"Well, I was an actor…" Andy Irvine – Child Actor

Well, I was an actor, I played straight
I played at the Gaiety, played at the Gate
My mother in 1928
Had trod those boards before me
I was getting tired of the company
An actor’s life did not suit me
I said “Goodbye; you’ll never see me
Back here at Neary’s.” Andy Irvine – O’Donoghues

The Actor: In His Own Words

In the summer holidays of 1950, when I was eight, I landed a small but very important part in a film called A Tale of Five Cities. I’m not sure how this happened but my sister, ten years older than I, who was also on the stage may have played a part. I fell in love with acting there and then. I mean it was so easy! As a child actor, director and stars, alike, treated me like the bee’s knees and my self-confidence was probably never higher!
The film starred Bonar Colleano and Barbara Kelly, two Canadian actors of a bygone era but probably the most lastingly famous person who was in it was Gina Lollobrigida, the Italian actress of great beauty, who was, unfortunately, filmed in Italy. Alas we never met! I last saw this film in 1956 on TV and have been trying to get a video of it ever since. I was a bit of a hit when I got back to school and my life took a turn for the better.
circa 1959, playing a guitar given to
me by Peter Sellers during a west
end theater production in 1958.
A crossroads was reached in 1955. The newly-formed ITV TV station wanted me to play Nokie in a children’s weekly series called Round at the Redways. Nokie was short for Pinocchio—I had Dumbo the Elephant-like ears until an operation a couple of years later. There was much consternation and soul searching between my parents, my sister and myself at this point. I was academically on track for a pretty top quality education, which would have to give way if I undertook this new career. I forget now who was on which side but my side won. The upshot was that I left my boarding school and entered the glitzy world of Stage, Screen, TV and Radio.
Well, I was good. Acting comes easily to children. I made my Stage debut in the theatre where my mother had made her farewell appearance. I ran on to the stage at the start of the play and received a volley of applause before I had opened my mouth!
I was in a number of TV plays, including one called The Magpies — an adaptation of a Henry James story. The newspapers went into raptures about my performance in this and I landed a part, with a dramatic scene, in Room at the Top, playing opposite Laurence Harvey. He was a bit scary and we had to retake the scene two or three times. It went well eventually and he stumped off the set giving me a “Well done, Andrew”. I was in a stage play at the same time, with Peter Sellers, and kept hearing how everybody had been very impressed with my performance in the film.
My mother insisted that we should go to the première in a limousine and we got out, in front of adoring crowds, at the Leicester Square Odeon. Two thirds of the way through the film, my mother leaned over and whispered “When’s your scene?”. “Shhh!” I said.
My mind was in turmoil: they had cut my scene. We went out the back way and went home on the bus!
I’ve never really forgiven the production company for not telling us in advance.
I think that was the beginning of my demise as a good actor. Shortly after that some hormonal change came over me and I became more self-conscious. The transition from Child actor to Juvenile has defeated many a career, and though I felt duty bound to continue something for which I had sacrificed my top class education, acting would never be the same again.
“…I landed a part, with a dramatic scene, in Room at the Top, playing opposite Laurence Harvey. He was a bit scary and we had to retake the scene two or three times. It went well eventually and he stumped off the set giving me a “Well done, Andrew””.

Selected Acting Performances (1950-1964)

Title Year Show Date / Episode (TV) Role
A Tale of Five Cities 1950 Film Released 1 Mar 1951 Jimmy
Round at the Redways 1955 TV S1/Ep.4, 19 Oct 1955 Nokie
Round at the Redways 1955 TV S1/Ep.9, 23 Nov 1955 Nokie
Round at the Redways 1956 TV 08-Feb-56 Nokie
The Magpies 1957 TV 07-Feb-57 Morgan
Armchair Theatre 1957 TV Escape to Happiness 09/06/1957 Eric Brandt
A Voice in Vision 1957 TV 18-Dec-57 John Logie Baird
Run to Earth 1958 TV “Strange Neighbours” 11/02/1958 Archie Almond
Run to Earth 1958 TV “Aunt Alexa” 18/02/1958 Archie Almond
Run to Earth 1958 TV “Captain Gaunt’s Secret” 25/02/1958 Archie Almond
Run to Earth 1958 TV “Discovery At Dunoon” Archie Almond
Run to Earth 1958 TV “Ninian McHarg” 11/03/1958 Archie Almond
French Without Tears 1958 TV S1/Ep.12, 7 Jun 1958 Lord Heybrook
Brouhaha 1958 Stage 27 Aug 1958–28 Feb 1959 Pygmy
Room at the Top 1959 Film Released 22 Jan 1959 (UK) Raymond (office boy)
Judgement in Sunlight 1959 Stage 11-Jan-59 (Extra)
Ask for King Billy 1959 TV S1/Ep.4, 24 Nov 1959 Lanky Graham
A Holiday Abroad 1960 TV S5/Ep.23, 12 Feb 1960 (Schoolboy)
Sheep’s Clothing 1960 TV S1/Ep.2, 25 Sep 1960 Dan
Sheep’s Clothing 1960 TV S1/Ep.3, 2 Oct 1960 Dan
Sheep’s Clothing 1960 TV S1/Ep.4, 9 Oct 1960 Dan
The Zoo Story 1963 Stage Jerry
Moytura 1963 Stage 24 Sep–6 Oct 1963 Tethra Irish god of war
Down at Flannery’s 1963 TV Autumn 1963  ?
Tolka Row 1964 TV S1/Ep.3, 17 Jan 1964 Jim “Beardie” Toomey
Tolka Row 1964 TV S1/Ep.15, 10 Apr 1964 Jim “Beardie” Toomey
Tolka Row 1964 TV S1/Ep.16, 17 Apr 1964 Jim “Beardie” Toomey
Tolka Row 1964 TV S1/Ep.20, 15 May 1964 Jim “Beardie” Toomey
Tolka Row 1964 TV S1/Ep.22, 29 May 1964 Jim “Beardie” Toomey
Sir Buccaneer 1964 Stage 28-Sep-64 Sir Peregrine

Sources:

Andrew Irvine, “Filmography” at BFI Film Forever
Andrew Irvine, “Filmography” at IMDb
Andy Irvine, “Selected early acting performances” at Wiki

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