Lorrae Desmond from ‘A Country Practice’ has died aged 91

Lorrae Desmond

Australian actor Lorrae Desmond has died aged 91. Best known for her long running role as Shirley Gilroy in the long running drama series A Country Practice, Desmond was also a playwright, singer and presenter whose career spanned six decades.

Born Beryl Hunt, she spent her early childhood in New South Wales, but her family moved to England. In the 1950s while still a teenager she began working as a singer, and soon had her own shows on the BBC.

In 1957 she took part in the Festival of British Popular Songs, the event which chose the United Kingdom’s entry to Eurovision. It was the second year of the competition, and the first year that the UK participated. Desmond’s song didn’t get picked, and Patricia Bredin became the first person to represent the United Kingdom.

Desmond returned to Australia in the early 1960’s and found success on TV with the Lorrae Desmond Show. It was incredibly popular and she earned a Gold Logie, the first time a woman received the top award.  She subsequently made several tours to entertain the troops during the Vietnam War.

Through the 1970s Desmond worked as actor appearing on many Australian television shows including Number 96 and Homicide. 

In 1980 she was part of the cast of the short-lived soap opera Arcade. Set in a Sydney shopping centre, it’s remembered as one of the greatest flops of all-time. Only 30 episodes of the show made it to air, even through by the time producers decided to pull the pin, 50 episodes had been filmed.

Desmond’s biggest success was just around the corner though, in 1981 she was part of the founding cast of A Country Practice.  The show followed the trials and tribulations of the resident’s of the small country town of Wandin Valley.  The action followed the town’s doctors, nurses, vets and farmers and was screened around the world.

Desmond played Shirley Gilroy, the husband of policeman Frank, and the receptionist at the doctor’s surgery. Desmond stayed with the show for 11 years, appearing in 816 episodes. Her character was killed off-screen in a plane crash.

After her long run in the series she had a brief appearance in Home and Away in 1997 as Isobel Dupre, the mother of long-standing character Donald Fisher. She later authored the play Honey, an adaptation of Bryce Courtenay’s Smokie Joe’s Cafe. 

She was made a Member f the Order of the British Empire in 1970 for her services to entertainment and welfare of Australian Forces in Vietnam. Earlier this year she was made a Member of the Order of Australia for her significant service to the performing arts and an actor, entertainer and singer.

OIP Staff


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