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Line of Duty star Adrian Dunbar honours friend and mentor Jimmy Ellis with tribute

Events planned to mark the day Jimmy Ellis would have turned 90

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Fondly remembered: James Ellis as Sergeant Bert Lynch in Z Cars, the TV drama that made him a household name

Fondly remembered: James Ellis as Sergeant Bert Lynch in Z Cars, the TV drama that made him a household name

Fondly remembered: James Ellis as Sergeant Bert Lynch in Z Cars, the TV drama that made him a household name

Line of Duty star Adrian Dunbar is taking part in a birthday tribute to the late Belfast actor James Ellis, who played the first major Northern Irish policeman on national television.

Adrian, who returns to TV screens later this month as Supt Ted Hastings in the hit BBC cop drama, is honouring his friend in a series of events to mark what would have been James' 90th birthday on Monday.

James, who starred in the BBC's Z Cars as Sgt Bert Lynch in the 1960s when Belfast accents were rarely heard on national TV series, died in March 2014 from a stroke and wanted to be buried in his native city.

Adrian is among contributors to a special video to be released on social media on Monday. There are also tributes from other friends and family who share their memories of the actor and other people who talk about how they were inspired by his legacy.

Adrian said: "Jimmy was a great actor, friend and mentor to me. His presence will always be missed. He found himself at the forefront of the theatre after leaving Queen's University and his work with the Group Theatre and then with playwright Sam Thompson propelled him across the water where he once again found himself at the forefront of a TV revolution in the 60s promoting his own people."

James, who also starred in the Billy plays, in Ballykissangel and Only Fools and Horses, released a record of him singing Johnny Todd, the theme song of Z Cars.

Adrian and fellow Northern Ireland man James Nesbitt were among a large number of theatre and TV actors who attended James Ellis's funeral in an east Belfast church before he was buried in a churchyard at Castlereagh.

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Adrian Dunbar

Adrian Dunbar

PA

Adrian Dunbar

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Four years ago the James Ellis Bridge was named in his honour on the Connswater Community Greenway close to his family home in Park Avenue and it is on their social media site that the video will be posted next week.

On Friday, March 26 there will be an online celebration of James's life via Zoom.

The organisers EastSide Greenways said: "The evening will also reveal for the first time the unpublished and surprising written talents of James Ellis."

Michele Bryans from the Eastside Greenways said James Ellis was an actor, director, writer and trailblazer who inspired many people.

James' widow Robina said: "The Ellis family are very grateful for this 90th birthday celebrations and we also fondly remember the fourth anniversary of the opening of the James Ellis bridge. It is truly heart-warming that so many people want not only to pay tribute to Jimmy and continue the James Ellis legacy, but also remember Jimmy the man who made an early call that he was going to pursue his career with his native accent."


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