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Enid Bosworth Lorimer (1887–1982)

by Jill Roe and Margaret Bettison

This article was published:

Enid Bosworth Lorimer  (1887-1982), actress, was born on 27 December 1887 in London, elder daughter of Harold Marcus Nunn, gentleman, and his wife Helen Louise Fowler, née Bosworth.  Reared in comfortable circumstances, the lively, questioning child was educated by a governess before attending a day school, and then a boarding school at Folkestone.  Taken to the theatre by her parents, Enid early acquired an interest in acting.  Her father insisted on good diction.  At a finishing school in Switzerland, thought more suitable for her than university, she learned French and German.

Back in London, Enid was allowed to attend classes run by the famed voice-educator Elsie Fogerty but, when her father’s opposition to an acting career became vehement, Enid left home.  Her first appearance was a walk-on part under Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree.  Her father soon calmed down.  In 1912 she was invited to join Laurence Irving’s touring company.  On 27 July that year at St Paul’s Presbyterian Church, Harrogate, she married a fellow actor, Henry Augustavus Wentworth Zerffi, a Londoner of Hungarian-Jewish extraction.  It was an exuberant but short-lived union.  Enid stated that he went to war and was reported missing in action, presumed killed.  Zerffi actually died in 1926; he shot his mother, who was in great pain, and then himself.  Adept at recognising fresh opportunities and having adopted Lorimer as her stage name, Enid had been involved in the production of silent films in Britain during World War I.  She served as a 'general dogsbody' (assistant producer and script/subtitle writer) for Samuelson Films Manufacturing Co., where she assisted Ellen Terry.  After the war she returned to the theatre.

Espousing theosophy, Lorimer became a lecturer in the cause of Krishnamurti, its Coming World Teacher.  In October 1923 she arrived in Sydney to serve as artistic director at the Star Amphitheatre at Balmoral.  Projecting a new kind of theatre, akin to medieval mystery plays and using eurhythmy, she established the Amphitheatre Players, which in 1924 presented Henry Van Dyke’s The Other Wise Man.  She lived at Charles Leadbeater’s theosophical commune, The Manor, Mosman, mothering the young Peter Finch for a time; taught speech at the associated Morven Garden School (her star pupil was Joan Hammond); produced the first, impromptu, play on radio 2GB in 1925; and in 1926 contributed articles on theatre to the theosophist magazine Advance! Australia.

Patrician in appearance, with a well-modulated voice, Lorimer found work with the new British Broadcasting Corporation in London from 1927.  After her reappearance in Sydney in late 1932, radio work was plentiful and well paid.  She was Ettie in `Doctor Mac’ from 1940 to 1952.  In 1940 she helped Hal Alexander to reform Actors’ Equity of Australia, serving on its ethics committee.  She was also active in the little theatre movement and taught voice privately.

Sensing that television would prove congenial, Lorimer went back to London in 1952.  She first worked in provincial repertory.  A versatile older player, she appeared as the mother in Henrik Ibsen’s Brand at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, in 1959.  Returning to Australia in 1960, she found radio serials 'murdered' by television, and after eighteen months went again to England, where she played in a BBC children’s show and had her greatest theatrical triumphs, as Mrs Moore in a stage adaptation of A Passage to India at Oxford and London and as Marya Voynitsky in Uncle Vanya at the National Theatre, at which she spent two years, with Sir Laurence (Lord) Olivier.

Enid Lorimer had no children but had informally adopted a son, Harold Morton, who was general secretary (1928-33) of the Theosophical Society in Australia and a well-known 2GB broadcaster.  She fulfilled a promise to him to return to Australia when she turned 80.  For eight years she worked with Hector Crawford, in Melbourne, first in an unsuccessful serial, 'Motel'.  The last of her many television roles was in 'The Young Doctors' and her final professional appearance was in the film The Odd Angry Shot (1979).  She had published (in the early 1970s) three children’s books under the name Ellen Bosworth.

In 1981 Lorimer was given the Chips Rafferty memorial award and in 1982 she was awarded the OAM.  She died on 15 July 1982 at Wahroonga, Sydney, and was cremated.  Death held no fears for her.  'He [the Great Being] and we are all one' she said in a late interview.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Roe, Beyond Belief, 1986
  • Evening News (Sydney), 25 October 1923, p 8
  • Evening News (Sydney), 12 November 1923, p 9
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 6 November 1960, p 116
  • Sun (Sydney), 14 November 1967, p 63
  • Sun (Sydney), 31 May 1977, p 31
  • West Australian, 13 March 1979, p 42
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 25 November 1979, p 59
  • Times (London), 17 July 1982, p 10
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 17 July 1982, p 7
  • J. Parson, interview with E. Lorimer (video, 1979, State Library of New South Wales)
  • H. de Berg, interview with E. Lorimer (ts, 1981, National Library of Australia)
  • E. Lorimer papers (Powerhouse Museum, Sydney)
  • private information

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Jill Roe and Margaret Bettison, 'Lorimer, Enid Bosworth (1887–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 16 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (Melbourne University Press), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Enid Lorimer, 1960

Enid Lorimer, 1960

State Library of New South Wales, 09431

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Nunn, Enid Bosworth
  • Zerffi, Enid Bosworth
  • Bosworth, Ellen

27 December, 1887
London, Middlesex, England


15 July, 1982 (aged 94)
Wahroonga, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

general debility

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.