In 1975 the Welsh entertainer and actress Tessie O’Shea could be seen in the play Move Over Mrs Markham, which was being run at the Pavilion. One audience member recalled: “She wrote a special theme tune to play, which we had to strum on paper bags issued to us.”
Born in Cardiff, Teresa Mary ‘Tessie’ O’Shea (1913-1995) was reared in the music hall tradition, appearing on stage as The Wonder of Wales when she was six. By her teens she was featuring in BBC Radio broadcasts and appearing on stage as far afield as South Africa.
While appearing in Blackpool in the 1930s, Tessie exploited her size and adopted Two Ton Tessie from Tennessee as her theme song. A decade later she was a frequent headliner at the London Palladium and became a recording artist in the late 1950s.
She appeared in Northern comedies Holidays with Pay (1948) and Somewhere in Politics (1949). She had a cameo as herself in the Ealing crime classic The Blue Lamp (1950), and then in the Australian adventure The Shiralee (1957),
In 1964, Tessie was a guest on The Ed Sullivan Show. On the same bill were the Beatles. The show had the largest audience in the history of US TV at the time, so Tessie became well known. She then appeared in TV productions, including the TV movie The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in 1968 which earned her an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Drama.
Tessie also appeared in the movies, The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming (1966) and Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971).
In 1971, she appeared at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas in a successful British revue, but “her first appearance there was in 1949 when there were only three hotels and a lot of desert”.
The United States was now her home, but she returned to Britain in the early 1970s to appear in Blackpool, opposite Ken Dodd, and in Torquay.
Tessie died at her home in Florida, aged 82.
Here’s Tessie and Two Ton Tessie from Tennessee: