Thora Hird

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Thora Hird

Dame Thora Hird Allan Warren.jpg
Hird in 1974
Born(1911-05-28)28 May 1911
Died15 March 2003(2003-03-15) (aged 91)
Twickenham, London, England
Resting placeChichester Crematorium and Garden of Remembrance, Chichester, West Sussex, England
Years active1931–2003
Notable work See here
Television Last of the Summer Wine
In Loving Memory
James Scott
(m. 1937;died 1994)
Children Janette Scott

Dame Thora Hird DBE (28 May 1911 – 15 March 2003) was an English actress and comedian, presenter and writer. In a career spanning over 70 years, [2] she appeared in more than 100 films, as well as many television roles, becoming a household name and a British institution. [3]


A three-time winner of the BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress, she won for Talking Heads: A Cream Cracker Under the Settee (1989), Talking Heads: Waiting for the Telegram (1999) and Lost for Words (2000). She was also awarded a BAFTA Special Award in 1994. [4] Her film credits included The Love Match (1955), The Entertainer (1960), A Kind of Loving (1962) and The Nightcomers (1971). [5]

Early life and career

Hird was born on 28 May 1911 in the Lancashire seaside town of Morecambe to James Henry Hird and Jane Mary (née Mayor). [6] [7] 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 Hird made her first appearance, and the West End Pier. Thora first appeared on stage in 1911 at the age of two months in a play her father was managing, carried on stage in her mother's arms. [8] She worked at the local Co-operative store before joining the Morecambe Repertory Theatre. [9]

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. [10] In 1944 she made her West End debut in the Esther McCracken play No Medals . [11]

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. [12]

Initially, Hird 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. [13] 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. [14]

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). Hird 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. [15]

Hird starred as Captain Emily Ridley in the sitcom Hallelujah! (1983–84) about the Salvation Army, a movement which she supported throughout her life. [16] 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. [17]

Religious broadcasts

Hird was a committed Christian, hosting the religious programmes Your Songs of Praise Choice (1979-1983) and Praise Be! (1984-1993), a spin off from Songs of Praise on the BBC. [18] 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. [19]


She was invested as 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. [20]

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. [21]

Her final acting work was for BBC Radio 7, which was recorded in 2002 and broadcast some months after her death: 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. [22]

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 . [23]

Personal life, death and memorial

Hird underwent a heart bypass operation in 1992. She suffered from severe osteoarthritis, had repeated hip replacements and used a wheelchair in her later life. She died on 15 March 2003 aged 91, following a stroke. [24]

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. [25]

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 50 years. [26]


Hird married musician James Scott in 1937. They had a daughter, actress Janette Scott, in 1938. Hird was mother-in-law to jazz singer Mel Tormé for eleven years. Hird was widowed in 1994, having been married for 57 years. [27]


Film [28]

1942 The Black Sheep of Whitehall Joyce
1942 Went the Day Well? Ivy Dawking
1942 Go to Blazes ElsieShort
1942 The Next of Kin ATS Driver
1944 Two Thousand Women Mrs. Burtshaw
1947 The Courtneys of Curzon Street Maud
1948 Corridor of Mirrors Visitor in Madame Tussauds
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
1949 A Boy, a Girl and a Bike Mrs. 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
1950 The Magnet Nanny's Friend
1951 The Galloping Major Tea Stall Proprietress
1952 The Frightened Man Vera
1952The Hundred Hour HuntMrs. Cornelius
1952 Time Gentlemen, Please! Alice Crouch
1953 The Long Memory Mrs. Poesy
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
1954 The Crowded Day Eunice's mother
1954 Don't Blame the Stork Agnes O'Connor
1954 For Better, for Worse Mrs. Doyle
1954 Tiger by the Tail Mary
1955 The Love Match Sal Brown
1955 The Quatermass Xperiment Rosie
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

Television [29]

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
1967, 1975 Play of the Month Nurse, Clara SoppittEpisodes: "Romeo and Juliet", "When We Are Married"
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: Task Force Mary MeeganEpisode: "Dorothy's Birthday"
1977 The Boys and Mrs B Mrs. 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"
1979–86 In Loving Memory Ivy UnsworthMain role
1980–82Flesh and BloodMabel BrassingtonTV series
1983Objects of AffectionElizabeth Mary RhodesEpisode: "Say Something Happened"
1983–84 Hallelujah! Capt. Emily RidleyMain role
1986–2003 Last of the Summer Wine 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"
1994 Pat and Margaret Jim's mother
1994 Under the Hammer Nanny 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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