Eulogy: Olga Gray

Olga Gray, MBE

Olga was a past President and chairman and always worked with great enthusiasm. In fact Olga and myself are now in the 50’s club having served MADF for 50 years.

MADF since its formation in the 1940’s have organised many festivals, conferences, drama weekends and been a beacon for amateur theatre. In 1950 the first Easter festival was held with teams arriving from throughout the British Isles. At later Easter festivals Olga was always on hand to make friends with the teams and offer help and very often loan her furniture. In fact Michael Gray often remarked that most of his furniture had been on the Gaiety stage.

This gave Olga an opportunity to work with adjudicators from all over Britain who over the years came to our festivals. Some of the outstanding names were; Cyril Spencer, Colin Dolley, Patrick McLellan, Gerda Redlich and more recently Jan Palmer Sayer.

One such adjudicator was Irene Rostron, a very demanding top adjudicator who whilst staying in Olga’s home asked for her dresses to be ironed . However more was to come as Olga recalled whilst serving Irene her breakfast was asked “Any more hot toast” with the emphasis on hot. They became good friends and often worked together over the years.

Cyril Spencer came to the island as an adjudicator but often worked as a play Director with both Olga and Marian Norris with me assisting Cyril. Two of the islands best actresses. Olga being a very giving and supportive member of the team.

Some of the visiting teams were Joyce & Bernard Thomas from Group theatre
London, Formby players, Martello players from Eire, Tudor Players and Ron Arscot from Manchester all of whom struck up great friendships with Olga & Michael.

The National Drama Festivals Association (NDFA) was set up in the UK to support festivals throughout the British Isles. MADF has been a member since it’s early days.

On an annual basis NDFA organised a British All Winners festival which brought festival winners from all over the British Isles to compete for the penultimate prize. MADF offered to host this most prestigeous event when we were under the chairmanship of Daphne Clarke. Olga & Michael were very much involved in the organising of this first All Winners in the Isle of Man.

We have since hosted on two further occasions under my chairmanship, the last time being during the Island of Culture in 2014. Olga was always the first to offer help whether it was loaning furniture or taking some of the teams to visit our beautiful island.

Olga was very much involved with MADF’s history working with such names as Olga Cowell, Mollie Corkill, Jennifer Hall, Daphne Clarke, Rene Savage and Gaiety stage managers George Craine and Tony McEvoy.

In 1971 The Legion Players won the Easter festival with a play entitled Angels in Love. Olga & Marian were the leading ladies and I played a very young lead. We are only the second local team to win the Festival which is now in its 73rd year.

MADF organised Drama weekends at the Grand Island Hotel in Ramsey and the Empress Hotel. This gave Olga an opportunity to work with the manager Brian Keenan and they became life long friends with Olga once again borrowing furniture for teams.

During Olga’s chairmanship of MADF she became the prime mover in creating a competition for young people which became The Young Actor of Man. This continues to be a most acclaimed competition. Olga & Michael were very proud parents when their daughter Stephanie followed in her footsteps and became a chairman of MADF.

During the past three months I have attended the funerals of three past Presidents. Jean Webb, Carol Clarke and now Olga Gray. As I am the current President I’m beginning to feel a little nervous.

Olga gave an award to the Easter festival known as the Olga Gray Adjudicators award, her name will always be associated with MADF and amateur theatre with loving thanks for a great performance.

  • Michael Lees