Gwen Plumb

Gwendoline Jean Plumb AM BEM (2 August 1912  5 June 2002), was an Australian performer of international appeal, actress and comedian active in literally every form of the art genre, (except circus) including revue, pantomime, vaudeville, interviewing, stage, radio, game shows, live appearances, television soap opera and mini-series and made for TV film. She was considered the Grand Dame of Australian entertainment, best known to local and international audiences as "Ada Simmonds" in serial The Young Doctors aa well as the pilot episode of Home and Away and the ill-fated Richmond Hill She was known for her outrageous, but hilarious "Chook Call".

Gwen Plumb
Gwendoline Jean Plumb

2 August 1912
Died5 June 2002(2002-06-05) (aged 89)
OccupationStage, radio and television actress
Years active1930-1994
Partner(s)Thelma Scott


Gwen started her career in 1930, with Gwen Meredith drama club,[1] she had her first well-known role as Emmie[2][3] in the longest-running Australian radio serial Blue Hills, and hosted a radio program on Australia's Macquarie Radio Network from 1945 to 1974. She also had a radio show in Sydney opposite Gordon Chater. She was well known for her celebrity interviews, including travelling to Europe to conduct recordings.[4][5][6]

Plumb had a long career in the theatre, was a cast member of the debut season of the Old Tote Theatre Company, travelled extensively overseas to interview celebrities for her own radio programme, and once quipped that she "played in just about every form of public entertainment except the circus".[7]

She is probably best remembered for her portrayal of "gossip", Ada Simmonds in the Australian soap opera The Young Doctors for its entire November 1976 – March 1983 run.[8] She released a cook book, What's Cooking with Ada, under her characters name in 1980.[9][10] Other notable roles were in the mini-series The Harp in the South[11] and Poor Man's Orange in the mid 1980s. She acted in Neighbours as Mrs. Forbes in 1985, appearing in scenes opposite Alan Dale, with whom she had starred in The Young Doctors.

She later played the key role of Mum Foote in the serial Richmond Hill in 1988.[12] Having agreed to act in the planned new series, Plumb was offered, and played, the role of Doris Peters in the pilot of another proposed series Home and Away. When Home and Away also went into production, Plumb opted to honour her earlier agreement to do Richmond Hill. The role of Mum Foote had been specially written with her in mind by show creator, Reg Watson. Richmond Hill had a run of just 12 months, and Plumb stayed with the series for all of that time; Home and Away on the other hand is still running today. In 1995 Plumb returned to Home and Away for a number of episodes, playing a different character.

Plumb also appeared in the mini-series Stark, based on Ben Elton's novel of the same name.[13]

Personal life

Plumb's lifelong partner was Australian actress Thelma Scott, best known for serial Number 96 as pompous socialite Clair Houghton.[14]

Plumb wrote her autobiography, Plumb Crazy which was published by Pan Macmillan in 1994.[15]

British and Australian honours

Plumb was awarded a British Empire Medal in 1973,[16] and was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1993.[17][18] Both awards recognised her community and charity work.[19]

Selected Radio

Year Title Role
c.1940sBlue Hills (Radio series)Emmie
1945-1974Macquarie Radio NetworkHostess as Herself
unknown yearsRadio 2GB Radio Show With Gordon ChaterHostess/interviewer


Year Title Role
1959A Tongue of Silver (TV movie)unknown role
1960Venus Observed (TV movie)Jessie
1961Corinth House (TV movie)Mrs. Heysham
1962Consider Your Verdict (TV series)
1963Jonah (TV series)Lady Jane Franklin
1965Adventure Unlimited (TV series)
1965Write Me a Murder (TV movie)
1966-1967Nice 'N' Juicy (TV series)Mrs Ada Withers
1970The Rovers (TV series)Mrs Higgins
1973Boney (TV series)Miss Parker
1978Bobby Dazzler (TV series)Dinner Guest
1982Ginger MeggsMiss Leach
1984A Halo For Athuem (TV movie)Mother Paul
1985NeighboursMrs. Forbes
1985The Man in the Iron Mask (TV movie)Peronne (voice-artist)
1987The Harp in the South (TV mini-series)Granny Kilker
1987I've Come About the Suicide (TV movie)Miss Clemisha
1988Richmond Hill (TV series)Mum Foote
1988The Flying Doctors (TV series)Nellie Keene
1992A Country PracticeMorna Peacock
1993Stark (TV miniseries)Mrs. Tyson
1988-1995Home and Away2 roles
-Doris Peters (pilot episode)
-Elizabeth Clarke

Selected Role

Year Title Role
1976-1983The Young Doctors (TV series)Ada Simmonds (1,394 Episodes)


  1. "Star of the Air". Pittsworth Sentinel (Qld. : 1919 - 1954). 29 June 1946. p. 1. Retrieved 11 July 2019.
  2. "Gwen Plumb". Muswellbrook Chronicle (NSW : 1898 - 1955). 21 November 1947. p. 3. Retrieved 11 July 2019.
  3. "Gwen Plumb in BBG's Twenty Questions". South Coast Times and Wollongong Argus (NSW : 1900 - 1954). 11 October 1954. p. 6. Retrieved 11 July 2019.
  4. "Gwen Plumb to tour with Bea Lillie". Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954). 19 October 1954. p. 11. Retrieved 11 July 2019.
  5. "Women's Interests On The Air Film Star On 2GB". Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954). 3 June 1954. p. 5. Retrieved 11 July 2019.
  6. "No title". Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954). 17 September 1953. p. 7. Retrieved 11 July 2019.
  7. "Plumb Crazy all these years". The Sydney Morning Herald. 6 June 2002.
  8. Sheldon, Gordon (3 October 1991). "Cheerful amoral piece". Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995). p. 15. Retrieved 11 July 2019.
  9. "Timestyle". Canberra Times. 20 July 1980. p. 19. Retrieved 11 July 2019.
  10. Plumb, Gwen (1980). What's cooking with Ada? by Ada Simmonds. Melbourne : Unicorn Books. ISBN 9780867570113.
  11. "The Harp in the South". Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995). 21 December 1992. p. 34. Retrieved 11 July 2019.
  12. "TV favourites return". Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995). 24 January 1988. p. 20. Retrieved 11 July 2019.
  13. Wallace, Mark (9 August 1993). "Stark". Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995). p. 25. Retrieved 11 July 2019.
  14. Meade, Amanda (30 November 2006). "Not the nine o'clock news". The Australian. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  15. Plumb crazy / Gwen Plumb
  16. It's an Honour: BEM
  17. It's an Honour: AM
  18. "Colleague's bravery honoured in Sydney ceremony". Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995). 24 September 1993. p. 6. Retrieved 11 July 2019.
  19. "Search Australian Honours". It's an honour. Australian Government. Retrieved 17 April 2009.
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