Thora Hird

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).

Thora Hird

Hird in 1974
Born(1911-05-28)28 May 1911
Died15 March 2003(2003-03-15) (aged 91)
Years active1931–2002
Notable work
See here and here
TelevisionLast of the Summer Wine, In Loving Memory, Hallelujah!
James Scott
(m. 1937; his death 1994)
ChildrenJanette Scott

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]

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]

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.

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.

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).

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]



Year Title Role Notes
1942 Black Sheep of Whitehall Joyce
1942 Went the Day Well? Ivy Dawking
1942 Go to Blazes Elsie Short
1944 Two Thousand Women Mrs. Burtshaw
1947 Katy's Love Affair Maud
1948 My Brother Jonathan Ada
1948 The Weaker Sex Mrs. Gaye
1949 Once a Jolly Swagman Ma Fox
1949 Lost Daughter Mrs. 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
1952 The Frightened Man Vera
1952 The Hundred Hour Hunt Mrs. Cornelius
1952 Time, 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
1954 Don't Blame the Stork Agnes O'Connor
1954 Cocktails in the Kitchen Mrs. 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
1958 A Clean Sweep Vera Watson Short
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
1983 Entry Narrator Short
1988 Consuming Passions Mrs. Gordon
1999 Julie and the Cadillacs Julie's grandmother


Year Title Role Notes
1947 Mary Rose Mrs. Otery TV film
1949 The Winslow Boy Violet TV film
1951 Sunday Night Theatre Anna Priashkina Episode: "The Bachelor"
1951 What Happens to Love Mrs. Rowbotham TV film
1955 The Queen Came By Emmie Slee TV film
1955 The Adventures of Robin Hood Ada Episode: "A Husband for Marian"
1956 Armchair Theatre Momma Brodsky Episode: "The Same Sky"
1958 Saturday Playhouse Aggie Thompson Episode: "So Many Children"
1959 Blackpool Show Parade Mrs. McTaggart Episode: "Happy Days"
1960 Bootsie and Snudge Emily Episode: "Johnson's Retirement"
1961 ITV Playhouse Helen Curvis Episode: "Hi Diddle Diddle"
1963 Z-Cars Mrs. Edwards Episode: "Nothing Serious"
1963 Drama 61-67 Mrs. Hope Episode: "Drama '63: Albert Hope"
1963 Comedy Playhouse Thora Blacklock Episode: "The Bed"
1963–1966 Meet the Wife Thora Blacklock Main role
1964 First Night Queenie Episode: "All Things Bright and Beautiful"
1964 Festival Mrs. Baines Episode: "Say Nothing"
1965 My Perfect Husband Thora TV film
1966 The Wednesday Play Blanche Hoskins Episode: "Who's a Good Boy Then?"
1966 Dixon of Dock Green Alice Leggett Episode: "Face at the Window"
1966 Jackanory Storyteller 5 episodes
1968–69 The First Lady Sarah Danby Main role
1969 ITV Sunday Night Theatre Mrs. Ogden Episode: "It Calls for a Great Deal of Love"
1969–70 Ours Is a Nice House Thora Parker TV series
1971 Seasons of the Year Widow Butley Episode: "The Three Graces"
1971 Stage 2 Mrs. Hardcastle Episode: "She Stoops to Conquer"
1971–72, 1977, 1982 Play for Today Gwen, Doris, Olive Major, Aunty Kitty Episodes: "The Fox Trot", "The Villa Maroc", "The Mayor's Charity", "Intensive Care"
1974 Billy Liar Miss Duggins Episode: "Billy and the Bed-Sit"
1975 Softly, Softly: Taskforce Mary Meegan Episode: "Dorothy's Birthday"
1975 Play of the Month Clare Soppitt Episode: "When We Are Married"
1977 The Boys and Mrs B Mrs. Battley TV short
1977 Young at Heart Ethel Collyer Episode: "Pilot"
1978 Me! I'm Afraid of Virginia Woolf Mrs. Hopkins TV film
1979 Thomas & Sarah Mrs. Entwistle Episode: "Made in Heaven"
1979–1986 In Loving Memory Ivy Unsworth Main role
1980–1982 Flesh and the Blood Mabel Brassington TV series
1983 Objects of Affection Elizabeth Mary Rhodes Episode: "Say Something Happened"
1983–84 Hallelujah! Capt. Emily Ridley Main role
1986–87, 1988–2003 Last of the Summer Wine Edith 'Edie' Pegden Regular role
1988, 1998 Talking Heads Doris, Violet Episodes: "A Cream Cracker Under the Settee", "Waiting for the Telegram"
1989 The Tailor of Gloucester Mrs. Speck TV film
1989–90 All Creatures Great and Small Mrs. Clarke Episodes: "The Best Time", "Promises to Keep"
1990 The Tale of Little Pig Robinson Old Betsy TV film
1991 Perfect Scoundrels Martha Episode: "Grandmother's Footsteps"
1992 The Good Guys Edna Wood Episode: "Her Finest Hour"
1992 Screen Two Jean Taylor Episode: "Memento Mori"
1993 Wide-Eyed and Legless (known as The Wedding Gift outside of the UK) Annie Longden
1993 Goggle Eyes Mrs. Harrington Episode: "1.1"
1994 Under the Hammer Nanny Tucker Episode: "The Spectre at the Feast"
1994 Heartbeat Hannah Stockdale Episode: "Lost and Found"
1995, 1999 The Queen's Nose Postmistress Episodes: "1.1", "1.4", "Harmony's Return"
1998 Dinnerladies Enid Episode: "Moods"
1999 The Nearly Complete and Utter History of Everything Ida Episode: "Philosophy of a Hairdresser"
1999 Hilltop Hospital Gracey Greyshell Episode: "Gracey Greyshell's Last Day"
1999 Lost for Words Annie Longden TV film


  • Dame Thora Hird's autobiography, Scene And Hird (1976), ISBN 978-0491019651


  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.
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