Monday is not a favourite day with most people, especially those with 9-to-5 jobs for whom it signals the start of another working week. It was especially unfavourable this week however as many woke to the news that British actress and presenter Lynda Bellingham had passed away.
Bellingham, who was diagnosed with colon cancer in July 2013, died ‘in her husband’s arms’ on Sunday 19th October 2014. She was 66 years old. She recently made headlines after speaking out about her decision to stop her chemotherapy after discovering that the cancer had spread to her lungs and liver. Detailed in her autobiography, There’s Something I’ve Been Dying To Tell You, which was released just ten days before her death, she explained that choosing when she would die was an attempt to take back control over her live, saying, “The time has come to cease and desist. I would love to make one more Christmas, if possible, but I want to stop taking chemo around November in order to pass away by the end of January.”
In a statement issued on Monday 20th October 2014 on behalf of the Bellingham family, her agent Sue Latimer said, “Lynda died peacefully in her husband’s arms yesterday at a London hospital… Actor, writer and presenter – to the end Lynda was a consummate professional.”
To many, she will be remembered as the mother in the Oxo TV adverts, which ran from 1983 to 1999. This may have been the role she was most well-known for, but the Canadian-born actress played many others in her career as an screen actress, including Helen Herriot alongside Christopher Timothy in the TV drama series All Creatures Great and Small. Her first notable TV role was on 1970’s soap General Hospital, and other prominent appearances included Second Thoughts, Faith in the Future, the 14-part Doctor Who story The Trial of a Time Lord, At Home With The Braithwaites, The Bill, in addition to several film roles. She was also a regular panellist on the ITV daytime show Loose Women between 2007 and 2011 and was a contestant on the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing with dance partner Darren Bennett.
She added author to her list of achievements with the release of two books: the first, Lost and Found, in 2010 and the second just two weeks before her death.
She was awarded an OBE earlier this year in recognition of a career that has spanned 40 years, but what some may not know about this inspirational woman is that she first got her start as a stage actress. Her made her professional début at the Pendley Shakespeare Festival during the 1960s, performing in the playwright’s famous works, Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and it was an experience she cherished throughout her entire career. In an interview with the BBC in 2009 for the event’s 60th anniversary, she spoke glowingly about the Hertfordshire festival and her time there as a teenage actress.
Bellingham trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama (CSSD), the renowned performing arts school which has also produced such stage and screen actresses as Christopher Eccleston, Rupert Everett, Gina Beck, Andrew Garfield, John Owen-Jones and Dame Judi Dench. She returned to live performance in her later years, taking to the stage to appear in such theatrical productions as Sugar Mummies (Royal Court Theatre), Losing Louis (Hampstead Theatre, Trafalgar Studios) and Marry Me, You Idiot (Jermyn Street Theatre). In 2007, she revisited Trafalgar Studios to perform the role of Anita in Philip Ridley’s Vincent River, which she described as a ‘fantastic challenge’. From 2008 to 2009, she played Chris Harper in the stage adaption of Calendar Girls, first on tour and then at the Noel Coward Theatre in the show’s West End transfer. She reprised the role in subsequent tours in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
She had been due to appear in A Passionate Woman at the Sheffield Theatre in 2013, followed up by a national tour, but pulled out of the play because of her cancer treatment.
The death of the iconic actress has left many saddened, and tributes have been flooding in since the news was announced, including from such famous friends as Christopher Biggins, Denise Welch, Christopher Timothy, Diana Moran and Michael Redfern – the latter played opposite her as her on-screen husband in the Oxo adverts. It’s heartbreaking that she didn’t get the ‘one last Christmas’ she had wished for, but the love and affection she has received in the wake of her passing honours her and the many moments of joy she gave to the world. RIP Lynda Bellingham.
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Tuesday 21st October 2014