Australian Story: Oct 5

ABC profiles the late, great Rory O’Donoghue, best known as Thin Arthur from The Aunty Jack Show.

Monday’s Australian Story will profile the late, great Rory O’Donoghue, best known as Thin Arthur from The Aunty Jack Show.

Family and colleagues remember his talent, but also his battle with schizo-affective and bi-polar disorder.

This episode is introduced by ABC Chair Ita Buttrose.

When the Aunty Jack Show burst onto our TV screens in the early 1970s, it revolutionised Australian comedy with its surreal and outlandish sketches.

Rory O’Donoghue, best known as Thin Arthur, was one of the stars of the show, singing the theme song Farewell Aunty Jack and dazzling audiences with his musical talent.

Adored for his affable and charming nature, he played Peter in Jesus Christ Superstar, performed in multiple TV and stage productions, and composed music for film and television.

But behind the scenes Rory O’Donoghue was living with a crippling secret which family and friends have now decided to share.

“He hid it from me and from his family. Here was the most charming person with 57 masks,” says Grahame Bond, who played Aunty Jack and worked with Rory for 50 years.

Daughter Jessica O’Donoghue recalls a particularly troubling encounter with her father.

“I was in year eight and he approached me and asked me, ‘Are you the devil?’ And that was the first time I thought I don’t know this part of you.”

Rory O’Donoghue was eventually diagnosed with schizo-affective and bi-polar disorder. For his four children, the silence surrounding their father’s illness was as troubling as the illness itself.

“It was this real sense of let’s pretend it’s not happening. It was too confronting,” says Jessica O’Donoghue.

At the end of 2017, Rory O’Donoghue was admitted to a Sydney hospital with severe depression. Hours after his first electroconvulsive therapy treatment he took his life.

By speaking out, Rory’s family hopes to trigger a vital conversation.

“When it comes to complex mental health issues like Dad’s, there is still a sense of shame and stigma which can stop people reaching out – something we as a family feel passionate about changing.”

Producer: Jennifer Feller

8pm Monday on ABC.

Lifeline 13 11 14
Beyond Blue 1300 22 46 36

3 Responses

Leave a Reply