Childhood & Early Life
Hird was born on May 28, 1911, in Morecambe, Lancashire, England, into a family that was active in the entertainment industry.
Her father, James Henry Hird, handled the operations of a lot of theaters in Morecambe, including the 'Royalty Theatre' and the 'Central Pier.' Her mother, Jane Mary Mayor, was an actor. They were married in 1904.
Hird made her stage debut when she was 2 months old.
Before joining the 'Morecambe Repertory Theater,' she worked with a local co-operative store.
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Hird began her theatrical career by joining the 'Morecambe Repertory Theatre.'
She started her film career with the movie 'Black Sheep of Whitehall' (as 'Joyce’) in 1942. She acted in two more films that year: 'Went the Day Well?' (as 'Ivy Dawking') and the comedy short 'GoTo Blazes' (as 'Elsie‘).
She made her 'West End' debut in 1944, as ‘Mrs. Gaye’ in the play 'No Medals.' The same year, she appeared as 'Mrs. Burtshaw' in 'Two Thousand Women.'
In 1947, she made her TV debut with the TV film 'Mary Rose' (as 'Mrs. Otery'). The same year, she appeared as 'Maud' in 'Katy's Love Affair.'
She reprised the character of 'Mrs. Gaye' from the play 'No Medals' in the 1948 movie 'The Weaker Sex.' The same year, she appeared in 'My Brother Jonathan,’ playing 'Ada.'
In 1949, she appeared in as many as 10 productions, namely, 'Once a Jolly Swagman,' 'Lost Daughter,' 'Fools Rush In,' 'A Boy, a Girl, and a Bike,' 'Conspirator,' 'Madness of the Heart,' 'Maytime in Mayfair,' 'The Cure for Love,' 'Boys in Brown,' and the TV film 'The Winslow Boy.'
In the early half of the 1950s, she appeared in 'Once a Sinner,' 'Sunday Night Theatre,' 'What Happens to Love,' 'The Frightened Man,' 'The Long Memory,' 'The Great Game,' 'Street Corner,' 'Turn the Key Softly,' 'Personal Affair,' 'Background' 'A Day to Remember,' 'Tiger by the Tail,' 'The Love Match,' 'The Quatermass Xperiment,' Simon and Laura,' 'One Good Turn,' 'The Queen Came By,' and 'The Adventures of Robin Hood.'
In the latter half of the 1950s, she continued to act in minor roles, both on the small and the big screens. She appeared in the projects 'Armchair Theatre' 'Women Without Men,' 'Sailor Beware!,' 'Home and Away,' 'The Good Companions,' 'These Dangerous Years,' ‘Saturday Playhouse,' 'Further Up the Creek,' 'A Clean Sweep,' and 'Blackpool Show Parade.'
In the 1960s, she performed in a handful of movies, including 'The Entertainer' and 'A Kind of Loving.’ Nevertheless, she experienced unprecedented fame. Her portrayal of 'Thora Blacklock' in 'Meet the Wife' was loved by the audiences. The series was broadcast from 1963 to 1966. Toward the end of the 1960s, she played 'Sarah Danby,' a firebrand local politician in a fictional town, in the series 'The First Lady.'
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Until the end of the 1970s, she was cast in many minor roles in TV series, TV movies, and feature films. In 1979, she earned the leading role of 'Ivy Unsworth' in the sitcom 'In Loving Memory.' The series was telecast until 1986.
In the 1980s, she played a few more memorable roles in 'Hallelujah!' (as 'Capt. Emily Ridley, 1983 and 1984), 'Last of the Summer Wine' (as 'Edith "Edie" Pegden, from 1986 to 2003, the year she died)', 'Talking Heads’ (as 'Doris,’ 1988), and 'The Tailor of Gloucester' (as 'Mrs. Speck’).
Some of her prominent releases in the 1990s were 'Wide-Eyed and Legless' and its sequel, 'Lost for Words' (as 'Annie Longden). She also appeared in another episode of 'Talking Heads,' titled 'Waiting for the Telegram' (as ‘Violet’).
She continued to appear in 'Last of the Summer Wine' until 2003.
Family, Personal Life, & Death
In 1937, Hird tied the knot with James Scott. The following year, the couple had a daughter, Thora Janette Scott.
In 1992, she underwent a heart bypass surgery. She also had severe arthritis.
In the last few years of her life, she was bound to a wheelchair. However, she continued her charitable work.
She lost her husband in 1994. Their marriage lasted for 57 years.
She passed away on March 15, 2003, at the age of 91, at ‘Brinsworth House,’ a retirement and nursing home for theater and entertainment professionals, in Twickenham, London.
On September 15, 2003, a memorial service was organized at 'Westminster Abbey,' officially known as the 'Collegiate Church of Saint Peter,’ in Westminster, London, England. The ceremony was attended by 2,000 people, including some of the prominent names of the entertainment industry.
She was a devout Christian and had presented the ‘BBC’ program 'Praise Be!,' a show that featured devotional songs of various Christian denominations.
Awards & Honors
At the '1983 Birthday Honours,' she was conferred with the 'Officer of the Order of the British Empire.' Ten years later, during the '1993 Birthday Honours,' she was promoted to the position of the 'Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.'
In 1989, she received the honorary doctorate in literature from 'Lancaster University,’ Lancashire, England.
She received her first 'BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress' in 1989, for her performance in 'Talking Heads: A Cream Cracker Under the Settee.' She received her second 'BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress,' for 'Talking Heads: Waiting for the Telegram,' in 1999. The following year, she earned her third and final 'BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress,' for 'Lost for Words.'
On July 7, 2019, 'The Theatre and Film Guild of Great Britain and America' honored her by installing a blue plaque at her residence in Bayswater, Westminster.