Sheila Hancock, the renowned English actress, and author, has had a remarkable career in the entertainment industry. She has been married twice. First to Alec Ross who died in 1971 and later to John Thaw who also sadly passed away in 2002.
With numerous accolades and a diverse range of roles under her belt, she has since earned her place in the industry. It’s no surprise that her daughters Melanie Thaw, Abigail Thaw, and Joanna Thaw have also followed the same path. Even more fascinating, Sheila has no plans of retiring soon despite being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and previously battling other health issues.
Sheila Hancock Lost Her Two Husbands to Oesophageal Cancer
Sheila’s personal life has been filled with love, loss, and resilience. She was first married to actor Alec Ross in 1955. There are no details on how the pair crossed paths however, they reportedly shared many beautiful years.
To add to their family, the pair welcomed a daughter named Melanie in 1964. Tragically, Ross passed away from oesophageal cancer in 1971.
Two Years after his death, Sheila found love again when she married actor John Thaw in 1973. He adopted Melanie, and the couple also welcomed another daughter, Joanna Thaw, into their family. Additionally, Thaw’s daughter from his previous marriage, Abigail, became a part of their blended family.
Sadly, Sheila faced her battle with breast cancer in 1988, but she made a full recovery. Nonetheless, her strength and resilience were tested once again when her beloved husband, John, also succumbed to oesophageal cancer in 2002. She revealed that while nursing her husband, she begged him not to die and also described that the love they shared was obsessive.
In her 2004 book, “The Two of Us,” she chronicles their 28-year marriage, offering a dual biography that delves into both of their lives.
Following Thaw’s passing, Hancock wrote “Just Me” in 2008, an autobiographical account of her journey in coming to terms with widowhood. She has also published other works, including her debut novel, “Miss Carter’s War,” in 2014, and the memoir “Ramblings of an Actress” in 1987.
All Her Children are Actors
All three of Sheila’s daughters have followed in their parent’s footsteps and pursued careers as actresses.
The 59-year-old actress and producer has been in the industry since 1990 and is known for her appearances in films and television series such as “Trainer”(1991), “A Touch of Frost” (1992) and “Bergerac” (1981). As for her personal life, she is married to the producer and actor Mattew Byam Shaw who is also the father of her three children.
Like her mother, Melanie has also had health struggles. She was diagnosed with stage-three breast cancer in 2017 and has been recovering well.
Also an actress, Abigail has been in the industry for several decades and she’s mostly famed for her role as the investigative journalist, Dorothea Frazil in the drama series, “Endeavor”. Aside from this, she has made appearances in productions such as “Casualty”, “Midsomer Murders”, “Agatha Christie’s Poirot” and” Black Mirror”.
At present, she is married to Nigel Whitmey. The pair crossed paths while training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) and exchanged vows in 1986. They are parents of two children; Molly Mae Whitmey and Talia Whitmey.
Joanna is the youngest of Sheila’s children and like her sisters, she also pursues a career as an actress. However, since joining in the early 2000s, she has made only a few appearances. Some of these include “Love Actually” (2003), “The Inspector Lynley Mysteries” (2001), and Piers Morgan’s Life Stories” (2009). She is married to Matt Harvey and they share 2 children.
Sheila Hancock is Still Acting
Sheila has been in the entertainment industry since 1953 and even at 90, she has shown no signs of slowing down. The British actress, known for her incredible talent and captivating performances, is still actively pursuing her craft. She recently published a new memoir titled “Old Rage,” in which she candidly shares her thoughts and feelings about work, life, and love.
She considers herself incredibly lucky to be still working and to have the opportunity to engage in meaningful and fulfilling projects. She humorously acknowledges that she often gets cast as characters who are either dying or dealing with dementia, and her children playfully tease her about it. But she attributes her ability to secure these roles to the fact that her contemporaries in the industry are unfortunately passing away.
One notable role that Hancock took on was in the 2017 film “Edie,” where she played a mountain climber. She trained extensively for the part, recognizing that her physical fitness was crucial for the role. She went to the gym for three months and even climbed a mountain to prepare.
Sheila Hancock’s career has spanned several decades, and she has achieved success both on Broadway and in the West End. From her early days in the iconic sitcom “The Rag Trade” to her recent roles in films and on stage. Some of these include are “Sweeney Todd” (1980), “The Winter’s Tale” (1982), Sister Act (2010), “Edie” (2017), “The More You Ignore Me” (2018), “Unforgotten” (2021), and “The Sixth Commandment” (2023).
Sheila Says Acting Helps Relieve Her Health Challenges
The British actress has been able to recover from health scares, including a battle with pneumonia and a recent diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. In her own words, Sheila believes that acting has a unique power to uplift and inspire. She shares that even in the face of adversity, she has found solace and strength on the stage.
She recounts an incident where she fell in the bath during a matinee performance but continued to perform. As she embraces old age, Sheila acknowledges the importance of letting go and adapting to new circumstances. She encourages other actors of her age to prepare for old age, whether it be installing safety handles or considering the possibility of moving into a care home. She has revealed her plans not to lumber her children while taking care of her old age.
Throughout her life, Hancock has been an active member of the Religious Society of Friends, also known as Quakers. She is also involved in various charitable endeavors, serving as a patron of educational charity Digismart and a trustee of the John Thaw Foundation. She plans to leave a substantial sum for charity when she’s gone.