Vale: Mary Ward

Veteran actor Mary Ward, best known for Prisoner, has died aged 106.

Veteran actor Mary Ward, best known for Prisoner, has died aged 106.

She died peacefully this morning in a BlueCross aged care facility.

Nephew Mark Breheny told TV Tonight she had regular visits from family until lockdowns, but the reduced contact had slowed her engagement levels.

“She led a remarkable life and spent her final years much loved and supported by family and friends -not to mention the occasional Prisoner fan many of whom who still wrote to her,” he said.

Mary played benevolent Jeanette “Mum” Brooks on Prisoner, who served an 18 year prison sentence for euthanising her terminally-ill husband, from 1979 – 1981. She also featured as devious Dee Morrell in Sons & Daughters in 1983.

Born in Fremantle in 1915, her family settled in Broome where her father was a sea captain and then a publican. From the age of 5, Mary would set off by boat each year for 9 months of boarding school in Fremantle. In her teen years, she met a young Lang Hancock before he became one of Australia’s first mining magnates.

She studied acting in Perth before setting off to London in her early twenties to further her acting career. She also taught elocution and befriended Lionel Logue, who became the speech therapist to King George VI.

At the outbreak of WWII, Mary was forced to return to Australia. She joined the ABC and became its first female announcer. Her nightly show was broadcast to the armed forces stationed in the Pacific. She became known as the “Forces Sweetheart” reading letters and playing music requests. She once said of her role, “ I was there really to be the girl next door.”

There were acting roles in UK television and her first film was 1949’s Eureka Stockade. In the 1970s she began acting full-time in Australia appearing in such shows as Rush, Homicide, The Young Doctors, I Can Jump Puddles.

Her other credits included The Henderson Kids, GP, The Damnation of Harvey McHugh, Blue Heelers, Jenny Kissed Me, Backstage and Amy. There were also numerous stage roles, notably with the Melbourne Theatre Company.

“She really was very much ahead of her time in the pre-war period -an independent, career-minded woman who set off overseas on her own to make her mark. And that she surely did,” said Breheny.

8 Responses

  1. So sad to hear the passing of dear Mary. Fortunate to have known you and to have been in your presence. Rest my dear sweet lady. The world will miss you. Lord Raphael Bouchier.

  2. An extraordinary career and long life. What a lady. Those first episodes of Prisoner were so significant in ushering in a new era for Aussie drama and Mary’s ‘Mum’ was an integral part of that success. Her dignity and grace on screen were impressive.

  3. This is sad news – a wonderful actress & everyone’s mum in Prisoner.
    I remember her on the Henderson Kids – she was in both series as Trevor’s grandmother.
    An amazing innings for a gorgeous lady!
    RIP beautiful Mary 💐

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