Northern Ireland legend John Linehan has entertained us all for over 30 years as the flamboyant and quick-witted dame May McFettridge, defining pantomime in Belfast City.

COPNI had the chance to catch up with John as he took time out of his busy schedule during panto season for a Words of Wisdom, Christmas special!

What are your memories of Christmas as a child? 

My memories of Christmas are always lovely. One present that stands out was when I got a wee fort, the kind that you put soldiers in. I remember my brother getting a push bike and I didn’t.  But always super memories!

What age has been the best age of your life?  Why? 

The best age of my life would be in my teens.  I started to work and earn money and was able to give money into the house to my mother.  If you saw a pair of jeans or jacket you liked, you were able to save up for two or three weeks and get it and then appreciate it!   Then when you were 18 you couldn’t wait to get out and have a drink, but then you realised it might not be for you!

What is your proudest achievement? 

Getting married and having two lovely daughters and seeing them grow up and being successful in what they do. That makes me very proud!

What would you say is the most difficult thing about growing older?  

Remembering what you used to do and are now not able to do. I’m looking at the World Cup at the minute and I have fond memories of playing football.  I lived for 5 years in Dublin and played football down there - I think I still have injuries from playing football and that was 50 years ago. Growing old is a lot harder than you think. I’ve always appreciated people of an age who keep themselves sort of half fit. I know a gentleman who is 85 and plays golf twice a week and carries his own clubs.  And another gentleman who is 90 and competed in a golf competition with over 65 people in it and at 90 years of age he won. I just hope to live until I’m 90 never mind know what I’m going to do!

Many of our readers have probably been watching you perform over the years. How does it feel to bring joy to people through panto at Christmas time?

It’s brilliant for me. I suffer from syringomyelia and some syringomyelia sufferers come every year and I’ll pop out and say hello and it gives them a wee bit of strength to keep going. 

The COPNI Christmas campaign this year is “Give the Gift of Time.”  What’s the best Christmas present you’ve ever had?

The best Christmas present I received was on 2nd December 1977 when my first child was born – Donna. Maybe my wife would think it was two and a half years before when I married her!

How will you spend Christmas Day?

I’ll go over to Fortwilliam Golf Club for an hour and let the girls in the house cook the dinner.  Then I’ll enjoy the dinner and put the feet up and watch a bit of television.


John is currently starring in Cinderella in the Grand Opera House Opera until 15th January. 

Happy Christmas John from all at COPNI!