Actor Richard Harris was born in Limerick city on this date. Harris’ career scored rave reviews (and another Oscar nomination) for The Field (1990). He then locked horns with Harrison Ford as an IRA sympathiser in Patriot Games (1992) and got one of his best roles as gunfighter English Bob in the Clint Eastwood western Unforgiven (1992). Harris was firmly back in vogue and rewarded his fans with more wonderful performances in Wrestling Ernest Hemingway (1993); Cry, the Beloved Country (1995); The Great Kandinsky (1995) and This Is the Sea (1997). Further fortune came his way with a strong performance in the blockbuster Gladiator (2000) and he became known to an entirely new generation of film fans as Albus Dumbledore in the mega-successful Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002). His final screen role was as “Lucius Sulla” in Caesar (2002).
A diverse, vigorous and captivating actor, Richard Harris passed away from Hodgkin’s Disease on 25 October 2002.
On 30 September 2006, Manuel Di Lucia, of Kilkee, Co Clare, a longtime friend, organised the placement in Kilkee of a bronze life-size statue of Richard Harris. It shows Harris at the age of eighteen playing squash. The sculptor was Seamus Connolly and the work was unveiled by Russell Crowe. Harris was an accomplished squash player, winning the Tivoli Cup in Kilkee four years in a row from 1948 to 1951, a record surpassed by nobody to this day.
Another life-size statue of Richard Harris, as King Arthur from his film, Camelot, has been erected in Bedford Row, in the centre of his home town of Limerick. The sculptor of this statue was the Irish sculptor Jim Connolly, a graduate of the Limerick School of Art and Design.
At the 2009 BAFTAs, Mickey Rourke dedicated his Best Actor award to Harris, calling him a “good friend, and great actor.”
Image: Portrait of Richard Harris By Billy Hayes