Actor Joan Sydney, best known as Matron Maggie Sloane in A Country Practice, has died at the age of 83.

English-born, her early career was in the theatre, which she continued after arriving in Australia in 1965. She made her Australian TV debut in the telemovie The Scalp Merchant in 1978, followed by an appearance in a children’s series, Falcon Island.

Her big TV break came in 1983 when she took on the role of Matron Maggie Sloane in A Country Practice.

She was initially signed for a temporary role but she stayed for seven years. She went on to win the Silver Logie in 1989 for Most Outstanding Actress. “This award means a lot to me because it shows that you don’t have to be young and pretty to win a Logie,” she told TV Week at the time.

TV Week editor Lawrie Masterson appraised Sydney on receiving her award:

“Somehow I usually find myself with a half-smile on my face when I’m watching Joan Sydney in A Country Practice. Matron Maggie, as we know, can be a stickler for formality and a tough old bird when the occasion demands. But she also has a sense of humour and of course her heart is in the right place. Joan Sydney handles her with aplomb and, seemingly, ease. At once she makes the character credible and likeable. You feel sorry for Matron Maggie at times, laugh along with her at others. All in all she is a pleasure… and the actress who brings her to life richly deserves the recognition she has received.”

Sydney left the series in 1990 to pursue theatre roles but soon returned to TV as Mary Patchett in E Street (pictured with co-star Adrian Lee).

In 1993, she returned to A Country Practice for a cameo in its last episode on the Seven Network in 1993, and stayed with the show when it was re-launched by the Ten Network in 1994. She went on to play Valda Sheergold in Neighbours on a recurring basis from 2002 and as a regular character in 2007-08.

She also starred with her sister, fellow actor Maggie King, in the 1989 telemovie Sisterly Love.

Other TV credits included Flight Into Hell, Mother And Son, Tracks Of Glory, Law Of The Land (with Lisa Hensley, pictured), Something In The Air, All Saints, Lowdown, Conspiracy 365, Cliffy and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.

Source: TV Week, 25 March 1989, 15 May 1993. IMDB, Wikipedia.

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