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Obituary: Actor Ray Lonnen whose first break was at Arts Theatre in Belfast

By Eddie McIlwaine

Actor Ray Lonnen, who died recently aged 74, got his first break at the old Arts Theatre in Belfast when he was only 19.

And years later in 1982 he became a household name playing an undercover Army officer pitting his wits against the IRA in the hit television series Harry's Game, based on a book by Gerald Seymour, whose latest thriller Vagabond has just reached the shelves.

The youthful Ray arrived in Belfast in 1959 when an early IRA campaign hadn't been wound down and his parents in Bournemouth tried to talk him out of the move.

But an aunt, who was a senior administrator at the Royal Victoria Hospital, reassured his mum and dad and Ray was cast in several productions at the Arts, the Lyric and the Opera House over his three years here.

It was in one play at the Arts Theatre that Lonnen was spotted by a visiting television casting director and landed a role in the popular television hospital series Emergency Ward 10. Ray never looked back and had a spectacular television career spanning more than half-a-century, appearing in dozens of popular series, including Z Cars (1975-76); Doctor Who; the David Nobbs sitcom Rich Tea And Sympathy (1991), and Crossroads.

He also voiced the animated series Budgie The Little Helicopter (1994) and was a storyteller on Jackanory.

This son of a carpenter took part in theatre tours which included a return to Belfast where it all began and where he was disappointed to discover that the Arts Theatre was shuttered and dark.

Nominated for Best Actor by TV Times in 1982 for his role in Harry's Game, Lonnen continued to work despite being diagnosed with cancer three years ago. He was considered at one time as a possible James Bond.

Ray Lonnen was married first in 1962 to Jean Conyers, and, secondly to Lynn Dalby, with whom he had two sons and a daughter. His third wife, the actress Tara Ward, survives him.

Belfast Telegraph


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