Actor and Comedian
Young was born in Ballymoney, but the family moved to south Belfast when he was six months old; his father looked after the horses of the Ormeau Bakery. An amateur actor from his teens, James soon turned professional and shared in the great success of the Ulster Group Theatre in the 1940’s and 1950’s. His association with Joseph Tomelty was particularly fruitful; his performances in Right Again, Barnum and as Derek the window-cleaner in the radio series The McCooeys are still remembered.
His greatest popular success was however as a variety entertainer, along with his lifelong partner Jack Hudson (whom he had met while on tour in the Middle East). He performed his sketches – featuring characters like Ernie the Shipyard Worker and Orange Lil – in theatre and on TV, in Ireland, Canada and the United States. He also sold some quarter million of records. Catch phrases like “Aw now” and “Och, go on” entered the popular consciousness. Purists may however regret his defection from the serious theatre; performances like that of the salesman in George Shiels’ The Passing Day (Northern Ireland Festival Theatre Company, 1951) had no successors.
James Young died, basically of overwork, in 1974.
Location of plaque
Date of Unveiling: 25 October 1996
The family home, 26 Fernwood Street, off Blackwood Street, Ormeau Road, Belfast.