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Angela Lansbury on her Irish connection and Belfast-born mother

Angela Lansbury pictured with her Belfast-born mother and actress Moyna MacGill
Allan Preston

AS the showbiz world mourns the celebrated actress Angela Lansbury, many will also remember her strong Irish connection and Belfast-born mother.

Best known for her role as Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote, her family said she died peacefully in her sleep five days before her 97th birthday.

Her mother Moyna MacGill was also a famous stage and screen actress in her own right, born in south Belfast in 1895 as Charlotte Lillian McIldowie.

Moyna's father was a wealthy solicitor who was once a director of the Grand Opera House in Belfast and unknowingly sowed the seeds for an acting dynasty.

She later adopted her stage name after moving to London to establish a stage career, before emigrating to the US with her four children during the Second World War.

A career in Hollywood saw screen roles alongside a teenage Angela including National Velvet in 1944 and The Picture of Dorian Gray in 1945.

Passing away in Los Angeles in 1975, her famous daughter praised her as someone who “gave me the opportunity to realise my talents at a very young age. She gave me tremendous self-confidence.”

In an interview with RTÉ in 2016, Ms Lansbury said the influence of her mother and Irish heritage had been crucial to her success.

“I think it has a lot to do with one’s emotional makeup as an individual. We’re all different, we react differently to different things and places,” she said.

“I’m a very emotional person, and if you have that quality and you’re half Irish it will take you sailing through believe me.”

As an Irish citizen, she moved to Ireland in the 1970s and settled in Ballycotton, Co Cork, while continuing to work around the world.

On being drawn back to Ireland, she added: “It’s because my mother was Irish and I was brought up with her sense of humour, her dirty stories, everything that was so funny to me.”

In 2016, the former Taoiseach Enda Kenny presented her with a lifetime achievement award at the Dublin International Film Festival.

She also praised her late husband (the film producer Peter Shaw who died in 2003), for giving her the freedom to balance a career and family life.

"If I'd had my way, I wouldn't have done half the things that I did, which took me away from my family,” she said.

"My husband was the one who said, 'Do it. Go. Do it. Take the children with you. We'll manage. I will see that everything will be alright at home. Don't worry, go ahead and do it'.

"That was really the tremendous drive that was provided for me by him...he was a huge help to me. I'm ever grateful to him for that because, otherwise, I would have stayed home, I really would. I was a big homebody."


Angela Lansbury pictured at London's Olivier Theatre in 1991.


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