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Maggie Kirkpatrick is one of Australia's most respected actresses, and I was really pleased to meet her at Memorabilia held at the NEC in Birmingham in November 2010.
She signed a photo to my mum and dad (who were big fans of Prisoner, in which she starred), and I then got this nice photograph with her.
She is nothing like 'The Freak' in real life!!
Maggie Kirkpatrick was born Margaret Ann Downs 1941 in Albury, a small Australian town on the borders of New South Wales and Victoria. She was the daughter of Chrissie and James Downs, and she has an older brother Adrian. When she was six months old, her father was killed whilst on active service as a soldier in North Africa.
The family moved to Newcastle on the east coast of Australia, where grew up. She developed an interest in acting at school, had elocution lessons at the age of twelve, and spent all her time at home listening to classical music and reading Shakespeare.
Maggie left school at fifteen and enrolled for drama lessons, which paid off when she got her first professional job during 1961, in a production of Macbeth with John Alden's Shakespeare
Poster for The Screw is Loose
Maggie as a child
Shakespeare Company in Perth. She then promptly left acting and had a variety of jobs from selling shoes to doctor's receptionist. In 1963, she married Norman Kirkpatrick, a merchant seaman from Northern Ireland. They split up after their daughter Caitlin was born in 1965 (later divorcing in the mid-1970s) and Maggie moved to Sydney
Sydney where she took up theatre work again.
Maggie in Anything Goes
Maggie Kirkpatrick & Susannah York in
The Shoe-Horn Sonata, London 2005
As Sister Maureen in Hey Dad..!
Maggie Kirkpatrick as Madame Morrible in Wicked
She took part in some prestigious productions, playing opposite Peggy Mount in The Band Wagon (1970) and Sir Michael Redgrave in A Voyage Around My Father (1972). Thesehe
Maggie has worked extensively with all the main theatre companies in Australia including The State Theatre of South Australia [The One Day Of The
These helped to build her reputation for top-quality performances.
Maggie Kirkpatrick as Ivy Hackett
The Year (1980) and Farewell Brisbane Ladies (1981)]. The Sydney Theatre Company [Blood Relations (1987); The Hamm Funeral
Funeral (1989); and The Cripple of Inishmaan (1998)]; The Melbourne Theatre Company [Emerald City (1987)] and The Ensemble Theatre [The Shoe-Horn Sonata (1995)].
Maggie appeared frequently at Sydney's Marian Street Theatre until its closure in 2001, the year when she gained the Mo Award for her role as Margaret
Margaret Ramsey in Peggy For You (2001).
Peggy For You
Maggie as Peggy Ramsay in
She has also appeared there in The Druids Rest (1978); Absurd Person Singular
Singular (1986); Love Letters (1991) and Sailor Beware! (1991) in which she appeared as the battleaxe Emma Hornet.
Programme cover from 2005 for
The Shoe-Horn Sonata
Brenda Giblin & Maggie Kirkpatrick in
The Shoe-Horn Sonata in 2005
Occasionally Maggie has ventured outside Australia, notably appearing on stage at the King's Head Theatre in London with the female POW drama The Shoe-Horn Sonataaa
Sonata (1995), co-starring Susannah York. She appeared yet again in this play in 2005 in Perth, Australia.
Maggie as Betty in A Passionate Woman
Later theatre roles include her one-woman show The Screw is Loose
Loose (1997) at Sydney's Tilbury Hotel; Betty in A Passionate Woman (1997) for the Perth Theatre Company; Rummy Minchins in Shaw's Major Barbara (2003) and Madame
Madame Morrible in an Australian tour of the Broadway musical Wicked (2011).
Maggie as Ruth in The Pirate Movie
A film appearances as Ruth in The Pirate Movie (1982), based on Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance, caught the eye of Grundy Television's casting
casting directors who were looking for an actress to play the role of a sadistic prison officer, Joan Ferguson, in their long-running series Prisoner (1982-86) or Prisoner: Cell Block H as it is known in the UK.
Maggie Kirkpatrick as Joan Ferguson in Prisoner
Maggie had earlier auditioned for the role of Vera Bennett but this new role would enable her to dominate the series for four years and become famous the world over! Ferguson quickly became known as 'The Freak', and woe betide any inmate who got in the way of this corrupt and vindictive warder. Maggie appeared in 389 episodes in total.
Maggie as Joan 'The Freak' Ferguson
Maggie has signed this photo from Prisoner: Cell Block H to my mum & dad
It shows her with Carole Skinner who played Nola McKenzie
Of her part in Prisoner, Maggie says, ďItís not hugely important to me in the scheme of 45 years, but itís obviously still important to many people. Iím very grateful that that keeps people interested in what else I do. It has provided audiences that might not have come to some of the plays that Iíve done for instance. If exposure like that on television can get people to the theatre, then that warms my old heart.Ē
Since Prisoner, almost all of Maggie's work outside the theatre, has been in various TV series. These include the nun, Sister Maureen
As Viv 'The Guv' Standish in Home and Away
Maggie signing my photo
Maureen, in an episode of the long-running comedy Hey Dad..! (1992); bar owner Ivy Hackett in Richmond Hill (1988); kindly foster mum Betty in Betty's Bunch (1990) and Viv 'The Guv' Standish in 10 episodes of Home and Away (2003-04).
in Richmond Hill
In 2005, she made a rare appearance in the UK, appearing on The Paul O'Grady Show.
Maggie's first credited big-screen apearance was in Summer of Secrets (1976), with further roles in The F.J.Holden (1977); The Night, thepr
the Prowler (1978) and The Getting of Wisdom (1978). She later played Aunt Helen in the thriller Encounters (1993; Maureen O'Hara in the musical Billy's Holiday (1995) and Ginger
Maggie with Paul O'Grady on
The Paul O'Grady Show
Ginger in the whacky Australian comedy Welcome to Woop Woop (1997). Maggie teamed up again with Carole Skinner from Prisoner when she played Thelma in the comedy Hetty (2002).
Apart from her acting career, Maggie Kirkpatrick has for a long time been involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS and, because of her strong support for gay rights, she has been awarded the Sydney Gay Community's DIVA award for her work.
Kirkpatrick in Welcome to Woop Woop
Susie Porter, Johnathon Schaeck & Maggie
As Ginger in Welcome to Woop Woop
Prisoner - Official Fan Club
Maggie Kirkpatrick interview in 2006