Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Kyle O'Sullivan

June Brown's heartbreaking double childhood tragedy that changed her life forever

While Dot Cotton endured a lot of heartbreak in EastEnders, legendary actress June Brown also suffered in her own life.

The much-loved soap star, who sadly passed away at the age of 95 on Sunday night, was rocked by double tragedy in her childhood that changed her life forever.

Born in February 1927 in Needham Market, Suffolk, June was one of five children to parents Louisa Ann and Henry William Melton Brown.

Tragically, her younger brother John Peter tragically died from pneumonia just 15 days after being born.

Two years later, the family were struck by another tragedy when June's older sister Marise passed away at just eight-years-old from a meningitis-like illness.

In her emotional autobiography in 2013, Before The Year Dot, June opened up on how how losing her big sister almost 80 years ago still affects her in the present day.

"Had antibiotics been available, there would have been no operation, she would not have died and my life would have been quite different," admitted June.

June Brown suffered a lot of heartache (BBC)
June, her late second husband Robert and their kids at home in 1967 (REX/Shutterstock)

Get the news you want straight to your inbox. Sign up for a Mirror newsletter here .

"The loss of her affected my whole character and shaped the way I behaved for a long time. In particular, it influenced my ­expectations of men. Too dependent, I found it impossible to be happy alone.

"I was constantly in and out of love, always looking for the kind of caring that Micie had given me – the wholehearted acceptance of me just as I was. I kept looking for the friend I had lost."

Marise, who was nickname Micie by June, was buried in an Ipswich Cemetery in the same grave as brother John Peter, who died as a baby.

She wrote: "I can’t remember a time when Marise wasn’t there (she was sixteen months older than me). 'Junie, quick, get the cotton wool and the olive oil.' My sister Micie (my name for her) woke me one morning in June 1934. I was seven.

"She was sitting up beside me in the bed that we shared in the big attic of our flat over Father's electrical business. Ironically, considering Father’s business, the attic had no electric light and we had to go to bed by candlelight.

"I ran to the bathroom to fetch the olive oil and cotton wool – a panacea for earache. I did not think to wake my mother. Micie was put into my parents' bed. I wasn’t aware Micie was very ill.

"A few days later, I came home from school and she wasn’t there."

Marise had been taken to hospital for a mastoid operation behind the ear, and sadly June never saw her again.

June continued: "My mother did tell me later how dreadful it was to hear Micie cry out as the dressings packing the wound behind her ear were replaced. Whether an infection was introduced through this, I don’t know, but Micie developed meningitis, became paralysed and, a few days later, she died.

"Had she lived, she would have been paralysed. Yet, Mother said just before she died she suddenly sat up in bed, held out her arms and smiled."

June explained that she and Marise were very alike, with round faces, short dark hair and big eyes, to the point it was impossible to tell the difference between them and they also shared a bedroom.

"I have this impression of Micie: always kind, loving and caring, never nasty. She looked after me. I adored her – I didn’t realise it at the time," she said.

"After she died, Mother would say, 'She was too good to live', which was often said about someone who died young, but in Micie’s case it was true.

That Christmas, June wrote a heartbreaking note saying: "Dear Father Christmas, I don’t want any toys, I just want Micie back."

June was evacuated during the Second World War to the Welsh village of Pontyates in Carmarthenshire and served in the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRENS).

June, left, on her last holiday with Micie, right (june brown)

She didn't actually grow up wanting to be an actress, but was convinced by one of her sisters to apply for the Old Vic theatre school.

Speaking to The Mirror in February 2017, June explained: "I never wanted to be an actress. I wanted to go into the medical professional. Acting was not important enough. That was a hobby – nothing to do with what you did in life.

"In the end it was all chance, most of life is chance. My sister happened to look at The Times, and there was advertised the Old Vic theatre school. I wrote, I suppose, and got an audition. They said I was in, so I burst into tears, because in those days I cried when I was happy and I cried when I was sad."

Before becoming an EastEnders legend, June actually had a part in rival soap opera Coronation Street back in 1970 in one of her earliest TV roles.

She played the character of Mrs Parsons, the mother of young Tony Parsons who received harmonium lessons from Ena Sharples (Violet Carson) and she appeared across three episodes.

She also made a number of television guest appearances such as in long-running BBC sci-fi series Doctor Who, playing Lady Eleanor of Wessex in 1973 serial The Time Warrior opposite Jon Pertwee's Third Doctor.

June also appeared in classic cop show The Sweeney, Minder, The Bill, BBC post-apocalyptic drama Survivors, and the 1985 television adaptation of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist.

But the actress will forever be remembered for her iconic role as Dot on EastEnders - first appearing in the show's first year in 1985.

June with on-screen son John Altman (BBC)

It was only supposed to be a short-term role but after impressing show bosses, June carried on to become one of the longest-serving stars in EastEnders history.

June remained a staple on the show for 35 years until announcing she had left "for good" in February 2020 - with viewers left devastated that Dot didn't get a proper send-off.

Dot left Walford after discovering that Martin Fowler was responsible for stealing her savings, when in fact it was actually granddaughter Sonia, and in her final scenes left an emotional voicemail explaining she had gone to Ireland to visit her grandson Charlie.

Explaining why she left, June revealed she had been disappointed in recent storylines and turned down the chance of signing a retainer contract but admitted it felt like she had been "bereaved".

Speaking on the Distinct Nostalgia podcast to former co-star Rani Singh, who played shop owner Sufia Karim, June said: “I don’t want a retainer for EastEnders, I’ve left. I’ve left for good.

"I’ve sent her off to Ireland and that’s where she’ll stay. I’ve left EastEnders. I did make up a limerick. It’s a bit dirty. I went back to do a good story. Alas and alack, when I got back it had gone up in smoke.

"Well that is no joke. I got a small part, a very small part. And that ended up as a big wet fart. Alas and alack, I will never go back."

June Brown was an EastEnders legend (BBC / Jack Barnes)

Tragically, EastEnders viewers will not see June in Albert Square again after she passed away on Sunday night aged 95.

June's family said in a statement: "We are deeply saddened to announce our beloved mother, June, passed away very peacefully at her home in Surrey on Sunday evening, with her family by her side. We would kindly ask that our privacy is respected at this very difficult time"

EastEnders bosses paid a heartbreaking tribute to June, who spent a staggering 35 years in the BBC soap.

It read: "We are deeply saddened to announce that our beloved June Brown, OBE, MBE sadly passed away last night. There are not enough words to describe how much June was loved and adored by everyone at EastEnders, her loving warmth, wit and great humour will never be forgotten...

"June created one of the most iconic characters in Dot Cotton, not just in soap but in British television, and having appeared in 2884 episodes, June’s remarkable performances created some of EastEnders finest moments…

"We send all our love and deepest sympathies to June’s family and friends. A very bright light has gone out at EastEnders today - we shall all be raising a sweet sherry in June’s memory. Rest in peace, our dearest June. You will never be forgotten."

Do you have a story to share? Email

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.