Lorraine tells New Idea she’s still coming to grips with her mastectomy, explaining she has a “weird feeling of lopsidedness”.
“For more than 80 years I’ve been in tip-top health, so to suddenly find myself ailing with an array of maladies was confronting. That’s when I made the decision to retire ... bringing the curtain down on a 62-year showbiz career I’ve loved immeasurably.”
A three-time TV Week Logie winner, it was clear from an early age that Lorraine was destined for the spotlight. During her childhood in Narrandera, NSW, she would sing, dance and perform whenever guests visited her home.
Moving to Sydney in the 1950s, Lorraine started out in theatre and radio before making her TV debut as Leonard Teale’s daughter on The Bobby Limb Show.
In 1966, she become one of the original presenters on Play School. After spending 10 “wonderful years” on the iconic children’s program, she left when she was offered the role of wartime matriarch Grace on The Sullivans.
This November marks 45 years since the beloved series debuted. Lorraine remembers her time on the show fondly.
“Playing Grace was a joy. It’s coming on to 40 years since the show finished, but it seems like yesterday I was whirling my hair up into Grace’s famous victory roll.
“Not a day goes by when someone doesn’t stop me to say how much they loved The Sullivans. We were like a real family.”
Andrew McFarlane, who played Lorraine’s eldest son John Sullivan, lives near her, while Steven Tandy, who played second son Tom, is based in Queensland. Lorraine says she tries to see them whenever she can.
Sadly, Paul Cronin, who played Sullivan patriarch Dave, passed away in 2019 – the same year Lorraine’s health issues began.
“[His death] broke my heart,” sighs Lorraine. “We were very close and often chatted on the phone or would catch up whenever he was in Sydney or I was in Melbourne.”
Lorraine said goodbye to number 7 Gordon Street after three years, as a new series called Carson’s Law had been devised especially for her.
“That was such an honour and I enjoyed every moment. Jennifer Carson was a terrific role, an absolute career highlight,” Lorraine recalls. “Again, I made great friends of co-stars like Kevin Miles and Gregg Caves.”
Lorraine confesses she feels blessed her career has been amazingly varied. She’s worked with Hollywood greats such as Kirk Douglas on The Man From Snowy River and even starred in her own short-lived TV exercise show, Slim As You Clean with Lorraine Bayly.
“Kirk was totally charming and used to regale us with wonderful Hollywood stories. I did a play with Edward Woodward in the ’70s. He was a loveable rascal. They are treasured memories.”
Lorraine is now content in her retirement and has no plans to return to the stage or screen anytime soon.
“I needed to spend time looking after myself and getting better, and it’s worked as I was recently given a bill of health,” smiles Lorraine.
“I tried to retire on numerous occasions, but failed miserably because a wonderful role would invariably come along.
“The only problem is I’m a chocoholic with a fondness for ice-cream – and television, chocolates and ice-cream do go so fabulously together.”
Read more in this week's New Idea, on sale now