Joan Morrow

Joan was born in Australia in 1941. Her mother died when she was four and her father married again, but she didn’t get on with her difficult stepmother. She was 23 when she came to England to seek a better life (around 1964). She passed an audition for the Bristol Old Vic theatre company and met another jobbing actress taken on at £7 a week – Jane Asher.

The two women became inseparable when the company went on a six-month world tour that included performing on Broadway in New York.

‘They really clicked as friends,’ ¬Stuart recalls. ‘At the time, Jane was the long-time girlfriend of Paul McCartney. But when they met, Joan was newly arrived from Australia and had never heard of The Beatles.’

After leaving the Bristol Old Vic in the Sixties, Joan moved to Scotland and the small theatre company that rehearsed that day in Edinburgh – and later fell in love with Stuart. Stuart Mungall sat in the almost empty auditorium of the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh and waited for the play to begin. It was late 1967, he had just joined a small theatre company in Scotland and had been asked if he’d like to watch rehearsals for A Christmas Carol.

‘A young woman came on stage,’ he recalls. ‘From the first second, I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She had such a magic quality and aura.

I was totally hooked. It was love at first sight.’

The young woman was Joan Morrow, then 27. And to 28-year-old Stuart’s delight, she was cast alongside him in the company’s next production, Toad Of Toad Hall. ‘I was Weasel and she played Lucy Rabbit,’ he recalls with a laugh.

After a whirlwind courtship, the couple were married on May 11, 1968, with Joan’s close friend and successful young actress Jane Asher, then also famous as Paul McCartney’s girlfriend, as bridesmaid. Her wedding present was a Welsh dresser with several sunshine-yellow goblets.

Joan, who was 69 when she died, had Pick’s disease – a rare form of dementia similar to Alzheimer’s – and polymyalgia rheumatica, a debilitating condition that causes pain, stiffness and tenderness in the muscles supporting the neck, shoulders, hips and thighs. Stuart smothered his beloved, terminally ill wife with a pillow after watching her deteriorate both mentally and physically for six years.

Their friend Jane Asher wrote a letter pleading for clemency to an Old Bailey judge and it was instrumental in preventing Stuart, now 72, spending the rest of his life in prison after he admitted the manslaughter of his wife.

Past productions

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