Sydney’s Glenn Freeman has such lasting memories of Prisoner that several times a year he travels to a Melbourne cemetery to tend the gravesite of the late Sheila Florance.
Praised by veteran cast members at a recent 40th anniversary reunion, Freeman’s is the ultimate gesture of devotion for a much-loved actress. Joined by Melbourne friend Jade Smith, the pair have been tending the site for 18 months.
He still remembers the impact of watching the ground-breaking drama series in the 1970s and especially the dynamic performance of Sheila Florance as inmate Lizzie Birdsworth.
“She was a beautiful lady. I haven’t seen many of her movies aside from Mad Max, but I grew up watching her in Prisoner. I started watching it with mum and dad. At the start I didn’t understand it, mum wouldn’t let me watch it without her,” he says.
” e didn’t know how long it was going to go for. It went for 692 episodes.
“I was bullied in school so growing up and seeing harassment in a TV show, it had an impact on my life.
“So now I come to pay my respects on behalf of Prisoner fans around the world.”
Florance passed away in 1991 aged 75, a week after receiving the AFI Award for Best Actress in the Paul Cox feature A Woman’s Tale. But her work has clearly touched many.
Freeman, who admits to watching Prisoner‘s 8 season run for the 28th time, brings flowers while friend Jade has maintained the gravel. Freeman even brings a token bottle of whisky.
“Everybody knows Lizzy loved grog, so I always bring some Johnnie Walker and it might sound weird, but I have a toast to celebrate her life,” he explains.
“I think she would say ‘Leave a drop for me you bugger!’”
He is also one of many devotees who want to see the show inducted into the TV Week Hall of Fame.
“I’ve done a Facebook petition trying to get it into the 2020 Hall of Fame. A lot of cast members would like to see it happen.
“I’m going to keep push it until it happens.
“Val Lehman said if she ever gets the call she would ring and give me a great big hug. I’m not going to give up.”
He hopes to next visit the cemetery on July 24 which would have been Florance’s 103rd birthday.
“We make it special hoping she would be proud that her fans are looking after her,” he added,
“It’s something I want to continue doing as long as I can.”
24/07/1916 – 12/10/1991
Known and Loved Throughout Australia & Beyond
Rest in Peace Sheila