James Ellis Remembered on his 90th birthday

We are delighted to announce online events to remember well known east Belfast actor James Ellis on his 90th birthday (15th March), and to mark the 4th anniversary of the opening of the James Ellis Bridge on the Connswater Community Greenway.

Actor, director, writer and famous son of east Belfast James Ellis, affectionately known as Jimmy, became a household name in the early 1960s playing PC Bert Lynch in the BBC police series Z Cars before performing in many other television roles including in Graham Reid's Billy Plays trilogy, Doctor Who, Ballykissangel and Only Fools and Horses.

The James Ellis Bridge, named in his memory, spans a section of the Connswater Community Greenway close to the Ellis family home in east Belfast. Thousands of people have enjoyed cycling, running and walking across the bridge since it opened 4 years ago.

The online events will include close family, famous friends such as well-known actor Adrian Dunbar, and those inspired by James Ellis sharing their thoughts on his life, work and legacy:

  • 15th March: A special video will be released on Connswater Community Greenway’s social media on what would have been James Ellis’ 90th birthday. The video will include friends and family who will share their memories of the actor as well as those inspired by Jimmy’s legacy.
  • 26th March: Remembering James Ellis at 90, 7pm, online via zoom. Join EastSide Greenways for an evening celebrating the life, work and legacy of James Ellis. The evening will also reveal for the first time the unpublished and surprising written talents of James Ellis chaired by Claire Murray from Lyric Theatre, Belfast and led by Professor David Johnstone of Queen’s.

Ahead of the online events, Michele Bryans from EastSide Greenways said:

“On behalf of EastSide Greenways we are proud to remember Jimmy Ellis with a series of events to mark his 90th birthday as well as celebrate the 4th anniversary of the opening of the James Ellis Bridge. Actor, director, writer, son of east Belfast and son of a shipyard worker; he was a trailblazer who inspired so many people. The bridge is such a fitting and lasting tribute to this remarkable man who had deep connections with east Belfast. The bridge is one of 16 bridges along the Connswater Community Greenway, and is located close to where Jimmy grew up on Park Avenue, and on the section of the greenway between C.S. Lewis Square and Victoria Park. We are delighted with how well it is being used by local people and visitors to the area.”

Robina Ellis, James Ellis’ widow, added:

“The Ellis family are very grateful for this 90th birthday celebration organised by EastSide Greenways and we also fondly remember the 4th 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. One of the things that gave him the most pride was complete strangers coming up to him on the street, whenever he was home, and all they wanted was to shake his hand and say ‘You gave us a voice’.”

Contributing to the online events, actor and friend of James Ellis, Adrian Dunbar, said:

“Jimmy Ellis from the east of the city of Belfast found himself, very quickly after leaving Queen’s University Belfast, at the forefront of theatre in Northern Ireland. His work, initially with the Group Theatre and then with Sam Thompson, propelled him across the water where once again he found himself at the forefront of the TV revolution in the 60s promoting his own people of the nation. A great actor, friend and mentor to me. His presence will always be missed.”

For further information and to book tickets for the Remembering James Ellis at 90 online event on 26th March visit www.visiteastside.com.  This event is free with the option to make a donation to east Belfast foodbank The Larder.

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