Elizabeth MacLennan – Wikipedia

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Elizabeth MacLennan

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Elizabeth Margaret Ross MacLennan

(1938-03-16)16 March 1938


Died 23 June 2015(2015-06-23) (aged 77)


Nationality British
Occupation(s) Actress, writer, theatre professional
Spouse John McGrath (1962-2002; his death)
Children 3
Parent(s) Hector MacLennan
Isabel Margaret Adam
Relatives Robert MacLennan (brother)
David MacLennan (brother)

Elizabeth Margaret Ross MacLennan (16 March 1938 – 23 June 2015) was a Scottish actress, writer and radical popular theatre practitioner.

Early life[edit]

Elizabeth MacLennan was born in Glasgow, Scotland, daughter of Sir Hector MacLennan and Isabel Margaret (née Adam). Her father was a gynaecologist, president of the Royal Society of Medicine; her mother was also a physician and public health professional.[1]

Her older brother Robert Maclennan, Baron Maclennan of Rogart, was a politician; her younger brother David MacLennan was a fellow theatre professional.[2][3] Their grandfather, R. J. MacLennan, was editor of the Glasgow Evening News.[1]

She attended Laurel Bank girls’ school in Glasgow, and the Benenden School in Kent.[3] She read modern history at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, where she became active in experimental theatre productions,[4] sharing the bill with fellow students Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett, and Ken Loach. She studied acting at London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.[2]

MacLennan acted through the 1960s, on stage and in television and film. With her husband, playwright John McGrath, and brother, David MacLennan, she helped to found 7:84 Theatre Company (in 1971) and 7:84 Scotland (in 1973).[2] She performed in plays with 7:84 throughout the 1970s and 1980s, in such classics of British popular theatre as The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil (1973), Trees in the Wind, and Men Should Weep. She starred in McGrath’s last play, HyperLynx (2002), directed by her daughter Kate McGrath.[5]

In 1990, she published an account of her time with the 7:84 company, The Moon Belongs to Everyone,[6] in which she acknowledges McGrath her “major ‘influence’ and life partner”.[7] In widowhood she wrote, including the play Wild Raspberries (2002),[8] a children’s book, Ellie and Granny Mac (2009),[9] and a book of poetry, The Fish that Winked (2013).[10]

Televised kiss[edit]

MacLennan participated in one of the earliest known examples of an interracial kiss on television in Britain during You in Your Small Corner, a Granada Play of the Week written by Barry Reckord and broadcast live on 5 June 1962,[11][12] in which she kissed Jamaican actor Lloyd Reckord. A claim for that milestone had previously been made for Emergency – Ward 10, which post-dates the kiss between Reckord and MacLennan.[13] One earlier example (also involving Lloyd Reckord) has since been found.[14]

Personal life[edit]

MacLennan married playwright, screenwriter, and director John McGrath in 1962. They had three children, Finn, Danny, and Kate. She was widowed in 2002, and she died of leukaemia on 23 June 2015, in London, aged 77 years.[3][15]

“MacLennon was one of nature’s fiery spirits, who wholeheartedly put her beliefs into action”, commented critic Michael Billington in her obituary in The Guardian.[2] Her gravesite is with her husband’s, in Rogart, Sutherland; their daughter Kate McGrath is now a theatrical producer.[16][17]

Selected filmography[edit]


  1. ^ a b Quinn, Michael (7 July 2015). “Obituary: Elizabeth MacLennan | Obituaries”. The Stage. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d Michael Billington, “Elizabeth MacLennan obituary”, The Guardian, 29 June 2015.
  3. ^ a b c Farquhar, Simon (5 July 2015). “Elizabeth MacLennan: Actress and writer who co-founded the crusading”. The Independent. Retrieved 16 March 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ McMillan, Joyce (27 June 2015). “Obituary: Elizabeth MacLennan, actress and writer”. The Scotsman. Retrieved 16 March 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ Billington, Michael (17 August 2002). “Hyperlynx, Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh”. The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  6. ^ MacLennan, Elizabeth. (1990). The moon belongs to everyone : making theatre with 7:84. London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-64150-3. OCLC 25676297.
  7. ^ MacLennan, Elizabeth. 1990. The Moon Belongs to Everyone: Making Theatre with 7:84 London: Methuen; ISBN 0-413-64150-3.
  8. ^ MacLennan, Elizabeth. (2010). Wild raspberries : a correspondence set in the not too distant future. Edinburgh: Fairplay Press. ISBN 978-1-906220-38-9. OCLC 619891930.
  9. ^ MacLennan, Elizabeth (2009). Ellie and Granny Mac. London: Walker. ISBN 978-1-4063-1788-6. OCLC 316428350.
  10. ^ MacLennan, Elizabeth (April 2015). The fish that winked. [Great Britain?]. ISBN 978-1-909703-00-1. OCLC 925408165.
  11. ^ “You in Your Small Corner (5 Jun. 1962)”, IMDb.
  12. ^ Eleni Liarou, “You in Your Small Corner (1962)”, BFI Screen Online.
  13. ^ Brown, Mark (20 November 2015). “TV archive discovers couple who beat Kirk and Uhura to first interracial kiss”. The Guardian. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
  14. ^ “TBB’s @DescantDeb Opines: An Interesting Take on Race and Romance at the 2015 BFI Love Season”. The British Blacklist. 27 January 2016. Archived from the original on 27 January 2016. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  15. ^ Phil Miller (25 June 2015). “Tributes as Elizabeth MacLennan, actress and 7:84 founder, dies”. Herald Scotland.
  16. ^ BWW News Desk (20 December 2018). “Fuel Director Kate McGrath Announces 2019 Programme In The Run Up To Its 15th Anniversary”. BroadwayWorld. Archived from the original on 20 December 2018. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  17. ^ “Who We Are and What We Do”. Fuel Theatre. Archived from the original on 10 February 2004. Retrieved 16 March 2020.

Further reading[edit]

  • McGrath, John (1981). A Good Night Out: Popular Theatre: Audience, Class and Form. London: Nick Hern Books, 1996; ISBN 1-85459-370-6.
  • McGrath, John (1990). The Bone Won’t Break: On Theatre and Hope in Hard Times. London: Methuen; ISBN 0-413-63260-1.
  • McGrath, John (1996). Six-Pack: Plays for Scotland. Edinburgh: Polygon; ISBN 0-7486-6201-4.

External links[edit]