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My people: Sam McCready on his special relationships

The 78-year-old is an actor, director and writer originally from east Belfast. He spends his time between Belfast and America with his wife Joan. He will be performing Percy French, his one-man show, at the Eastside Arts festival this August.

My wife, Joan

We met at Stranmillis College but she had already seen me performing at the Grand Opera House in Belfast with the New Lyric Opera Company and recognised me later at the college. That was in 1958 and we've been married for over 50 years.

Joan has supported me ever since we met and married. She's a very fine actress herself, but was prepared to take a back seat to promote my work. When I was offered a job at the University of North Wales she was the one who said "yes, we're going". Our next move was to America when I got a job teaching at the University of Maryland.

We've both recently retired from our teaching jobs and focus on our theatre work. We do a lot of one-man plays - if I'm acting, she directs me and vice versa.

My sons, Julian and Richard

Julian was a prison chaplain, but he died a few years ago from a debilitating disease and that left a terrible gap in the family. Richard lives close to us in New York and is very successful. Last year he was named music teacher of the year in the US and has been nominated for a Grammy this year.

I love children, so having my own was terrific. I always encouraged them in painting and drawing, but I was never very good on the football field. We talked a lot and had some great conversations around the dinner table.

Richard has a 14-year-old daughter, Margo. She is growing up into a young woman, and stays with us one night a week when we're in the States - we have a tremendous relationship.

My best friend

We have two friends in Belfast, Moore and Sandra Sinnerton, who have always been very generous to us. Moore's the person we would turn to if we have any problems. We go on holidays together and Moore is brilliant at organising trips abroad.

My parents, Sarah and David

My parents both passed away a long time ago. My father was a riveter in the shipyard and my mother looked after us.

She had 13 children, although not all of them survived to adulthood.

Sadly, all of my brothers and my only sister have all passed on so I'm the last of the line. I was different from everyone else in the family.

My brothers were very smart, but they went into the trades - because I went to high school, I could do anything I wanted and my parents were happy to support me.

My mentor

That would be Mary O'Malley, who was the founder of the Lyric Theatre Company in Belfast. When she invited me to join her company it opened up a world I had never even dreamt of, compared to the background I grew up in.

Person I go to for advice

That has to be Joan. She's so different from me - very grounded, and takes her time to make decisions. She makes my life full of order, so there's no concern I wouldn't share with her.

Celebrity crush

It has to be an actress, so it's going to be Judi Dench. She's someone I have never met but I'd love to. She's a wonderful actress with a tremendous range.

Fantasy dinner party

I've written four one-person plays over the last few years, one about Lady Gregory, then Charles Dickens, John Butler Yeats and I'm currently working on one about Percy French which I'll be performing at the Eastside Arts Festival. Those are the four people I'd like to have as my dinner guests.

I've read everything about them and everything they ever wrote, so it would be wonderful to meet them all in person.

  • Percy French: Melodies of Forgotten Years, written and performed by Sam McCready will be on stage at the Strand Arts Centre Belfast, as part of the East Side Arts Festival on Sunday, August 30. For tickets and information go to

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