Actress OUIDA MACDERMOTT was born ANNIE LOUISE MARY MACDERMOTT on 21st May 1889 in London.
Her father was the famous Music Hall star G. H. MACDERMOTT(Gilbert Hastings MacDermott) aka The Great Macdermott and her mother, the actress ANNIE MILBURN.
Ouida made her stage debut at the Richmond Theatre, London in October 1906 , aged 17, when she played the part of a French maid in the play ‘In Her Boudoir’. A review in The Era stated that “she played the part in a most engaging manner, possessing a delightful clear and tuneful voice and although yet in her teens, should certainly be heard of in the future”.
Her career on the stage lasted some 32 years and her final recorded appearance was at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin in January 1939, aged 49, when she played Prince Charming in the pantomime ‘Cinderella’ with Jimmy O’Dea and Noel Purcell. One might consider that she was by then too old to play the part but in an article in The Stage in January 1937, Olive Fox, a great pantomime enthusiast, having seen Ouida play Robin Hood in ‘Babes in the Wood’, wrote “My Dear, she is blonde and her hair is short, but she is still the inimitable principle boy. This is not surprising , of course, as if anybody knows the pantomime boy business, Ouida Macdermott does. Without losing any of the breadth and sincerity which I think should be properly associated with a boy part, she has adapted herself to modern conditions wonderfully and is as fresh as paint”.
From reviews about her performances during her stage career it is obvious that she was very popular and much loved by her audiences. It also seems that she adored being on the stage - she was a natural.
Ouida has been described as “the much married queen of comic opera” and that the band leader, Jay Wilbur, was her third husband but the latter is incorrect.
Her first husband was Sydney Wood, brother of Marie Lloyd, and they were married in Camberwell, London on 4th July 1909. Sadly the marriage only lasted two years.
In 1912 Ouida married James Chapman a.k.a. Jay Laurier in Glasgow on 4th November 1912, he having been divorced the previous year from the actress Sybil Viney. Jay and Ouida divorced in 1916.
On 24th May 1917 she married John Harrison of Dublin in Edinburgh. Sadly, this third marriage ended in divorce in 1922 but a son, John Charles Harrison, was born to them in December 1917.
By September 1918 Ouida had returned to the stage appearing at the Empire Theatre. Swansea in “Fiddle-de-Dee” at the start of a long tour!
During World War II she, along with an old friend Nellie Davies, ran the Copper Kettle café in Much Hadham, near Bishop’s Stortford, Herts. After the war they lived in Ware until Nellie’s death when Ouida moved to an old people’s home in Buntingford, Herts.
On 29th October 1980 Ouida passed away at the grand old age of 91. Her funeral was held on 6th November at the Roman Catholic Church near Puckeridge, Herts and she was laid to rest in the churchyard.