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He spoke the Queen’s English, but Peter O’Toole was an SAFC fan whose dad ran a bookies in Sunderland

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TRIBUTES have been paid to acting great Peter O’Toole – one of Sunderland’s most famous fans.

The 81-year-old stage and big-screen star, who has died after a long illness, proclaimed his love of the Black Cats after tracing his family back to their Wearside roots.

The actor’s father worked for many years in Derwent Street, with O’Toole himself, years later, returning to the city as he researched his ancestry.

The veteran star of movie epics such as Lawrence of Arabia and Goodbye Mr Chips discovered that many of his relatives had lived in the city up until the 1920s.

O’Toole would later go on to express his devotion to SAFC, becoming one of the team’s most famous fans.

The Hollywood legend publicly declared his support for the Black Cats on Channel 4 chatshow TFI Friday in the 1990s.

Mal Robinson, editor-in-chief of Black Cats fanzine Seventy3, said: “It was sad to hear about Peter O’Toole passing away after illness.

“I, like many others, loved his films and found out he was a Sunderland fan when watching TFI Friday.

“When we started Seventy3, we always had a famous Sunderland fan in each issue.

“However, despite making contact with Peter, we never managed to get him in.

“I am sure it would have made for interesting reading as he was a true character on and off the screen.”

Martyn McFadden, editor of the fanzine A Love Supreme, said: “It’s always a sad loss when any fan passes away, whether he is famous, or not.

“However, Peter O’Toole was a world-renowned actor and, although I never saw him at away games during the 15 and 19-point seasons, I’m sure, in his own way, he enjoyed his time supporting Sunderland as much as any of us.”

Football message boards were also filled with tributes, declaring the star a “massive fan” and “legendary actor”.

Another posting said: “Absolute legend. Will be sadly missed.”

Although O’Toole had always skirted over his past and that of his much-travelled family, in 2003 the Echo revealed that the star had relatives on Wearside.

In his autobiography, Loitering With Intent, O’Toole, born in the Republic of Ireland, briefly touched on his father “Captain” Pat’s colourful background.

He said: “He had served an apprenticeship as a metal plater and shipwright in the north east of England, where my grandmother ran two second-hand furniture shops.

“At the end of the Great War, his 20s were running out, and he turned to gambling. Captain Pat lived as an itinerant racetrack bookmaker.”

Research by the Echo discovered that Pat O’Toole, better known to locals as Paddy Toole, and his family lived and worked in Sunderland until the 1920s.

A popular man, his bookmaking business, on the fringes of the law, was run out of a base in Derwent Street, in the heart of the town.

Stories persist that the native Irishman was persuaded to leave Sunderland by the local constabulary.

He took his family – his actor son wasn’t born until 1932 – on the road, eventually settling in Leeds, where Peter was brought up.

Despite the move south, Pat – and, it seems, his son in his turn – maintained a strong affiliation with Sunderland, through the town’s football team.

During the 1980s, O’Toole made a low-key return to Wearside, staying at the Seaburn Hotel while he researched his autobiography.

The wit and wisdon of Peter O’Toole

On becoming an actor: “I hitched to London on a lorry, looking for adventure. I was dropped at Euston Station and was trying to find a hostel. I passed the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and walked in just to case the joint.”

On drinking and health: “If you can’t do something willingly and joyfully, then don’t do it. If you give up drinking, don’t go moaning about it. Go back on the bottle. Do as thou wilt.”

On exercise: “The only exercise I take is walking behind the coffins of friends who took exercise.”

His house rules for a New Year’s Eve party at his home: “Fornication, madness, murder, drunkenness, shouting, shrieking, leaping polite conversation and the breaking of bones, such jollities constitute acceptable behaviour, but no acting allowed.”

On fame after Lawrence of Arabia: “I woke up one morning to find I was famous. I bought a white Rolls-Royce and drove down Sunset Boulevard, wearing dark specs and a white suit, waving like the Queen Mum.”

 

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