Leavy, (Mary) Patricia ('Pat') (née Judge) (1936–2003), actress, was born on 27 July 1936 in a nursing home at 12 Upper Leeson Street, Dublin, daughter of Edmund Judge, a commercial traveller in drapery, of The Downes, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, who died in a car accident on 22 December 1939. She had a younger brother, and spent part of her early childhood near Mountjoy Square in Dublin's north inner city. Her mother, Nora Judge (née Cantwell), was from Cashel, Co. Tipperary, and in the difficult days of the Emergency occasioned by the second world war, the Cantwells helped bring up the Judge children. Pat was sent to board at a school in Carlow, but completed her education in the Dominican convent, Eccles Street, Dublin. Shortly after leaving school, she got engaged to George Leavy, who was working in a bar, and they married in William Street church on 3 September 1957. The couple moved to the suburb of Rathfarnham and had two sons and a daughter.
In her late twenties, Pat Leavy joined a local amateur dramatic group, and successfully acted with them in productions and in the drama festival competitions that were so much a feature of Irish life in the 1960s. Leavy found herself immediately at home on the stage, and even as a young woman was happy to play character parts – 'somebody's mammy or auntie or dragon. Even prostitutes' (Ir. Independent, 25 February 1974). Still in her early thirties, she took on the part of the matriarchal Widow Quin in 'The playboy of the western world' by J. M. Synge (qv), in a production in the Lantern Theatre, a coterie theatre in Merrion Square, and received encouraging reviews.
She decided to work as a professional actress, an unconventional mid-life move for a married woman in that era, and in 1971, in the small Gas Company Theatre in Dún Laoghaire, played the title part in the play 'Big Maggie' by John B. Keane (qv). This was a role that she relished, and she appeared in many other productions of the play.
In 1978, in her first performance at the Abbey Theatre, Leavy again had a success in the role of the Widow Quin in a musical adaptation of the 'Playboy' entitled 'The heart's a wonder'. Over the next thirty years her rasping, smoker's voice, comic timing and acting skills were to become well known to Dublin audiences in several theatres and in many roles. She often played in classic parts like Big Maggie, and Bessie Burgess in 'The plough and the stars', by Sean O'Casey (qv), where her Dublin working-class background supplied the exactly appropriate accent, stance and body language. She even performed in pantomime; in 1980, she was Spring Sprong, the fairy godmother, in the Damer Hall's 'Cinder Eile'.
She toured with Dublin productions, scoring personal successes in the Edinburgh festival and elsewhere, and was particularly happy working in the Druid Theatre in Galway, where she acted in a variety of plays: for instance, in the Restoration tragedy 'Tis pity she's a whore', by John Ford, and as a memorable Lady Bracknell in 'The importance of being earnest' by Oscar Wilde (qv), both in 1985. Leavy appeared in 1987 with the Druid company in Tom Murphy's 'Conversations on a homecoming', put on as part of the Sydney Festival in Australia.
At the same time, Leavy was a constant presence in films and on television. She appeared, usually in small but characteristic roles, in some of the best-known Irish films of the late twentieth century, such as The ballroom of romance (1982), The Commitments (1991), The butcher boy (1997), and The General (1998).
Her television career lasted from 1978 until her death, with parts in films made for television and in several series: for example, in an episode of Father Ted (1995), and in the last few episodes of the long-running and popular soap opera The Riordans. Appearing for some eleven years from the early 1990s as the popular character Hannah Finnegan in the RTÉ soap Fair city was perhaps the high point of Leavy's career, and brought her near-celebrity status in Ireland. Hannah Finnegan, a cleaner who also worked in family businesses, was the matriarch of the Doyle family. She was often a central figure in the various storylines, representing the traditional values of an age group confronted by unsettling changes, and the role seemed a natural fit for Leavy, almost her apotheosis. The programme had an average audience in 2001 of over 650,000 viewers. Leavy also appeared in the six-part RTÉ television mocumentary Paths to freedom (2000).
Despite some health problems, Leavy did not want to give up working. Just after finishing a film called Spin the bottle (a Paths to freedom sequel, released in 2004), Leavy was taken ill on the set of Fair city and died in Tallaght hospital, Dublin, the next day, 2 April 2003. Both her own funeral, in Ballyroan, south Dublin, and her character's funeral on Fair city, were notable occasions in the world of Irish theatre and television. She had worked with so many people over the years, and was immensely popular with colleagues and with audiences. She was buried in Mount Venus cemetery, Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin.