Dame Thora HIRD (1911-2003)

Thora Hird
related pages...

Thora Hird

first tribute

Life Second Time Around

The definitive list of the 42 people who have been surprised more than once!

An Actor's Life For Me

Spotlight on the stars of stage and screen

Harry Secombe

Kathy Staff

THIS IS YOUR LIFE - Thora Hird, actress, was surprised by Michael Aspel in Holmfirth, Yorkshire, while filming on location for the BBC television comedy series, Last of the Summer Wine.

In a career that spanned eight decades, Thora is widely-regarded as one of Britain's finest character actresses. She appeared in over 100 films as well as starring in a succession of television comedies throughout the 70s and 80s such as Hallelujah! and In Loving Memory.

Thora won the BAFTA Best Actress awards for her roles in two of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads monologues as well as for her role in the television drama Lost For Words.

Thora was previously honoured by This Is Your Life in 1964.

“No! Is it really? Well what are we doing? Are we going to London, or something?”

Screenshots of Thora Hird This Is Your Life

Thora Hird's autobiography

Thora recalls This Is Your Life in her book - written with Morris Bright - Our Thora...

... over thirty years later, I’m up in Holmfirth on location with Last of the Summer Wine, standing outside the house that doubles for my cottage in the show, filming a piece with my screen husband Gordon Wharmby and a few others, including Peter Sallis who plays Clegg. Suddenly Michael Aspel appears and I think, I wonder who he could be here for. It can’t be me, they’ve done me already. But I was wrong again. Out came the magic words: ‘Tonight, Thora Hird, this is your life!’ Well, I say ‘out came the magic words’ but truthfully they didn’t come out quite right and Michael appeared to say ‘Dora Hird, this is your life!’ So to be sure, they filmed that bit again. But it was still all a great surprise.

I’ve since discovered that several people have had more than one red book tribute over the years. I know Norman Wisdom has had two and I think dear Harry Secombe had three [bigredbook.info editor: Harry just had the two tributes!]. But apparently they like to leave at least ten years between doing someone again. So if I make it to 100, I’ll keep a look out over my shoulder every time I’m out in my bath chair!

The actor Peter Sallis recalls the incident in the same book:

I remember we were all outside the cottage that doubles for Edie’s home one day when suddenly Michael Aspel turned up and before we knew it he had thrust his red book in front of her announcing: ‘Thora Hird, this is your life!’ At least that’s what he meant to say. It actually sounded like ‘Dora Hird’, and he had to record his entrance again. It was still a great surprise to us all and as they whisked her away, I remember shouting out: ‘Take me with you!’ They cut that bit out!

programme details...

  • Edition No: 961
  • Subject No: second timer
  • Broadcast date: Mon 30 Dec 1996
  • Broadcast time: 6.50-7.30pm
  • Recorded: Mon 24 Jul 1996
  • Venue: Teddington Studios
  • Series: 37
  • Edition: 14
  • Code Name: Vet

on the guest list...

  • Janette Scott - daughter
  • William Rademaekers- son-in-law
  • Kathy Staff
  • James Torme - grandson
  • Daisy Torme - granddaughter
  • Harry Marshall
  • Archie Collis
  • Brian Rawlinson
  • Keith Barron
  • Christopher Beeny
  • Patsy Rowlands
  • Liz Barr
  • Valeta Staylebrass
  • Michael Jayston
  • Victoria Wood
  • Bill Price
  • Joan Price
  • Cynthia Tudor
  • John Tudor
  • The Most Reverend David Hope
  • Major Rob Garrad
  • The Band of the Salvation Army
  • Filmed tributes:
  • John Schlesinger
  • Sir Harry Secombe
  • Duncan Preston

external links...

production team...

  • Researchers: Jo Grant, Ian Brown
  • Writer: Ian Brown
  • Directors: Rick Gardner, Brian Klein
  • Associate Producer: Sue Green
  • Producer: John Graham
  • Executive Producer: Gill Stribling-Wright
names listed in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
Series 37 subjects: Steve Redgrave > Gary Rhodes > Toyah Willcox > Freddie Young > John Motson > Jeremy Clarkson > John Rands > Jill Dando > Don Black > Sue Nicholls > Lynn Redgrave > Tanni Grey > Noddy Holder > Thora Hird > Richard Maddeley and Judy Finnigan > Sam Torrance > John Simpson > Elizabeth Ward > Ross Kemp > Julian Bream > Les Dennis > Nigel Davenport > Richard Whiteley > Justin Hayward > Sian Phillips > Chris Tarrant