Obituary: Maidie Dickson

Share this article

Musical entertainer who entered legend as The Small Doll to Chic Murray's Tall Droll

Born: 23 April, 1922, in Edinburgh.

Died: 10 May, 2010, in Edinburgh, aged 88.

MAIDIE Dickson, the comic Chic Murray's former wife, was born in the beating heart of Edinburgh's Old Town, Tron Square, and first appeared on stage at Leith's Capitol Theatre, aged four.

A wee "smout" of a lassie, she was to stretch to nearly 5ft in adulthood, but her generous, giving heart was inversely proportional to her diminutive stature.

As a child, she became a successful "buck" dancer (a forerunner of "tap"), but would earn applause for her remarkable singing performances, which included the popular number Walkin' My Baby Back Home, her rendition of which was made all the more endearing by a pronounced lisp.

Aged six, she learned and became a skilled accordion player, an instrument that virtually swamped her on stage. For two comic performances each night, she was rewarded with seven shillings and sixpence.

The popular comic Will Fyffe (of I Belong To Glasgow fame) performed alongside Maidie at a revue in Burntisland, Fife, in 1933, and in sheer admiration of her precocious talent, gave her a ten-bob note inscribed "To a very clever wee lassie. Yours aye, Will Fyffe".

Years later, two rain-sodden girls (Maidie hauling her accordion behind her), arrived in Greenock at the door of one Isabella Murray, a wartime welfare officer. Isabella took pity on the girls, who were seeking accommodation during a run at the town's Empire Theatre. She welcomed them into her home, fed and watered them and introduced them to her son, Charles ("Chic") Murray, who went on to comic greatness.

Maidie and Chic fell in love and were married in 1945 in St Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh.

Maidie recognised something special about Chic's talents as she observed him performing in local gigs. Chic was already a gifted musician, but she noticed that his laid-back, humorous narrative, with which he entertained the audience between numbers, went down particularly well.

It was Maidie who suggested they produce together a cocktail of gags and music for the stage. Thus their double act, "The Tall Droll" (Chic was 6ft 3in) and "The Small Doll", which was to last for years, was born.

Chic left employment in the Greenock shipyards and took the plunge into the entertainment business, entirely on account of Maidie's guidance, direction and encouragement.

Maidie counselled her young husband to pause during his act and allow the public to absorb his surreal humour.

Perhaps feeling insecure, he would write down his routine on paper, and Maidie would insert "ha ha" onto the written sheet to indicate where he should break the delivery for the anticipated audience laughter.

To her utter astonishment, Chic include these ha-has as part of his stage act; Maidie was dismayed, but the audience loved it. One year after their marriage, Maidie gave birth to a son, Douglas, and later, a daughter, Annabelle, balancing her career with a fierce devotion to her children.

Chic and Maidie continued to appear all over Scotland, and through Billy Marsh, acting on behalf of Bernard Delfont, they repeatedly toured the rest of the UK, including a season at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London's West End.

An invitation to appear at the Royal Variety Performance on 1956 ended in disappointment when the show was cancelled just hours before curtain up on account of the Suez Crisis.

Constant travelling and Maidie's instincts to put her family first strained the marriage, and in due course Chic and Maidie went their separate ways, although they remained on good terms. He died aged 65 in 1985.

Maidie threw her energies in to the running of a successful hotel business in Edinburgh where, inevitably, she made many new friends.

People would remark with pride: "I had a drink with Maidie in the Chic Murray Hotel!" Alas, no more. After 18 months battling cancer, Maidie died this week in her home – part of the hotel she had managed so many years before.

Her courage, her warmth, her humour, her love – all these qualities continued to shine from this very special woman to the very end, when she was surrounded by her family, who feel, together with so many others, a profound sense of loss.