Mary Ward (actress)

Mary Ward (born 6 March 1915), also known as Mary Ward Breheny, is a former Australian actress of stage, television, and film, and a radio announcer. Ward trained in England and Australia, and worked in England on the stage circuit, before appearing in film. Returning to Australia, she became one of the first female radio announcers at the ABC in Australia. She is perhaps best known, both locally and internationally though as a character actress portraying elderly characters in television soap opera roles including the original character of: "Mum" (Jeanette) Brooks in the cult series Prisoner, in which she appeared sporadically from 1979 and 1981[2]and devious Dee Morrell in soap opera Sons and Daughters in 1983.

Mary Ward
Born6 March 1915 (age 105)
Other namesMary Ward Breheny
  • Actress
  • radio announcer
Years active
  • Film 1949-1997
  • Television 1951–2000
  • Radio 1939–1945
  • Theatre 1934–1994


Early life and career in EnglandEdit

Ward was born in Fremantle, Western Australia on 6 March 1915, to a pearler[3][4]

She began acting professionally shortly after leaving high school, and later studied at the Perth drama school. She also studied in England, performing as a stage actress for several years. Ward worked in England in film and repertory stage theatre, before returning to Australia prior to World War II, when she became one of the first female radio announcers for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (then Commission) during the war as "The Forces Sweetheart". She returned to the English stage, while also performing parts for the British Broadcasting Corporation, and appeared in a cameo role in the 1949 film, Eureka Stockade.[5]

Ward returned to Australia in the early 1950s, and made her first television appearance as a minor character in detective series The Vise - originally titled Saber of London - in 1954, and in the television movie The High-Flying Head the following year. She had starring roles in the television movies Marriage Lines and The Tower.[citation needed]

Career in AustraliaEdit

Television, stage and filmEdit

She began working in television full-time in the mid-1970s, appearing in the series Rush, Homicide, and as Aunt Marian Castle in Don Chaffey's Harness Fever with Andrew McFarlane, Robert Bettles and Tom Farley (actor) in 1977. Harness Fever would later appear as a two-part episode, Born to Ride, on Wonderful World of Disney in 1979. She continued her stage work in the 1970s with the Melbourne Theatre Company, remaining with the company until 1983, performing in a David Williamson stage production.[6]

In 1979, Ward first appeared in one of her best known roles, "Mum" (Jeanette) Brooks, on the popular soap opera Prisoner. She portrayed an elderly institutionalised inmate, serving an eighteen-year prison sentence for the euthanisation of her terminally-ill husband Jim Brooks. When the filming schedule for the series increased from one to two hours per week in 1979, she and co-star Carol Burns decided to leave the series. However, her character remained a popular one during the show's early years, and she reprised her role occasionally until her character died off-screen in 1983.[5] She starred with a number of her fellow Prisoner co-stars in the 1981 television movie I Can Jump Puddles as a character called Mrs. Birdsworth.[citation needed]

She took guest roles with appearances on The Young Doctors in 1981 and A Country Practice in 1982, before being given the more prominent role as scheming Dee Morrell in Sons and Daughters during 1983. Ward starred in the 1985 television series The Henderson Kids and its 1987 follow-up series The Henderson Kids II. During the late-1980s, she had supporting roles in films Jenny Kissed Me and Backstage as well as appearing in more soap guest roles including G.P. and Neighbours in 1989. After starring in the 1989 television movie Darlings of the Gods,[7] she returned again to the theatre and, in 1991, appeared in the play Alive and Kicking.[6]

With the exception of an appearance in the television series The Damnation of Harvey McHugh in 1994, in the 1990s Ward remained largely absent from Australian television screens until 1997, appearing in the film Amy. Between 1999 and 2000, she played the recurring character Betty Withers in the police drama Blue Heelers. Ward turned 105 in 2020.[8]



Year Title Role Notes
1949 Eureka Stockade Lady Hotham
That Dangerous Age Nurse Released in the US as If This Be Sin
1976 Cry Your Purple Hear Out Mike Also known as How To Score With Girls
1986 Jenny Kissed Me Grace
1988 Backstage Geraldine Wollencraft
1997 Amy Mrs Mullins


Year Title Role Notes
1951 I Was a Stranger Official TV film
1954 The Vise Mrs Diana Campbell TV series
1955 The High-Flying Head Mrs Taylor TV film
1957 Roundabout TV film
1958 Captain Carvallo
1959 The Lark Queen Yolande Television play
1962 Marriage Lines TV film
The Teeth of the Wind TV film
1965 The Tower TV film
Otherwise Engaged Dorothy TV film
1974 Rush Mrs Hawk TV series
1975–1976 Homicide (3 roles) Mrs Parsons/ Margaret Lennox/ Mrs Phillips TV series
1977 Ride a Wild Pony Aunt Marian Castle Also known as Born to Run
1981 The Young Doctors Mrs Wilson TV series
Prisoner Janette "Mum" Brooks Also known as Prisoner: Cell Block H and Caged Women
I Can Jump Puddles Mrs Birdsworth TV series
1982 A Country Practice Thelma Thomas Episodes: The Seeds of Discontent (Parts 1 & 2)
1983 Sons and Daughters Dee Morrell 22 episodes
1984 Hot Pursuit Episode: Steel Trap
1985 The Henderson Kids Mrs Cathcart TV series
1987 The Henderson Kids II Mrs Cathcart TV series
1989 Neighbours Mrs Granger 3 episodes
G.P. Jessie McLean TV series
Darlings of the Gods Barbara Ward TV mini-series
1992 The Late Show Lady Frontbottom 1 episode of The Olden Days (edited from Rush)
1994 The Damnation of Harvey McHugh Ivy TV series
1999–2000 Blue Heelers Betty Withers 3 episodes


  1. ^ "Mary Ward".
  2. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ "Prisoner star Mary Ward Breheny still going strong at 101". Herald Sun. 3 May 2016. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  4. ^ "Breheny, Mary Ward". Archived from the original on 3 April 2016.
  5. ^ a b Bourke, Terry (8 March 1998). "Chapter 3: Looking For Franky, Bea and Vinegar Tits". Prisoner Cell Block H: behind the scenes.
  6. ^ a b "Articles and Interviews: Mary Ward". H-Block Herald. 1991. Archived from the original on 4 August 2009.
  7. ^ "Key Cast Biographies: Mary Ward" (PDF). Beyond Films. 1998. Archived from the original (.pdf) on 20 July 2008.
  8. ^ "Prisoner star 'mum' Mary Ward celebrates turning 103". Starts at 60. 10 March 2018. Retrieved 1 February 2019.

External linksEdit