Vale Alan Hopgood: A tribute by Judith Colquhoun

30 March, 2022

VALE 

ALAN HOPGOOD 1934 - 2022

With the death two weeks ago of Alan Hopgood AM, the Guild has lost one of its most illustrious members, while those of us who knew Hoppy have lost a wise, witty and generous friend whose company was always a joy.

More than that, however, I think it’s fair to say that Alan’s death is a loss to the whole nation since he used his prodigious talents to the benefit of humanity; specifically to help both those facing some of life’s most daunting challenges and those attempting to see them through. His AM was well-earned.

Born in Launceston, Alan was raised in Hobart, where his first acting role, at the age of twelve, was in The Winslow Boy. Many years later, by now a teacher himself, his first play was produced at his alma mater, Melbourne University. He soon left the classroom behind to become a full-time actor and writer. He began a long association in both roles with the Melbourne Theatre Company, and in 1963 they produced his first big success, And The Big Men Fly.

It was, of course, followed by countless others. One, Private Yuk Objects, was the first play anywhere to concern itself with the Vietnam War. Two others, The Cheerful Cuckold and The Bush Bunch, won AWGIEs. His screenplay for Alvin Purple may not have won awards, but it was nevertheless one of the most commercially successful films of its day. And all the time, Alan was appearing in countless roles on stage and in film, while acting in almost every big Australian soap and quietly writing for them behind the scenes.

A diagnosis of prostate cancer at 59 might have slowed some people down, but Alan saw it as an opportunity. Once in remission, he wrote a book about his experience which in turn became a play, For Better, For Worse. It premiered in Melbourne in 1997 and then toured widely.

The success of this play saw the beginning of a new stage in Alan’s life. He wrote another play, The Carer, which opened in March 2000 starring Bud Tingwell and addressed the subject of Alzheimer's with compassion, warmth and much humour. More plays followed, dealing with all sorts of issues, from men’s health generally to diabetes to geriatric sex. Three, which Alan wrote for The Hush Foundation, became widely-used tools for health professionals – perhaps the teacher was re-asserting himself after all those years.

It would take a dozen pages to list all of Alan’s credits. Suffice to say, as an actor, scriptwriter, playwright, producer, librettist and lecturer, he achieved more than most of us can dream of. In the end, the cancer he had fought with such tenacity for almost thirty years finally caught up with him. He died aged 87, leaving behind his beloved family: his wife Gay, their children Sam and Fincina and four grandsons.

Our condolences go to them all. I’m sure it will be no small consolation for them to know that the man they loved was, in turn, loved and admired by so many.

By Alan’s own request, there was no public funeral. But I imagine that most Guild members will raise a glass of something special to honour the memory of the remarkable, the one and only, Hoppy. 

By Judith Colquhoun


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