Theatres doyenne and business leader dies aged 92

Mrs Elsie Orme,  Chairman of the Sheffield & District Branch of the British Institute - January 1983
Mrs Elsie Orme, Chairman of the Sheffield & District Branch of the British Institute - January 1983

FORMER actress, businesswoman and lifelong supporter of the theatre in Sheffield, Elsie Orme MBE, has died at the age of 92 after a long illness.

She was born into a Sheffield industrial family and from the age of 16 worked for the family business, George Jowitt and Sons, a grinding wheel firm in Sharrow and later Dronfield, eventually as director and company secretary.

At the age of 27, she went to St Andrew’s University where she became involved in the student dramatic society, playing mostly character parts because she was older than most of her fellow students.

Back in Sheffield, she briefly returned to the family business before persuading Geoffrey Ost, director of the Sheffield Playhouse, to take her on as assistant stage manager which occasionally involved taking on walk-on parts. Later she moved to the Civic Theatre, Chesterfield (now the Pomegranate), where she played character roles before giving it all up after she got married and raised a family.

In the Sixties, Mrs Orme was widowed and brought up her young son and daughter on her own.

In the local business community, she was chairman and president of the Sheffield British Institute of Management, national chair of management research groups and a member of the British Association of Women Executives, a guardian of the Assays Office and governor of Stradbroke College. She was awarded the MBE in 1995 for services to business in Sheffield.

In her theatrical days, she appeared alongside the likes of Paul Eddington and Margaret Tyzack, who became lifelong friends, and, until recently, actors appearing at the Crucible and Lyceum, such as Dora Bryan, Timothy West, Prunella Scales and Lloyd Owen, would stay at her home in Whirlow. To the end, she was an avid theatregoer.

Daniel Evans, artistic director of Sheffield Theatres, said: ‘Elsie Orme was deeply involved in the life of Sheffield Theatres over many years. She was a familiar face at both The Crucible and The Lyceum, coming, as she did, to everything we staged!

“It was always an absolute pleasure to spend time with Elsie, listening to her experiences and thoughts on the many productions she had seen here and the actors she had met.

“We were very lucky to benefit from Elsie’s wholehearted, passionate support and she will be sadly missed by the team at the theatres.”