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Thora Hird

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 active1931–2003
Notable work
See here and here
TelevisionLast of the Summer Wine, In Loving Memory, Hallelujah!
James Scott
(m. 1937; his death 1994)
ChildrenJanette 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).

Early life and career

Hird was born in the Lancashire seaside town of Morecambe. She was the youngest of Mr and Mrs James Henry Hird's three children. 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 Group store before joining the Morecambe Repertory Theatre.[3]

Her family background was largely theatrical: her mother, Marie Mayor, 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 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.

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.

Thora 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.

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). She played the screen mother of Deric Longden in Wide Eyed and Legless (aka the Wedding Gift) and 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 last work was for BBC Radio 7: a final 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.[4]


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.[5]

Television roles

Year Title Role Notes
1955 The Adventures of Robin Hood Ada the maid
1963–1966 Meet the Wife Thora Blacklock
1968–1969 The First Lady Sarah Danby
1969–1970 Ours is a Nice House Thora Parker
1979–1980 Flesh & Blood Mabel Brassington
1979–1986 In Loving Memory Ivy Unsworth
1983–1984 Hallelujah! Captain Emily Ridley
1986–2003 Last of the Summer Wine Edie Pegden
1989-1990 All Creatures Great and Small Mrs. Clarke
1998 Dinnerladies Enid

Complete filmography


  • Dame Thora Hird's autobiography, Scene And Hird (1976)
  1. ^ "TV GREATS:DAME THORA HIRD 1911 – 2003", Television Heaven
  2. ^ "Dame Thora Hird Obituary". The Thelegraph. 17 March 2003. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  3. ^ Hird, Thora. "Obituary". BBC News. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
  4. ^ "Stars celebrate Dame Thora's life". BBC News. 15 September 2003. Retrieved 29 March 2015.
  5. ^ "Obituary: Dame Thora Hird". The Daily Telegraph. 17 March 2003. Retrieved 29 March 2015.

External links