there she met Maxwell (Max) Dimmitt, son of Western Australia’s agent-general in London. They married on 2 April 1955 at the Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy, Westminster, and returned to Australia a couple of months later, settling in Perth. Having had two children, Jane and Tony, Haddy continued performing on stage and radio, including playing the title role in Sophocles’s Antigone at the 1957 Festival of Perth. After the family relocated to Sydney in 1960, she took advantage of the steady growth of Australian theatre and television drama on the east coast. She performed for the Independent Theatre, the Q Lunchtime Theatre at Circular Quay, and the Community Theatre at Killara and by 1971 was under contract to the prestigious Old Tote Theatre Company. Her marriage ended in divorce the same year.

From the mid-1960s Haddy was finding more work on screen. She appeared in They’re a Weird Mob (1966) and was among the first presenters of the popular ABC children’s program Play School, working on the show until 1970. The expanding local television industry offered further opportunities, and she appeared in Matlock Police (1972–74), Division 4 (1973), Certain Women (1974–75), and Skippy the Bush Kangaroo (as a guest star). She had roles in many films and miniseries that were to become classics of Australian cinema, including Seven Little Australians (1973), The Fourth Wish (1976), Newsfront (1978), and A Town Like Alice (1981). For the animated film Dot and the Kangaroo (1977) and its sequels, she performed as a voice artist.

Haddy had known the Western Australian actor James Condon for many years; the pair had met ‘across a microphone’ (Lane 1994, 346) doing radio work. They began a serious relationship in the mid-1970s and married on 2 October 1977 at Wahroonga on Sydney’s Upper North Shore. Two years later she had a heart attack which required open heart surgery. Soon after, she required further medical care for a cancerous stomach tumour. While recovering from that surgery, she fell and broke her hip. This tumultuous experience of ill-health encouraged Haddy to end her forty-a-day cigarette habit and forced her out of live theatre.

It was Haddy’s renewed focus on television that led to her best-known, most enduring roles in the soap operas Sons and Daughters (1982–85) and Neighbours (1985–97). She said of working on Sons and Daughters that it was ‘nice to have a steady job’ (Adams 1982, 23). But it was Neighbours that propelled Haddy to local and international fame. She moved to Melbourne for the role, accompanied by her husband, who later also acted in the series (1985 and 1995). A founding member of the cast, she was considered the ‘linchpin’ (Juddery 1999, 16) of the show, appearing in well over a thousand episodes. She remarked of her late fame: ‘after all those years in theatre and radio, I was a “star” overnight’ (Juddery 1999, 16). The character Helen ‘Gran’ Daniels was created for her, intended to debunk stereotypes of meddling, nasty mothers-in-law, and she became the program’s matriarch and a mentor to the increasingly young and inexperienced cast. Over the course of her time on the series, her character had ‘two husbands, a bigamous marriage and several lovers’ (Conway 1996, 2). She won a Penguin award for this role in 1987. Ill-health forced her retirement in 1997, with her character dying peacefully on the show.

A Neighbours co-star, Anne Charleston, said of Haddy that ‘as an actor, she was superb, with enormous sensitivity, charisma and an uncanny ability to tweak a character, to give it an edge’ (Dalton 1999, 5). Richard Lane, who worked with her on stage and radio, praised her ‘great style as a stage actress—cool poise, and a crisply sophisticated delivery of dialogue’ (Lane 1994, 349). Her husband described her as a ‘joyous person, hardworking, professional to the nth’ (Dalton 1999, 5). Part of a generation of actresses who found fame in the burgeoning radio, television, and live theatre scenes in postwar Australia, she garnered a multigenerational fan base that saw her celebrated at home and abroad.

Shortly after she left Neighbours, Haddy commented that ‘staying healthy is my only goal at the moment’ (Hardwick 1998, 10). She died of kidney disease on 6 June 1999 in Melbourne and was cremated at Springvale cemetery. Her husband, two children, and four stepchildren (Liz, Susan, Candy, and Mary Anne) survived her. Her death notice aptly concluded: ‘no more lines to learn’ (Sydney Morning Herald 1999, 20).

Research edited by Michelle Staff

Select Bibliography

  • Adams, Clay. ‘Winning a Major Battle Against Serious Illness.’ Australian Women’s Weekly, 20 October 1982, 23
  • Bunyip (Gawler). ‘Great Performance in Rep. Theatre Production.’ 30 June 1950, 3
  • Conway, Andrew. ‘Channelling Anne Haddy.’ Sydney Morning Herald, 18 March 1996, The Guide, 2
  • Dalton, Rodney. ‘Whole Neighbourhood Turns Out to Farewell Gran.’ Australian, 11 June 1999, 5
  • Fidgeon, Robert. ‘Last of the Neighbours.’ Herald Sun (Melbourne), 15 October 1997, 8
  • Hardwick, Viv. ‘The Life and Death of a Good Neighbour.’ Northern Echo (Darlington, UK), 31 March 1998, 10
  • Juddery, Mark. ‘Popular Actor Found Fame as the World’s Good Neighbour.’ Australian, 10 June 1999, 16
  • Lane, Richard. The Golden Age of Australian Radio Drama, 1923–1960: A History Through Biography. Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1994
  • Saxon, Martin. ‘Out from Behind the Microphone.’ Sun-Herald (Sydney), 11 April 1976, 127
  • Sydney Morning Herald. ‘Death Notice: Condon (Haddy), Anne.’ 8 June 1999, 20

Additional Resources

Citation details

Michelle Arrow, 'Haddy, Patricia Anne (1930–1999)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/haddy-patricia-anne-33255/text41498, published online 2023, accessed online 25 May 2024.

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