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Actress Olivia Nash: The saddest time of my life was the death of my husband... he was a great dad

The Big Ask: Olivia Nash

Royal recognition: Olivia Nash was awarded an MBE for her theatre and charity work
Royal recognition: Olivia Nash was awarded an MBE for her theatre and charity work
The Loves of Cass McGuire, by Brian Friel
Dame Judi Dench
Billy Connolly
Olivia at 18 months old
Olivia's mum Patsy
Olivia's father Tommy
Stage family: Olivia (front right) with the cast of Give My Head Peace
Treading the boards: Olivia with Damon Quinn on the Give My Head Peace tour
Olivia with daughter Patricia
Olivia with granddaughter Livi Curran
Rachel Dean

By Rachel Dean

In this week's interview Rachel Dean talks to Give My Head Peace actress Olivia Nash (mid-70s), who lives in Belfast. She has one daughter, Patricia, and three grandchildren, Gabriel, Daisy and Livi.

Q: Tell us about your childhood

A: I had a very happy childhood, thank goodness. I lived in Larne with my mother Patsy, father Tommy and sister Mel.

Olivia's father Tommy

I had this belief that in the summer the sun shone all the time, which of course, naturally, isn't true.

We spent a lot of time outdoors and at the beach. It was a simple childhood, but it was all very lovely. I mean, I didn't like school, but I was happy.

Olivia at 18 months old

My father was a chef and my mummy - after she was married, as I think was the way in those days - didn't work, but she had a very busy life. She was one of those people who was very involved in local things.

Probably from a very young age, I knew I wanted to get into acting. Whenever I was about three, I had the usual elocution lessons, which is what you did in those days.

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I had a powerful imagination and maybe I lived in a fantasy world sometimes. Drama and the like were very rife from I was a young girl.

My mother and father were avid theatregoers and would have been involved in that world.

Olivia's mum Patsy

I studied drama right through school and, as soon as I left, I got involved with the Larne Drama Circle - I'm still a member. I've been in many plays with them.

The Larne Drama Circle, as with a lot of the amateur clubs, was very much family-orientated. Whole complete families were involved in various ways.

That was really the backbone for me becoming an actress. It felt like a community - like one big family.

I'm still great friends with people from there today. It really has had such a huge influence on my life.

Q: What are you most proud of?

A: My family: my lovely daughter Patricia and my three beautiful grandchildren.

My eldest grandchild Gabriel is at university. My next is Daisy and she's at university. The youngest Livi, bless her, is in the horrors of GCSEs.

They are wonderful and they don't live too far from me, which is great.

I'm also so proud of my other family at Give My Head Peace. We've had so much fun and success for more than 20 years.

It's been wonderful and I'm so lucky. Without that lot, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing today.

Stage family: Olivia (front right) with the cast of Give My Head Peace

Q: The one regret you wish you could amend?

A: I try not to have regrets.

Q: And what about phobias? Do you have any?

A: Birds. I can't have them near me and I can't stand them flapping their wings. Funnily enough, if there's glass between us, it's okay. I must admit, I do like looking out the window in the morning and seeing the birds, but I don't like them being near me.

Q: The temptation you cannot resist?

A: Chips. And Strictly Come Dancing.

Q: Your number one prized possession?

A: My family. But after that, I was very honoured a few years ago to receive an MBE for my work in theatre and charity.

Olivia with granddaughter Livi Curran

Q: The book that's most impacted your life?

A: It's actually a play I did one time, called The Loves of Cass McGuire, by Brian Friel. I played the part of Cass. It's had an amazing impact on my life.

Q: If you had the power or the authority, what would you do?

A: I would ban the word 'Brexit' from the dictionary. And the obvious one is to be able to encourage peace and for people to love each other.

Q: What makes your blood boil every time without fail?

A: That awful expression 'no problem', or 'no bother'. It's when somebody says 'no problem' to you before they've even heard what your request is. Or sometimes, when you maybe go into a restaurant or something and you order your meal and the waiter or waitress says, 'no problem'. And it's like, well, there really shouldn't be a problem because it's on the menu.

I know everybody uses the phrase, and I probably have too, but it's the inappropriate use of it that gets to me.

Maybe I'm just too hung up on it, but it just really makes me click.

Wouldn't it great to live in world where everything was no problem?

Q: Who has most influenced you in life?

A: My late husband Bill (he died suddenly when Olivia was 38). He was a very sound man. He didn't make a fuss over silly things and he was a wonderful father and husband.

Q: Your top three dinner party guests, dead or alive and why?

A: Dame Judi Dench because I absolutely adore her. I mean, I think she's an amazing woman.

And Billy Connolly because - and I know it can be vulgar at times - but I love his humour. Apart from that, he's a very deep thinker. I love reading or watching anything he's involved with. He seems so dedicated.

Then, I would invite my husband because that would just be lovely.

Q: The best piece of advice you ever received?

A: Always keep smiling. The reason behind that was because if you're walking around looking as miserable as you feel inside, someone will say to you, 'Are you all right? What's wrong?'. Then, the next thing you hear is, 'Oh, I was talking to Olivia and there's something awfully wrong with her'. As if someone always has to have something wrong. A family friend gave me this advice. She said, 'No matter how bad you feel, just keep smiling and people can't get past that'. Then nobody can accuse you of looking miserable.

Q: The unlikely interest or hobby that you love?

A: It sounds a bit boring, but drama, obviously. After all these years, I still love going to plays and going to anything involved in that world.

I love helping young people in theatre. I do a lot with Cinemagic, like mentoring and acting, and they are just an amazing group. It's great fun. I've been very lucky in my career and if I can help young people who are coming up in the theatre in any way, that would be an honour.

I've been involved in drama since I was three and I've loved every minute of it. It's led to a terrific life.

Q: The poem that touches your heart?

A: There's a beautiful and very old poem called An Old Woman of the Roads. It's about this little old lady who just walks the roads all the time. All she dreams for is a house.

It makes me cry every time. I think I did it at school. I haven't heard it for years, but it's always sat in my heart. It's a beautiful poem.

Q: The happiest moment of your life?

A: The birth of my daughter and my grandchildren.

Olivia with daughter Patricia

Q: And the saddest moment of your life?

A The death of my husband and my parents.

Q: The one event that made a difference in your life?

A: Once again, receiving an MBE a few years back. I received that for my work in theatre, but also for my work with the Northern Ireland Hospice charity.

I'm very involved with the hospice and I'm aware of the money they need to help people.

They do such wonderful work. I'm honoured to be part of it. That's something I'm really quite proud of.

Now I'm able to use it (the MBE) to promote various charities that I'm interested in.

It was obviously a great honour and it's helped me to be able to help in a small way.

Q: What's the ambition that keeps driving you onwards?

A: Thankfulness that I've been able to get to this stage in my life and still be able to contribute.

Now I want to help as many young people coming along in theatre as I can.

I want them to have as lovely a life as I've had in the drama world.

Q: What's the philosophy you live by?

A: Be happy and look for the good things in life.

Q: How do you want to be remembered?

A: As someone who brought a smile to people's faces at times.

  • The Give My Head Peace Tour begins on February 25 and runs until March 28. Tickets are now on sale from all venue box offices. Visit

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