When Kate O’Mara, the film, stage and TV actress, died just over a fortnight ago, the world lost an international star but Wimbledon was able to remember yet another famous face among its former residents.
Kate O’Mara and her younger sister, the actress Belinda Carroll, both lived in Wimbledon during their earlier lives although not as children.
Their parents were an RAF flying instructor and an actress, and Kate, born in Leicester just before World War 2 on 10 August 1939, spent her earliest years abroad, followed by a childhood at a string of different English boarding schools.
Belinda was born just after the war in Oxford. But their mother came from a long line of performers and both soon opted for acting careers. Belinda joined the Wimbledon Repertory Company after leaving school, making her West End debut age 20.
By that time Kate had already attended art school, appeared in a minor film, had a first son, got married, made her stage debut in Newcastle in The Merchant of Venice, and appeared on TV in No Hiding Place and Dangerman, two of Britain’s top series of the early 1960s.
She arrived in Wimbledon in 1969 when buying her first home, a three-storey Edwardian house in Merton Hall Road. It cost £6500 and she was given a £1000 loan after showing her bank manager a picture of herself in the TV Times.
She was in a series called The Main Chance at the time, having earlier appeared in many other top TV shows including The Saint, The Avengers and Z Cars.
Her husband, the actor Jeremy Young, was also in a string of successful TV series and they had a son, Dickon. But the marriage broke down and by 1976 Kate was living in Twickenham. However she returned to Wimbledon in 1979, living in Lansdowne Road until 1982. In the meantime, Belinda’s stage and TV career had also taken off and she had both acted with and married the actor Simon Williams, best known for his role in Upstairs, Downstairs. They too lived in Wimbledon, first in Lingfield Road, then Dunmore Road.
Kate O'Mara's sister Belinda Carroll with first husband Simon Williams during the 1970s
Kate’s screen career included a couple of Hammer horror films among other appearances but her really big breakthrough came in the TV series The Brothers in 1975 in which she starred as a company boss. This opened the door to more prominent roles and appearances in TV shows ranging from The Two Ronnies and Morecambe and Wise to Doctor Who and Dempsey and Makepeace. Eventually she joined the cast of Dynasty, the internationally successful American soap, as Joan Collins’ sister, returning to Britain later to star in Howard’s Way.
From the 1960s right up to 2010 she also had an extremely successful stage career, appearing in productions both in London and throughout the provinces. She wrote books too and campaigned for animal rights, but suffered immense problems in her personal life including the suicide of her son Dickon after his own theatrical career was wrecked following a road accident.
Kate O’Mara and her sister were two among many stars who have lived in Wimbledon at some time in their lives – Oliver Reed, Margaret Rutherford, Sandy Denny, James Fox, Anthony Andrews, Annette Crosbie and June Whitfield among them. One of so many claims to fame.
The Wimbledon Society is working with the Wimbledon Guardian to ensure that you, the readers, can share the fascinating discoveries that continue to emerge about our local heritage.
For more information, visit wimbledonsociety.org.uk and www.wimbledonmuseum.org.uk.
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