His father, Thomas Maguire, an Irish Scot, had been the British Consul in Valparaiso, Chile, from 1919-22. Following the revolution there, he returned to Britain. In the thirties, notably from 1933-39, Thomas wrote journalistic pieces on European political movements, especially those based on materialist philosophies, and travelled a good deal across Europe.
From 1926-32, the Maguire family moved to live in Antwerp, where young Leonard attended the College Stanislaus Kostka. He spoke English at home (with his parents and older siblings Kathleen, Patricia, Tommy and Edward) but spoke Vlaams (Flemish) at school, eg from circa 1928/29 - till '32, when the family returned to Scotland.
It was only on return to G.B. that Leonard learned to read and write in English, but he very quickly fell in love with reading.
At the age of 18 Leonard Maguire was briefly in the RAF, but was invalided out due to ‘temperamental unsuitability.’ He found labouring work - 'the lump' - in the Glasgow Docks.
In 1943 he attended a public meeting in Glasgow to discuss the setting up of the Citizen’s Theatre Company. Asked if he was interested and realising that he was, he was invited to join the company in its first season. He later wrote of that moment:
"I felt like a man released from rowing in the galleys and the same instant presented with a crown. It follows that that day in September 1943 is still very significant to me, and the Citizen’s Theatre a hallowed place.”His first role with 'The Citz' was in a George Bernard Shaw double-bill, “The Shewing-up of Blanco Posnet” (a western) and “The Man of Destiny”. He had two lines in the first, as a cowboy; ‘Yup, that’s so’ and ‘You tell him, Sheriff.’
From 1944 he appeared in repertory theatre in Rugby and Colchester, and then went to London to do the rounds of theatre managements. He was advised to try for an audition at HM Tennent’s, at the Globe Theatre, and met a man in a rather scruffy suit who put him at his ease and imbued him with sufficient confidence to give a decent second reading of a piece of script. Only on leaving the rehearsal space did he realise it had been Laurence Olivier himself, dressed-down so as not to intimidate younger actors. LM was cast in Thornton Wilder's The Skin Of Our Teeth, playing with Vivien Leigh, produced/directed by (her husband) Laurence Olivier, which was staged at the Phoenix Theatre in London's West End, 1945. He was 22.
Next came a production of Sheridan's The Rivals, with Edith Evans, in which he shared the stage with Peter Cushing, Anthony Quayle and Tyrone Guthrie; in 1946 he worked with John Gielgud in Crime & Punishment. Due to unfortunate timing/a missing telegram, he was unable to continue with Olivier’s company as had been arranged, and went back to regional rep between 1947-1950.
In 1951 LM returned to Scotland for the Edinburgh International Festival production of Ane Satyre of the Three Estaitis, directed by Tyrone Guthrie. He began broadcasting, writing over 50 scripts during the next ten years for BBC radio. He worked a good deal for Scottish BBC Schools Radio/Children's Hour, where he met and married producer Frances Campbell.
Leonard Maguire was ‘the first professional actor on radio in Scotland’ - until then producers/directors had tended to employ skilled amateurs, teachers or other educated folk with distinctive voices, drawn from all parts of the country and from the large number of community theatres in Scotland at the time.
He also presented magazine arts programmes on radio and later on television. The first of those jobs was 'Scope' on Radio Scotland, which went out on live on Tuesdays at 6.30pm, a collaboration between LM, producer James McTaggart and scriptwriter Eddie Boyd. The series ran from 1954-1951. In 1961 he also started presenting 'Perspective', the first lunchtime TV magazine programme aimed at 'the housewife', and later 'Tempo'.
In 1963, he played Dr Knox in The Doctor & The Devils by Dylan Thomas, an Edinburgh International Festival Production. (A young Tom Conti was in the cast)
In 1964, LM stood in for the usual presenter, Mary Marquis, on BBC Scotland’s after-the-news 'culture' slot '6:10'. He later wrote of this experience
“The studio was equipped with pre-war equipment cast off by every other department, using talk-back blew the programme off the air, the presenter had no means of communicating directly with the producer’s panel except by throwing a brick through the double-glass window with a message wrapped round it. No telephone, no ear-piece, nothing.”
LM asked what would happen if anything were to go wrong, warned that if it did, his only option would be to talk about the first thing that met his eye. 'Nothing will go wrong', he was told. Unconvinced, he asked for a topical 20 second item to use as ‘cover’ in case of breakdowns/failure but was told it was 'quite unnecessary'. The following day, mid transmission, the telecine cue to programmes on both channels 1 & 2 were suddenly cut - no recorded pieces could be transmitted. “Suddenly, the studio sound was cut to allow voice from the panel on talk-back: “‘Keep shadow-boxing, keep faking.’”
He took a book from the ‘set-dressing’ bookcase behind him, opened it at random to an illustrated article called ‘Strange Vegetables’. ”While we’ve got a few seconds to spare, I’m sure you’ll be fascinated by this article about virus-affected vegetables. Just look at this!” The camera operator zoomed in to show the pictures of the book he held open; a close up of diseased vegetables which were rather rude. His account continues: “The press was at the door of the studio before we finished the programme. The hospitality cupboard was opened in honour of the reporters, a bottle of whisky and four glasses laid on a table in the Green-room, and I was left to explain it all away. ‘Keep faking’ was the last instruction I received from the absconding director. I absolved the whole programme team, the commissionaire, the tea-lady, and the whole BBC of any blame. The reporters seemed disappointed...”
Also in 1964, he appeared as Sir David Lindsay of the Mount (author of Ane Satyre of the Three Estatis) in the premiere of John Arden's play Armstrong’s Last Goodnight, at the Citizens Theatre.
1965 - Macbeth, the title role, at the Edinburgh International Festival's production at the Assembly Halls on the Mound. The production received a lot of attention, not least because the witches wore bikinis. During a matinee LM got a bad cut in the leg when another actor made a mistake in a fight scene. He was taken into hospital in full costume and beard to get stitched up. He refused analgesia because he had to go back on for the evening performance.
Further notable performances listed below in (approximate) chronological order
The Wild Duck - Scottish Actors Company production (Dir Fulton McKay) 1969
Patrick Geddes - TV drama/doc about the visioniary Scottish town planner 1969
Heartbreak House (GBS) at Citizens’, Glasgow, with James Fox & Candida (GBS) tour
Weir of Hermiston - Robert Louis Stevenson - television serial, 1972
Scotch On The Rocks -1972 controversial BBC2 serial based on novel by politician Douglas Hurd
Candide - first colour separation TV play made for TV, Dir by James McTaggart - 1973
Kidnapped - musical of RLS novel, written by Keith Dewhurst, with Steeleye Span, dir Bill Bryden for the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh
The Bevellers - Roddy McMillan dir. 1974 Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh
In 1975, LM started doing ‘compilations’ - touring one-man shows of Scottish literary gems. ‘The Fireman, The Traveller & The Bottle’ & ‘Getting Dark, isn’t it?’
In 1976, LM staged the first of his 3 One-Man Plays based on the works of poets:
The Triumph of Dunbar - 1976 - Edinburgh Festival Fringe First Award - imagined life from the poetry of the great 15th C Scots poet William Dunbar
Navigator in the 7th Circle - 1977 - Edinburgh Festival Fringe First Award - imagined life - in form of a trial - of the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who had been accused of plagiarism.
Henrysoun & the Ploomdam - 1978 - Edinburgh Festival Fringe First Award - imagined life of 15th C Scots poet Robert Henrysoun
Once Upon A Union - BBC TV - dir. John McGrath 1977 - drama-doc re Union of Crowns 1707
Normal Service - written by John Byrne, 1979, Hampstead Theatre
The Day Christ Died - film, dir. Jim Cellan-Jones 1980
Thee & Me - play by Philip Martin, The National Theatre, 1980
Shackleton - TV serial, 1982/3 (filmed in Greenland due to Falkland’s War)
The Honorary Consul - film, with Michael Caine, 1983
Little Lies - with Sir John Mills 1983/4 (touring, London, Toronto)
Insignificance - play by Terry Johnson -1984 - (LM played Albert Einstein)
EastEnders BBC TV - from 1985-1988 as ‘Uncle’ (the pawnbroker)
The Wallace, by Sydney Goodsir Smith, 1985 - as Edward 1 in Tom Fleming’s prod. EdIntFest
Three Sisters - Checkov - Royal Lyceum, Edin & Birmingham - 1987
A Dry White Season - film, with Susan Sarandon 1988
Coriolanus - Shakespeare, RSC - Stratford & tour - 1989
Brigadoon! - stage musical, touring production, 1988/89
Bergerac - episode of the TV series
Prospero’s Books - by Peter Greenaway - uncredited voice of the books, 1990/91
Occhio Pinnochio - film, dir. Francesco Nuti 1993, Italy
Victory, from the Joseph Conrad novel, filmed in ’94 Germany (released in 1996)
Also appeared on television in:
This Man Craig, with John Cairney 1967
Hawkeye the Pathfinder, 1973
Dr Finlay’s Casebook (original series, as the Vet) 1969
Emmerdale Farm 1972/3
The Law Lord, with Tom Baker, 1992
Rab C Nesbitt
(and many more)
Leonard Maguire died in 1997, in France.