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Tributes paid as Harry Potter star and renowned actress dies at home in Swiss Cottage

Margery Mason at her 100th birthday in September 2013. Picture: Nigel Sutton Margery Mason at her 100th birthday in September 2013. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Friday, February 14, 2014
5:23 PM

A familiar face on our TV and cinema screens for more than 70 years and a long-time resident of Swiss Cottage has died just months after celebrating her 100th birthday.

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Margery Mason, who passed away peacefully at her home in the early hours of January 26, had one of the longest-running careers ever achieved by an actress.

Her body of work included starring in the award-winning 1960s BBC drama Talking to a Stranger, 1980s Hollywood hit The Princess Bride and the Harry Potter films.

She was also a writer of six plays and former artistic director of the Repertory Theatre in Bangor, Northern Ireland.

She lived in College Crescent for the past 30 years, having been born in Hackney the year before the First World War broke out.

Though she never received formal training, she started her acting career when she was just 14, performing in shows at working men’s clubs with her mother.

She spent much of the Second World War entertaining “sex-starved troops” stationed in the Middle East, but it was in the years after that her acting talent gained wider recognition.

Her big break came working alongside Judi Dench and Michael Bryant in the 1966 series Talking to a Stranger, hailed as one of the most important television dramas of the decade.

A nine-year stint as Alice North in Peak Practice made her a regular on British daytime TV while a diverse film career saw her appear in blockbusters such as Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, 101 Dalmatians and Love Actually.

But it was her “instinctive” and “mesmerising” talent as a Shakespearean actress that close acting colleagues fondly remember.

Vivian Rochester, who was one of the last to act with her as part of the Women In Spring show at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, said her gift on stage was “irreplaceable”.

“She was always a huge hit with the crowd,” she said. “There’s no doubt she was feisty and opinionated but her humour and warmth would always shine through.

“She adored Shakespeare and would be able to recite sonnets with amazing accuracy. Her ability, even during the later years of her life, was a real inspiration for me and other actors.”

Those who knew her best remember well the “determined” and “sometimes quite opinionated” character that saw her into her old age.

As testament to her resilience, she continued acting until 2012.

Swimming five times a week well into her nineties and gaining a scuba diving certificate aged 81, she retained the same active determination in her later years as she had shown in her youth.

Although she had no children of her own, Margery Mason is survived by three generations of family members.

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