Obituary: Diana Graham, 1918-2011

DIANA GRAHAM, who died at a nursing home in Largs on January 2, was one half of the duo known as ‘Mr and Mrs Comedy’ who performed on the Winter Garden stage in Rothesay in the 1960s.

Diana Alice Roderick was born at a nursing home owned by her aunt, Alice Hare, at 7 Knarsborough Place in the London district of Kensington on August 24, 1918.

The family moved from their home in St Albans, Hertfordshire to Glasgow when Diana was still young; her father worked as the secretary to an insurance company, and they lived in Berkeley Terrace, near the city’s Charing Cross.

It was while in Glasgow that Diane took her first steps towards the entertainment business; she had taken dancing lessons from an early age, and joined her first troup in around 1935.

Shortly after this the family returned south, and moved into a flat above a sweet shop in north London. Diana’s mother ran the shop, while her father took up employment as a clerk; Diana, however, had no plans to follow in either’s footsteps, and her passion and talent for dancing saw her secure a place in a troup appearing in a variety show in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1936.

Also on the bill was a young man named William Graham, who appeared on stage in a comedy act with his father under the names of Mark and Billy Denison. William, or Billy, was 29 at the time, and Diana only 18, but love blossomed despite the age gap and the couple were married on February 27, 1937.

After her marriage, Diana returned once again to Glasgow, where the couple lived with Billy’s parents at their home in Strowan Crescent in the Shettleston area of the city.

In the mid to late 1940s Billy gave up working with his father and instead he and Diana formed their own act, known as Billy Denison and Diane Carroll – ‘Mr and Mrs Comedy’.

Together they appeared on stage throughout the 1950s and early 1960s at venues in Ireland, northern England and Scotland, and shared the bill at venues including the Winter Garden in Rothesay and the Barrfields Pavailion in Largs with the likes of Chick Murray and his wife Maidie, Billy Leslie, Irene Sharp and Robert Wilson - the ‘voice of Scotland’. In 1964 they were invited to become managers of the Grangeknowe Inn in Stevenston, north Ayrshire, for the owners, R.W. Cairns Ltd; they gave up this position in the late 1960s and moved to the other end of Ayrshire to manage a bingo hall in Maybole on behalf of the Maitles Brothers.

Billy retired in 1970, and the couple went to live near Melrose, where they lived in a cottage built for them by their daughter Carol and her husband, Derrick Wild, in the garden of the Wilds’ own home. The couple retained their cottage after the Wilds sold the main house, but spent a large part of the 1980s in the Wilds’ new home in Crawley, Sussex, looking after their grandchildren while Carol and Derrick worked abroad.

After Billy’s death in 1987, Diana began to feel isolated at Swallow Cottage; she moved into a flat in Largs, but this had to be given up in late 1995, when Diana moved to Rothesay to be near her son Eric and his wife Mary.

Diana continued to live in Rothesay until late last year, when she began to suffer from fairly advanced dementia; she was admitted to the Victoria Hospital after a number of falls at her flat, and after discussions between the family and local social services, she moved to Hutton Park care home in Largs in November.

Sadly, her condition worsened and she was moved to Warren Park nursing home in the town, but her situation failed to improve, and she passed away in early January at the age of 92.

She is survived by her son Eric, daughter Carol, five grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.