Maureen Rees became a household name in the late ‘90s after a starring role in the first and last series of BBC docuseries Driving School, in which she had viewers in fits of laughter as she constantly blasted her husband-turned-driving instructor Dave as he taught her the ways of the roads.
Copyright [Mike Forster / Daily Mail/REX/Shutterstock]
We first took the cleaner from Wales to our hearts on June 10, 1997 when the debut episode of the show - which followed learner drivers in their quest to pass their test - hit our screens and we were captivated by her terrible driving and subsequent frustrations.
While some were no doubt laughing at Maureen’s near misses and hilarious outbursts, many men up and down the land were sympathising with Dave as he was the regular recipient of her rages, which included her shouting things like: “I’ve had a belly full of you!”
And he once had his foot run over by his dearly beloved.
Maureen, or Mo as she is known by her close pals, was dubbed the “driver from L” as more than 12 million people watched on as her lessons in her beloved blue Lada Riva Estate, affectionately called Betsy, went from bad to worse and she failed her practical test twice and theory once on the show.
The Driving School star - who decided to start learning shortly after beating womb cancer - failed six driving tests before she eventually passed on her seventh test. Eventually learning her left and right helped.
The whole nation rejoiced as the resolute Mo, who spent 80 per cent of her income on “millions” of driving lessons, passed her driving test, albeit in an automatic. But she did go on to get the green light in a manual after the show.
So, what happened to the woman whose sheer determination and comical blow ups captured the heart of the nation?
She Was On This Is Your Life
Copyright [BBC One]
Since becoming a celebrity thanks to her inept driving skills, Maureen continued to pop up on the small screen becoming somewhat of a TV star.
Perhaps the highlight of Maureen’s TV career came just months after Driving School’s inaugural series had ended when Michael Aspel paid “Britain’s most famous learner driver” a visit with his big red This Is Your Life book in hand. Yes, that really happened.
As well as the usual on the TV show - the presenter takes the star of the night through various highs and lows of their life and re-connects them with old friends - the Welsh wonder was given high praise by former Formula 1 racing driver Sir Stirling Moss.
He described her as an “inspiration to many” and wished her “many years of happy motoring”, while former Top Gear host Quentin Wilson, who narrated Driving School, commended her as a “symbol of determination”. High praise indeed.
Other TV credits saw Maureen appear as herself in sitcom Barbara - which starred Gwen Taylor as the titular character - in 1999, and also that year she made it Stateside, appearing as a guest on US chat show The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, alongside the likes of country singing superstar Faith Hill.
The Music Single
Besides select TV appearances in the aftermath of Driving School, Maureen also target chart success by recording a cover of Madness’ Driving In My Car.
The accompanying music video featured Maureen driving her beloved Betsy down a road while singing, or rather speaking, the lyrics to the tune. She even interjected with several of her classic outbursts from the show, such as: “Shut up! I am listening!”
But sadly for Maureen the tune only made it to number 50 in the UK Singles Chart.
The Road Safety Video
In February 2000, Maureen was back on the small screen in a government advertising campaign designed to increase road awareness.
But Mo may not have got that job if things had been different at a roundabout soon after she passed her test - as she very nearly crashed her car thanks to some scantily-clad males.
She previously told the Daily Telegraph: “I had one nasty incident, soon after I passed my test, which happened just as I was approaching one of those painted roundabouts.
"A group of 20-year-old lads saw me approaching and they mooned at me as I drove past. If I’d had a sharp object…”
But that wasn’t her only close shave, as Maureen revealed shortly after getting the all clear to drive Betsy without Dave alongside her she started to fancy herself as a bit of a Damon Hill.
She said: “I used to be a cleaner at Cardiff police station. The first time I drove home from work on my own I drew up at the traffic lights outside and realised that the other drivers in the queue had recognised me.
"So it was like Brands Hatch when the lights turned green: they all wanted to clear off and leave me behind.”
Apparently Maureen also made an appearance in the 2001 welsh-set coming-of-age film ‘Very Annie Mary’ (see above). Amazingly the cast was pretty decent - it starred Rachel Griffiths, Jonathan Pryce and Ioan Gruffudd. We think Maureen’s role wasn’t that big however, she played ‘chapel woman’.
Reality TV Return
Copyright [Channel 5/ Supplied by WENN]
While she appeared to have a break from TV for a few years, Maureen was back in 2004 on Back To Reality - a reality show featuring stars of reality TV. Channel 5 bosses were clearly running out of ideas even then.
Other household names who appeared on the programme included the likes of Peter Andre, Kerry Katona, Jodie Marsh, Jeff Brazier and the Cheeky Girls.
The Big Brother-like show, which was presented by Tess Daly and Richard Bacon, saw celebs spend three weeks in a studio-built mansion, and in the final fortnight they were voted off the show by the public.
While the programme was a flop, Maureen did well reaching the 20th and final day, but unfortunately she was just pipped to the winning post by Princess Diana’s former lover James Hewitt.
Gone But Not Forgotten
It was to be the last time we’d see Maureen on our screens, as she’s slipped back into obscurity in the last ten years. However the 74-year-old mother-of-three has certainly not been forgotten.
Comparisons to her dodgy driving are often made when a news story comes up about someone who has failed their driving test countless times, even though Maureen looks like Lewis Hamilton compared to some dodgy drivers.
The Driving Standards Agency revealed in 2009 that two Britons needed 16 attempts to pass their test - and one still failed.
And in 2013, an unnamed woman from Bury St Edmunds splashed out an incredible £1,600 on driving tests before finally passing on her 26TH ATTEMPT.
Richard Paine, driving instructor at the Bury St Edmunds Driving School, admitted at the time that it seemed a shocking stat when you take Maureen’s figures into account.
He said: “People will remember Maureen Rees - of BBC’s Driving School programme - who passed on her seventh attempt and may be surprised to see someone took 26 attempts to pass. There is a big element of luck.“
While Maureen may have been blessed with good luck during her successful test, or tarnished with bad luck during her failures, whatever she is up to today she is no doubt putting her all into it.