(1878–1945, North London Collegiate 1891 -)
Maisie Gay has been described as a “laughing” and “humorous” character. Educated at North London Collegiate School, she did not originally have any intention of becoming an actress, but seemed to be taking the linguistic path. She took the Senior Cambridge Local Examination in English and in her chosen languages, and was also a form monitor.
What influenced her career choice was an extraordinary bus journey, when a chance conversation with a chorus girl started her infamous career.
Maisie Gay was born Daisy Noble, and her life also hid other secrets. Later in life, although Maisie said that her date of birth was 1883, accounts written by her father indicate that Maisie’s real year of birth was in fact 1878. A common practice during the 19th century, many actresses shaved years off their actual age as well as changing their name.
Once Maisie left school, her first stage appearance was in the chorus of the 1903 The Cherry Girl written by Seymour Hicks. She joined a theatre company, toured in the musical play A Country Girl, and became more famous whilst touring in America. A review appeared in the Times on her return: “Miss Maisie Gay has returned from America even more humorous than she was when she left us”, and she went on to appear in her friend Noel Coward’s London Calling! in 1923, later touring Australia with him.
As her fame increased, in 1932 her film version of The Old Man screened across England, greatly improving her status as an infamous actress, and she also began submitting articles to prestigious artistic papers. In 1926 she had written a piece for Music Masterpieces, the beginning of her article revealing her bubbly and modest nature, “How do I get my laughs? I am so often asked this question, and yet I am always at a loss for an answer. People tell me that I have a comic personality, whatever that may mean, but I suppose, after all, it is the way one says a thing – or “cracks a gag,” as the saying goes” . Her autobiography (1932), called Laughing through Life expressed her belief that “The only laugh that matters is the one that comes straight from the heart, and the sentiment that inspires it must also come from the heart.”
Suffering from severe arthritis, she took premature retirement in 1932, and renovated the “Northey Arms” a pub situated in the village of Box. This was an immediate success, and became a place to meet influential writers, actors and musicians. Noel Coward regularly visited the pub and described her in his biography as plump with a pop-eyed face as round as a full moon. This pub has become part of Maisie’s legacy, and is referred to by the locals as, “Maisie’s.” Her close relationship with Noel Coward has been widely documented, and as an amusing and friendly character she acquired many other admirers for her humorous acting talents, rare for a woman at the time.
Thus, Maisie Gay was an actress worthy of the praise she received. A short notice in the issue of North London’s Our Magazine for 1942 – 1946 quotes a tribute from C.B.Cochran in the obituary from The Times  “In her particular genre Maisie Gay was unique and irreplaceable…” The pictures scattered around North London Collegiate School illustrate her humorous nature through her unconventional poses, and make her stand out in the school corridors as well as in English acting history.
Written & researched by Olivia Beecham (Sixth Form History student)
 The Times 7 December, 10, 1922
 Gay, Maisie, “Laughter-Making in Musical Comedy”, Music Masterpieces June 1926, p179
 Noble, Daisy Munro, Laughing Through Life, London, Hurst & Blackett, 1931
 The Times, 1945