Death of Athboy native actor, Laurie Morton, aged 98
Best known for roles on Tolka Row and Fortycoats
Athboy native actor Laurie Morton has died.
She died Wednesday at the Royal Hospital Donnybrook at the age of 99.
Known to one generation for her role as Peggy on the RTE drama series Tolka Row and another as Whirlygig Witch on the children’s series Fortycoats, she was married to the late actor David Kelly.
She’d made many visits to her hometown over the years, most recently nearly a decade ago to celebrate her 90th birthday. She met many of her old school friends for lunch during the visit organized by the late Father Seamus Fleming, a Holy Spirit Father of Blackrock, Dublin and a friend of Laurie and her late husband.
Laurie Morton’s father was Edward Morton, a master builder and foreman who oversaw the construction of the Ulster Bank building in Athboy, as well as the remodeling of the Bank of Ireland and many other buildings. Her mother, Margaret Mary Morton, was a member of the local Manning family, landlords on Main Street, who died aged 26. After this, her father remarried Mamie Peters, who had a grocery store next door to the Darnley Hotel.
“I was born in Curleyland, just outside of town,” she said in an interview in recent years. “People joked that this was the only girl with straight hair to come from Curleyland.”
At the Main Street store, Athboy, she often played a game of following raindrops on the window pane.
“You could see Fitzpatrick’s curtains through the window.”
She grew up in Athboy in the 1920s and 30s when most people didn’t have much money and ‘you hoped someone would give you sixpence for something’.
“When we were kids, we used to spend our time in the Church of Ireland playground, it was our playground,” she recalls.
“There was a janitor and we drove him insane. At the front of the church there were cushions on the kneelers where the “big people”, the gentlemen and ladies, sat. We would move all the cushions to the seats in the back of the church!”
Mitchells, Ryans and Cusacks are names that came to mind as playmates back then.
“Another great pastime was fishing for pinkeens along the river.”
Recalling her mother’s early death, she said the church warden told her a beautiful story about death that she would never forget.
“I asked him why people had to die and he said we can’t all stay – there wouldn’t be enough left for everyone – we have to think of those who come after us.”
After boarding school at Loreto in Balbriggan, the young lady joined the staff of the Irish Sweepstakes. Her interest in acting had been sparked at Athboy where her father had built a cinema next to the Ulster Bank building.
“A woman named Annie Kellett took care of me when I was young. She told me to go to bed but didn’t put my sheets on. Then after a while we both sneaked off to the movie. Of course I would let the cat out of the bag the next morning if I told them all about the film over breakfast.”
Her father didn’t want her to get involved in theater, but she joined the Brendan Smith School of Acting at night and then got an offer to tour with Vincent Dowling’s group.
Her boss at the sweepstakes, where she was making £6-7 a week, wasn’t impressed.
“I told him I was going to improve and he asked me if I would work in a bank.”
Laurie said she was going on tour and she asked how much she would make.
“5 pounds a week.” Hearing that, he told her that if things didn’t work out, the job was still there for her in six months. He later approached her outside a theater in Dublin where she was performing in a Maura Laverty play and told her he didn’t think she would return to them.
She auditioned for a role in Maura Laverty’s debut play, Liffey Lane, with Hilton Edwards and Micheal MacLiammoir. They were looking for someone who could speak a Dublin accent and I tried and got it. I was 26 and playing a 14-year-old.”
She was engaged at the time and Edwards, seeing her ring, asked her why she was wearing her mother’s jewelry. When he heard she was engaged, he called out to MacLiammoir, “The kid’s not a kid,” but by then the play was well into rehearsals and it was too late to change the cast. For months she played the 14-year-old. She had met David Kelly while appearing in a revue at The Pike Theater in London.
Tolka Row was also written by Maura Laverty and ran on RTE from 1964 to 1968. In 1965, while she was then starring on Tolka Row, Laurie returned to Athboy to open a fashion show for The Story of Spring cancer research fund. She received many awards for her role as a mother in the award-winning 1971 urban drama A Day in the Life of Martin Cluxton.
Her film work has included Hear My Song and Adam and Paul, and Laurie has also appeared in The Clinic and television commercials.
Actor Barry McGovern, paying tribute, said: “I am so sorry to hear of the passing of the beautiful Laurie, a wonderful and funny woman and one who has always been a pleasure to work with.
Predeceased by David Kelly in 2013, she is survived by her family, David and Miriam, relatives, neighbors and a large circle of friends.
She is resting at the Royal Hospital in Donnybrook on Monday afternoon from 3pm to 5pm. Moved Tuesday morning to Church of the Miraculous Medal, Bird Avenue, Clonskeagh, arriving for 11am funeral service followed by cremation at Mount Jerome. Only family flowers please. Donate if desired to LauraLynn https://www.lauralynn.ie/