Thora Hird

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Thora Hird

Dame Thora Hird Allan Warren.jpg
Hird in 1974
Born(1911-05-28)28 May 1911
Morecambe, Lancashire, England
Died15 March 2003(2003-03-15) (aged 91)
Brinsworth House, Twickenham, London, England
Years active1931–2002
Notable work
See here and here
Television Last of the Summer Wine , In Loving Memory , Hallelujah!
James Scott
(m. 1937;his death 1994)
Children Janette Scott

Dame Thora Hird, DBE (28 May 1911 – 15 March 2003) was an English actress and comedienne of stage and screen, presenter and writer. In a career spanning over 70 years, [2] she appeared in more than 100 film and television roles, becoming a household name and a British institution. A three-time winner of the BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress, she won for Talking Heads: A Cream Cracker Under the Settee (1988), Talking Heads: Waiting for the Telegram (1998) and Lost for Words (1999). Her film credits included The Love Match (1955), The Entertainer (1960), A Kind of Loving (1962) and The Nightcomers (1971).

This is a list of the British Academy Television Awards for Best Actress. The British Academy Television Awards began in 1955. The Best Actress award was initially given as an 'individual honour' without credit to a particular performance until 1969 when Wendy Craig won for her performance in Not in Front of the Children. Since 1970, nominees have been announced in addition to the winner and are listed with the winner highlighted in blue. The Actress category was split into Leading Actress and Supporting Actress starting in 2010.

"A Cream Cracker Under The Settee" is a dramatic monologue written by Alan Bennett in 1987 for television, as part of his Talking Heads series for the BBC. The series became very popular, moving onto BBC Radio, international theatre, becoming one of the best-selling audio book releases of all time and included as part of both the A-level and GCSE English syllabus. It was the sixth and final episode of the first series of Talking Heads.

<i>Talking Heads</i> (series) series of dramatic monologues written for BBC television by British playwright Alan Bennett

Talking Heads is a series of dramatic monologues written for BBC television by British playwright Alan Bennett. The two series were first broadcast in 1988 and 1998, and have since been broadcast on BBC Radio and included on the A-level and GCSE English Literature syllabus.


Early life and career

Hird was born in the Lancashire seaside town of Morecambe. Her father James Henry Hird married her mother Jane Mary Mayor in 1904. [3] [4] [5]

Lancashire County of England

Lancashire is a ceremonial county in North West England. The administrative centre is Preston. The county has a population of 1,449,300 and an area of 1,189 square miles (3,080 km2). People from Lancashire are known as Lancastrians.

Morecambe town and civil parish in Lancashire, England

Morecambe is a coastal town on Morecambe Bay in Lancashire, England, which had a population of 34,768 at the 2011 Census.

Her family background was largely theatrical: her mother had been an actress, while her father managed a number of entertainment venues in Morecambe, including the Royalty Theatre where she made her first appearance, and the Central Pier. Thora first appeared on stage at the age of two months in a play her father was managing. She worked at the local Co-operative store before joining the Morecambe Repertory Theatre. [6]

The Co-operative Group British cooperative

The Co-operative Group, trading as the Co-op, is a British consumer co-operative with a diverse family of retail businesses including food retail and wholesale; financial services; insurance services; legal services and funeralcare, with in excess of 4,200 locations. It is the largest consumer co-operative in the UK and owned by more than 4.5 million active members. Membership is open to everyone, provided they agree to subscribe £1 sterling in the capital of the society and share the values & principles upon which the group was founded. Members are democratically involved in setting business strategy, decide how social goals are achieved, and share in its profits – in 2016, £19m was returned to members and their chosen local community causes via the 5+1 scheme. No year end dividend was paid in 2015.

Hird often described her father, who initially did not want her to be an actress, as her sternest critic and attributed much of her talent as an actress and comedian to his guidance. In 1944 she made her West End debut in the Esther McCracken play No Medals .

West End theatre term for mainstream professional theatre staged in and near the West End of London

West End theatre is mainstream professional theatre staged in the large theatres in and near the West End of London. Along with New York City's Broadway theatre, West End theatre is usually considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world. Seeing a West End show is a common tourist activity in London.

Esther McCracken was a British actress and playwright.

<i>No Medals</i> play by the British writer Esther McCracken first staged in 1944, and film adaptation thereof

No Medals is a play by the British writer Esther McCracken first staged in 1944. Its West End run at the Vaudeville Theatre lasted for 740 performances between 4 October 1944 and 19 July 1946. It depicts the struggles of a middle-class British housewife during the war years. The original cast included Fay Compton and Frederick Leister while Thora Hird appeared in a comic relief role as servant in her first London performance.

Although Hird left Morecambe in the late 1940s, she retained her affection for the town, referring to herself as a "sand grown 'un", the colloquial term for anyone born in Morecambe.

Initially, she made regular appearances in films, including the wartime propaganda film Went the Day Well? (1942, known as 48 Hours in the USA), in which she is shown wielding a rifle to defend a house from German paratroopers. She worked with the British film comedian Will Hay and featured in The Entertainer (1960), which starred Laurence Olivier, as well as A Kind of Loving (1962) with Alan Bates and June Ritchie.

Will Hay English comedian, actor, film director

William Thomson Hay was an English comedian, actor, author, film director and amateur astronomer who came to notice for his theatrical sketch as a jocular schoolmaster, known as Dr. Muffin. The acts in which Hay performed the schoolmaster sketch became known as "The Fourth Form at St. Michael's". Hay toured with the act and appeared in the United States, Canada, Australia and South Africa. He famously performed the schoolmaster routine at the 1925 Royal Command Performance before King George V and Queen Mary. From 1934 to 1943, he was a prolific film star in Britain and was ranked the third highest grossing star at the British Box Office in 1938, behind George Formby and Gracie Fields. He is widely regarded as one of the most prolific and influential British comedians of all-time.

<i>The Entertainer</i> (film) 1960 drama film directed by Tony Richardson

The Entertainer is a 1960 drama film directed by Tony Richardson, based on the stage play of the same name by John Osborne. It stars Laurence Olivier as a failing third-rate music-hall stage performer who tries to keep his career going even as the music-hall tradition fades into history and his personal life falls apart.

Hird gained her highest profile in television comedy, notably the sitcoms Meet the Wife (1963–66), In Loving Memory (1979–86), Hallelujah! (1983–84), and for nearly two decades as Edie Pegden in Last of the Summer Wine (1986–2003). However, she played a variety of roles, including the nurse in Romeo and Juliet , and won BAFTA Best Actress awards for her roles in two of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads monologues.

Television comedy had a presence from the earliest days of broadcasting. Among the earliest BBC television programmes in the 1930s was Starlight, which offered a series of guests from the music hall era, which often included singers and comedians. Similarly, many early United States television programs were variety shows including the Texaco Star Theater featuring Milton Berle; comedy acts often taken from vaudeville were staples of such shows.

<i>Meet the Wife</i> television series

Meet the Wife is a 1960s BBC situation comedy written by Ronald Chesney and Ronald Wolfe, which featured Freddie Frinton as Freddie Blacklock with Thora Hird as his tyrannical wife, Thora. It ran for five series.

<i>In Loving Memory</i> (TV series) British period sitcom

In Loving Memory is a British period sitcom set in an undertakers business that starred Thora Hird and Christopher Beeny. A pilot with Marjorie Rhodes in the Thora Hird role was transmitted in 1969 by Thames Television, who rejected the idea before it was finally accepted by Yorkshire Television nearly 10 years later, where it ran for a further five series between 21 May 1979 and 27 March 1986.

She starred as Captain Emily Ridley in the sitcom Hallelujah! (1983–84) about the Salvation Army, a movement for which she had a soft spot throughout her life. Hird also portrayed Mrs Speck, the housekeeper of the Mayor of Gloucester in The Tailor of Gloucester (1989).

In 1993 she played Annie Longden, mother of Deric Longden in Wide-Eyed and Legless (known as The Wedding Gift outside the UK) and reprised her role in the 1999 TV film Lost for Words , which won her a BAFTA for Best Actress.

Religious broadcasts

Hird was a committed Christian, hosting the religious programme Praise Be!, a spin off from Songs of Praise on the BBC. Her work for charity and on television in spite of old age and ill health made her an institution. Her advertisements for Churchill stairlifts also kept her in the public eye.


She was created an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1983 Birthday Honours and raised to Dame Commander (DBE) in the 1993 Birthday Honours. She received an honorary D.Litt. from Lancaster University in 1989.

Later life

In December 1998, using a wheelchair, Hird played a brief but energetic cameo role as the mother of Dolly on Dinnerladies , a sarcastic character who was particularly bitter towards her daughter.

Her final work was for BBC Radio 7, recorded and broadcast in 2002: a monologue written for her by Alan Bennett entitled The Last of the Sun, in which she played a forthright, broad-minded woman, immobile in an old people's home but still able to take a stand against the censorious and politically correct attitudes of her own daughter.

This Is Your Life

She was the subject of This Is Your Life on two occasions: in January 1964 when she was surprised by Eamonn Andrews, and in December 1996, when Michael Aspel surprised her while filming on location for Last of the Summer Wine .

Personal life, death and memorial

Hird had a heart bypass operation in 1992. She suffered severe arthritis and used a wheelchair in her later life. She died on 15 March 2003 aged 91.

A memorial service was held on 15 September 2003 at Westminster Abbey attended by more than 2000 people, including Alan Bennett, Sir David Frost, Melvyn Bragg and Victoria Wood. [7]

On 7 July 2019 a commemorative blue plaque was installed to Thora Hird by The Theatre and Film Guild of Great Britain and America, at the Bayswater home where she lived for over 60 years. [8]


Hird married musician James Scott in 1937. They had a daughter, actress Janette Scott, in 1938. Hird was for a time mother-in-law to jazz icon Mel Tormé. Hird was widowed in 1994, having been married for 57 years. [9]



1942Black Sheep of WhitehallJoyce
1942 Went the Day Well? Ivy Dawking
1942Go to BlazesElsieShort
1944 Two Thousand Women Mrs. Burtshaw
1947Katy's Love AffairMaud
1948 My Brother Jonathan Ada
1948 The Weaker Sex Mrs. Gaye
1949 Once a Jolly Swagman Ma Fox
1949Lost DaughterMrs. Skinner
1949 Fools Rush In Mrs. Coot
1949A Boy, a Girl, and a BikeMrs. Bates
1949 Conspirator Broaders
1949 Madness of the Heart Rosa
1949 Maytime in Mayfair Janet
1949 The Cure for Love Mrs. Dorbell
1949 Boys in Brown Mrs. Knowles
1950 Once a Sinner Mrs. James
1952 The Frightened Man Vera
1952The Hundred Hour HuntMrs. Cornelius
1952Time, Gentlemen, Please!Alice Crouch
1953 The Long Memory Mrs. Pewsey
1953 The Great Game Miss Rawlings
1953 Street Corner Mrs. Perkins
1953 Turn the Key Softly Mrs. Rowan
1953 Personal Affair Mrs. Usher
1953 Background Mrs. Humphries
1953 A Day to Remember Mrs. Trott
1953 The Love Match Sal Brown
1954Don't Blame the StorkAgnes O'Connor
1954Cocktails in the KitchenMrs. Doyle
1954 Tiger by the Tail Mary
1955 The Love Match Sal Brown
1955 The Quatermass Xperiment Rosemary 'Rosie' Elizabeth Wrigley
1955 Simon and Laura Jessie
1955 One Good Turn Cook
1956 Women Without Men Granny Rafferty
1956 Sailor Beware! Mrs. Lack
1956 Home and Away Margie
1957 The Good Companions Mrs. Oakroyd
1957 These Dangerous Years Mrs. Larkin
1958 Further Up the Creek Mrs. Galloway
1958A Clean SweepVera WatsonShort
1960 The Entertainer Ada Lapford
1961 Over the Odds Mrs. Carter
1962 A Kind of Loving Mrs. Rothwell
1962 Term of Trial Mrs. Taylor
1963 Bitter Harvest Mrs. Jessup
1964 Rattle of a Simple Man Mrs. Winthram
1970 Some Will, Some Won't Agnes Russell
1971 The Nightcomers Mrs. Grose
1988 Consuming Passions Mrs. Gordon
1999Julie and the CadillacsJulie's grandmother


1947Mary RoseMrs. OteryTV film
1949The Winslow BoyVioletTV film
1951 Sunday Night Theatre Anna PriashkinaEpisode: "The Bachelor"
1951What Happens to LoveMrs. RowbothamTV film
1955The Queen Came ByEmmie SleeTV film
1955 The Adventures of Robin Hood AdaEpisode: "A Husband for Marian"
1956 Armchair Theatre Momma BrodskyEpisode: "The Same Sky"
1958 Saturday Playhouse Aggie ThompsonEpisode: "So Many Children"
1959Blackpool Show ParadeMrs. McTaggartEpisode: "Happy Days"
1960 Bootsie and Snudge EmilyEpisode: "Johnson's Retirement"
1961 ITV Playhouse Helen CurvisEpisode: "Hi Diddle Diddle"
1963 Z-Cars Mrs. EdwardsEpisode: "Nothing Serious"
1963 Drama 61-67 Mrs. HopeEpisode: "Drama '63: Albert Hope"
1963 Comedy Playhouse Thora BlacklockEpisode: "The Bed"
1963–1966 Meet the Wife Thora BlacklockMain role
1964 First Night QueenieEpisode: "All Things Bright and Beautiful"
1964 Festival Mrs. BainesEpisode: "Say Nothing"
1965My Perfect HusbandThoraTV film
1966 The Wednesday Play Blanche HoskinsEpisode: "Who's a Good Boy Then?"
1966 Dixon of Dock Green Alice LeggettEpisode: "Face at the Window"
1966 Jackanory Storyteller5 episodes
1968–69 The First Lady Sarah DanbyMain role
1969 ITV Sunday Night Theatre Mrs. OgdenEpisode: "It Calls for a Great Deal of Love"
1969–70Ours Is a Nice HouseThora ParkerTV series
1971Seasons of the YearWidow ButleyEpisode: "The Three Graces"
1971 Stage 2 Mrs. HardcastleEpisode: "She Stoops to Conquer"
1971–72, 1977, 1982 Play for Today Gwen, Doris, Olive Major, Aunty KittyEpisodes: "The Fox Trot", "The Villa Maroc", "The Mayor's Charity", "Intensive Care"
1974Billy LiarMiss DugginsEpisode: "Billy and the Bed-Sit"
1975 Softly, Softly: Taskforce Mary MeeganEpisode: "Dorothy's Birthday"
1975 Play of the Month Clare SoppittEpisode: "When We Are Married"
1977The Boys and Mrs BMrs. BattleyTV short
1977Young at HeartEthel CollyerEpisode: "Pilot"
1978 Me! I'm Afraid of Virginia Woolf Mrs. HopkinsTV film
1979 Thomas & Sarah Mrs. EntwistleEpisode: "Made in Heaven"
1979–1986 In Loving Memory Ivy UnsworthMain role
1980–1982Flesh and the BloodMabel BrassingtonTV series
1983Objects of AffectionElizabeth Mary RhodesEpisode: "Say Something Happened"
1983–84 Hallelujah! Capt. Emily RidleyMain role
1986–87, 1988–2003 Last of the Summer Wine Edith 'Edie' Pegden Regular role
1988, 1998 Talking Heads Doris, VioletEpisodes: "A Cream Cracker Under the Settee", "Waiting for the Telegram"
1989 The Tailor of Gloucester Mrs. SpeckTV film
1989–90 All Creatures Great and Small Mrs. ClarkeEpisodes: "The Best Time", "Promises to Keep"
1990The Tale of Little Pig RobinsonOld BetsyTV film
1991 Perfect Scoundrels MarthaEpisode: "Grandmother's Footsteps"
1992 The Good Guys Edna WoodEpisode: "Her Finest Hour"
1992 Screen Two Jean TaylorEpisode: "Memento Mori"
1993 Wide-Eyed and Legless (known as The Wedding Gift outside of the UK)Annie Longden
1993 Goggle Eyes Mrs. HarringtonEpisode: "1.1"
1994Under the HammerNanny TuckerEpisode: "The Spectre at the Feast"
1994 Heartbeat Hannah StockdaleEpisode: "Lost and Found"
1995, 1999 The Queen's Nose PostmistressEpisodes: "1.1", "1.4", "Harmony's Return"
1998 Dinnerladies EnidEpisode: "Moods"
1999 The Nearly Complete and Utter History of Everything IdaEpisode: "Philosophy of a Hairdresser"
1999 Hilltop Hospital Gracey GreyshellEpisode: "Gracey Greyshell's Last Day"
1999 Lost for Words Annie LongdenTV film


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  1. ""TV GREATS:DAME THORA HIRD 1911 – 2003", Television Heaven" . Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  2. "Dame Thora Hird Obituary". The Thelegraph. 17 March 2003. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  3. "FreeBMD Entry Info : Marriages Sep 1904". Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  4. "FreeBMD Entry Info : Marriages Sep 1904". Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  5. "FreeBMD Entry Info : Births Sep 1911". Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  6. Hird, Thora. "Obituary". BBC News. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
  7. "Stars celebrate Dame Thora's life". BBC News. 15 September 2003. Retrieved 29 March 2015.
  8. "Dame Thora Hird is Commemorated", the Music Hall Guild of Great Britain and America, accessed 7 July 2019
  9. "Obituary: Dame Thora Hird". The Daily Telegraph. 17 March 2003. Retrieved 29 March 2015.