Retro: Doncaster’s theatre dame Diana going strong

Diana Rigg as Emma Peel in the 1960's hit TV show The Avengers. See FILM Avengers.
Diana Rigg as Emma Peel in the 1960's hit TV show The Avengers. See FILM Avengers.
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Long before One Direction star Louis Tomlinson became one of Doncaster’s most famous sons, actress Dame Diana Rigg was widely acclaimed to be one of the most celebrated people who can list the town as their birthplace.

Dame Diana, who will celebrate her 77th birthday on Monday, is still regarded by many as a Sixties sex symbol, famed for her iconic role as Emma Peel in the much-loved spy and crime drama The Avengers.

Born in Doncaster in 1938 to railway engineer father Louis and mum Beryl, she only lived in the town for a matter of months, spending the period between the ages of two months and eight years old in Bikaner in India, where her father was employed as a railway executive.

On the family’s return to the UK, she was sent to a boarding school in West Yorkshire and made her professional stage debut in a RADA production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle in York in 1957.

That led to television bit parts but she became a household name in 1965 when she landed the role of the catsuit sporting Emma Peel in the The Avengers, opposite bowler-hatted Steed, played by actor Patrick Macnee, who died last month.

In total, she played the character in 51 episodes and that led to her being cast as a Bond girl in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the only 007 flick with George Lazenby in the lead role as the suave super spy.

More TV, film and theatre work followed throughout the 1970s and 80s, but it wasn’t until 1990 that she won her first award, a BAFTA for best actress for her role in the drama Mother Love.

And the star shows no sign of slowing down just yet.

In recent years, she has appeared in not only the UK sci-fi smash Doctor Who but also all-conquering US series Game Of Thrones, as Queen Of Thorns Olenna Tyrell, finding a whole new legion of fans, despite being in her seventies.

She was made a Dame in 1994 and also received honorary degrees in 1988 and 1992.