Oran Mor star tells his own love story as play delivers romantic reminder
TOM McGovern’s appearance this week in Oran Mor play The Origins of Ivor Punch, a love story, is a poignant reminder of his personal romantic tale.
Colin MacIntyre’s play is set in the present day and in the 1860’s, on a remote Scottish island (based on the isle of Mull).
It touches on themes of mythology and features the Victorian love story between the postman Ivor and Henrietta Bird, who regularly receives letters from her travelling sister.
The tale, based on the Edinburgh International First Book Award-winning novel The Letters of Ivor Punch by musician and author MacIntyre, “explores the world of origin and identity”.
It’s also a tragic story. Henrietta, we learn, becomes pregnant. And it’s the postman’s child. But in this time frame, that’s not acceptable at all.
Tom smiles as he reveals his own love story to be less complicated.
“I met my wife Lorna at drama college in 1988, what is now the Conservatoire,” he rewinds.
“I was actually going out with a friend of hers at the time. But Lorna was always around the gang, and we were good friends.”
But all that changed when the drama college held its Valentine’s dance in Glasgow’s Sub Club, which Tom and Lorna attended.
“I had just split up with my girlfriend at the time and began chatting to this other girl. Then all of a sudden I realised Lorna had disappeared. I thought ‘What the hell is going on?’
“I knew she lived in Hyndland so I followed the route I thought she would take and found her.
“I asked why she’d left and she said ‘I thought I’d come to the dance with you.’
“I said ‘You did.’ And she replied ‘Well, come on then.’ And we went back to her place and we’ve been together ever since.’”
He adds: “I hadn’t realised Lorna had feelings for me. But in hindsight, I realised I’d only enjoyed the company of my previous girlfriend when Lorna was around.
“Now I appreciate I’m so lucky to have here.”
Tom McGovern’s acting career has endured the highs and lows of most Scottish actors.
Since winning the Gold Medal and the Shakespeare prize at drama college he went on to work at the Lyceum in Edinburgh and has had an illustrious theatre career.
He’s starred in Hamlet, Private Lives, The Cone Gatherers, in panto , in musicals such as Guys and Dolls. Indeed, Tom McGovern has proved himself a chameleon.
“But not working is the difficult part,” he says with a shrug.
“It can be hard in Scotland right now because it’s difficult to be even seen for parts. And very often England-based casting directors look to the south to fill the roles.
“I think that’s wrong. I’m not being anti-English, but I feel if you’re an acting living in Scotland you should have a fair crack of the whip.”
He adds; “That’s changed a lot since I left drama college. But all you can do is hope.
“I try to stay fit to make sure I’m ready when a part comes along.
“But I’ve been really fortunate in that Lorna has been so supportive. She works as a full time violin teacher and she’s kept me going throughout this precarious career I’ve chosen to have.
“And the bottom line is she’s my best pal. I’m just so fortunate.”
He adds, smiling: “And recently I’ve become a grandfather, which is a great focus.”
He has enjoyed the process of getting into character for Ivor Punch. Tom plays Charles Darwin – who comes to Mull in the play.
And in modern times he’s the postman’s friend Randy.
But what about the words GOD IS LOVE which have appeared painted on a cliff face?
And how does the pioneering Victorian travel writer Isabella and Henrietta link the past to the present?
“Yes, there are elements of fantasy in the story,” says Tom. “But it all makes sense in the end.”
The Origins of Ivor Punch, Oran Mor, until Saturday also stars Andrew John Tait and Eva Traynor.
Eva Traynor, Tom McGovern and Andrew John Tait in The Origins of Ivor Punch
Tom McGovern, who is appearing in Tommy’s Song written and directed by Lou Prendergast, and right, in Macbeth