Obituary – Gladys Sheehan

THE death has occurred of lifelong Equity member Gladys Sheehan (née Carr) of Bray, county Wicklow. Gladys, who passed away peacefully on 29th March, juggled family and career for more than four decades and left a strong legacy.

She ran a drama school for children from a small studio at the back of her house and believed that it was this hands-on contact with younger generations that kept her going over the years and buoyed her up in times of tragedy. And despite her energetic, bubbly character Gladys has had many tragedies in her life.

Three of her children were born with disabilities as a result of blood transfusions. Two are dead now but her youngest son, Dara, who is profoundly deaf, was still at home with her. Gladys was one of the first campaigners for the National Association for the Deaf. She fought a hard campaign to get “car fanatic” Dara a haulage licence allowing him to live a full life as a truck driver as a result. Gladys’ eldest son, Fintan, a cameraman with the BBC, died tragically on assignment at a young age only months after the death of her husband, Paddy.

Gladys picked herself up after this double blow, which might have brought many to despair.

Apart from raising her family and running a drama school, Gladys also had her other life as a glamorous actress. Starring in 120 films, she was a regular atArdmore Studios in the heyday of film making. She often brought people back down memory lane to the studios – a stone’s throw from her house in Bray – to tell stories of her meetings with Sean Connery, Robert Mitchum and Gabriel Byrne.

In 2005, Gladys was honoured with Person of the Year by Bray Chamber of Commerce. Her indomitable spirit is an inspiration to anyone of us striving to cope with family, career and personal difficulties. To meet Gladys Sheehan was to sip the tonic of one genuine Leading Lady. Padraig Murray, chair of the Irish Equity Group, expressed sadness at the passing of Gladys and on behalf of the Irish Equity Group offered sincere condolences to her family.
He said: “When I was a young lad wanting to become an actor, Gladys gave me a tremendous foundation to start out with, like she did with so many other aspiring young people who went on to become professional actors and it was great to see so many of them paying their respects at her funeral.
“Gladys was a woman of great spirit and commitment.

“A staunch member of Equity, she would take a front row seat every year at the AGM always the willing participant to support the development of the craft she loved so much.

“She will be missed by many.” Gladys, beloved wife of the late Patrick, and mother of the late Fintan, Aideen and Stella, will be remembered with love by her daughter Valerie, son Darragh, grandsons David and Paul, extended family and friends.