Obituary: Stephen John Hannan, actor and care worker

Steven Hannan, actor who became a Fringe regular on stage ' and a dedicated care worker off stage. Picture: Contributed
Steven Hannan, actor who became a Fringe regular on stage ' and a dedicated care worker off stage. Picture: Contributed
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Born: 16 December, 1960, in Glasgow. Died: 12 March, 2016, in South Queensferry, Edinburgh, aged 55.

Stephen John Hannan

Actor and care worker

BORN: 16 December, 1960, in Glasgow.

DIED: 12 March, 2016, in South Queensferry, Edinburgh, aged 55.


It somehow does not seem right to compose a ‘proper’ obituary of your own brother, but The Scotsman has always found a place for appreciations and tributes and these words are in that mode.

When Stevie collapsed and died of a massive heart attack on the morning of Saturday, 12 March, our family’s world stopped turning. He was our star, and we have had to say good night to our sweet prince so prematurely and suddenly, and that has been difficult beyond words.

When your brother is an actor familiar to many people, in a real sense you share him with the world, and that is why we have been inundated with love and sympathy from people across Scotland and beyond.

There have been many tributes to him. For example, on the night of his death, in faraway Seattle the players of the National Theatre of Scotland dedicated their performance of The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart to him.

Stevie was never in the highest rank of screen or stage actors in terms of fame and fortune, but he was hugely respected by his peers as we have found out in these past days. He was first and foremost a stage actor, and that is how he would like to be remembered.

Born in Glasgow, Stevie was raised mostly in Bonhill in the Vale of Leven where our father Jim was best known as a trade union leader at the local Wiseman’s factory, and who became a district councillor in Dumbarton in the 1980s. Our mother Catherine Caulfield is a teacher by vocation who rose to become head teacher at St Ronan’s Primary School in Bonhill before ending her career as head teacher of St Andrew’s Primary in Bearsden.

With my sister Geraldine, we were a close-knit and happy family, all three of us attending St Mary’s Primary School in Alexandria.

We learned from our parents the importance of family and friends and while never dragooned, we were encouraged to study hard.

Attending St Patrick’s High School in Dumbarton, Stevie displayed considerable skill at football and was even asked to turn out for the local Boys Brigade team – those aware of the west of Scotland’s cultural peculiarities will know what an achievement that was.

After studying social work at the then Robert Gordon Institute of Technology in Aberdeen, family legend has it that he went to Iona “to find myself” and came back to announce that he was going to be an actor. “You had to go to Iona to find that out?” said my father.

For Stevie was always the main turn at our family parties, his ready wit and humour combined with a talent for mimicry that always had his audience in stitches.

He joined local dramatic group Dumbarton People’s Theatre briefly before heading down to Birmingham to study drama there, also taking time out to live in Ireland and Exeter.

He was accepted to study at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, from where he graduated in 1988, winning the Mary Marquis Television Award and the Royal Lyceum Prize for best Shakespearean performance.

He first appeared on television in 1990 in the Screen Two film Dreaming written by William McIlvanney, who became a friend and invited Stevie on to his chat show. Willie’s death in December deeply saddened him.

Further small screen appearances followed in Taggart, Rebus, Doctor Finlay, Jamie, Robert Burns Alive and Kicking and others. He also appeared in films such as California Sunshine, Joyride, Daddy’s Gone a Hunting, and On a Clear Day. He also performed in numerous radio plays over the years.

In truth, however, he was most interested in acting for the stage, and that was where he made his career, performing in every form of drama and possibly at his best in comic and physical roles, which is why he loved panto so much.

In his 28 years as a professional actor, he worked with most Scottish theatre companies including the Royal Lyceum, Borderline, Wildcat, the Byre, Cumbernauld Theatre, Theatre About Glasgow, The Tron, Perth Rep and others.

He had his first appearance on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe playing Pericles in Flloyd Kennedy’s production for Golden Age Theatre. He would become a Fringe regular, appearing in my own play Marky in 2000 and later directing a play about Michael Collins.

Early in his career he originated the role of The Blasphemer, Thomas Aikenhead, in George Rosie’s play of that name, and also played the lead in Rosie’s It Had To be You.

His proudest achievement was being able to say in 2006 when he appeared at The King’s in Glasgow, that he had acted in every theatre in Scotland.

That 2006 show saw him give one of his most memorable roles playing 18 different characters in Tony Roper and Phil Differ’s’ Rikki and Me, the popular play about Rikki Fulton which starred Roper as Fulton, Gerard Kelly as Jack Milroy and Alyson Orr as Fulton’s mother and second wife Kate – quite bizarrely, Stevie even played the part of Tony Roper.

He also played alongside Kate Dickie in When Clarence Calls by Ford Kiernan at the Oran Mor, and toured Scotland in the musical The Bookie.

A lifelong Celtic fan and sometime season ticket holder, Stevie was delighted to feature in both The Johnny Thomson Story and Ed Crozier’s 2002 production of The Celtic Story by David Anderson and the late David MacLennan that starred Roper and jazz legend Annie Ross.

Stevie was last seen on stage late last year playing Governor Ridgeway to critical acclaim in the national tour of David Gooderson’s play Hector. One of his first agents had predicted that Stevie would come into his own as a character actor in later life, and in Hector we saw the potential he had for such roles – but now we will never know what he could have gone on to achieve.

Like so many actors, Stevie had a second career as a care worker which was hard work with long hours but brought him great satisfaction. Some of the warmest tributes we have received have come from some of his clients over the years.

He also worked as an Actor Consultant for the Forum Interactive training firm.

Having lived in Glasgow for many years, Stevie moved to Edinburgh six years ago where he lived latterly in South Queensferry with his loving partner Lesley, whose generosity and integrity in these last few days has been wholly admirable.

I am of course biased, but my brave and brilliant brother was a generous, loving, witty, and highly professional person. He will be very much missed.

Stevie Hannan is survived by Lesley, his mother Catherine, myself, sister Geraldine, our partners Deb Armstrong and Bobby Carroll, and his niece and nephew Debbie and James Hannan.

His funeral will take place in the Lorimer Chapel of Warriston Crematorium on Thursday, 31 March, at 1pm to which all are welcome. The family request that instead of flowers, please give a donation which will be forwarded to a suitable charity.