Home and Away Actress Cornelia Frances Dies Aged 77

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We are saddened to report that Australian TV icon Cornelia Frances has died at the age of 77.

Corney, who has portrayed fan favourite Morag Bellingham on Home and Away over the past 30 years, is said to have been surrounded by family and friends when she died at around midday on Monday in Sydney.

The actress announced back in January that she had been diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2016, which later spread to her hip.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph at the time, Corney said “I was told that I did indeed have cancer and it had metastasised to my pelvic bone. I just froze as I heard that word, and thought: Oh please God, I know I haven’t been a practising Catholic for many years but I am still a believer, help me.”

I discovered I had bladder cancer. This then spread to my hip bone which fractured and then I almost died from loss of blood due to an ulcer in my throat. Despite all this, I am still here, as the old song goes.

Sadly despite chemotherapy and radiation treatment, it was discovered that the cancer had metastasised to her spine, and Corney spent the last months of her life in palliative care.

In a television interview with A Current Affair, Corney spoke fondly of her career. “I’ve been very lucky and I’d really like to thank all the producers that have hired me. Because it ain’t easy to put a bitch on television!”

Corney is survived by her son Lawrence Eastland, and 17 year old granddaughter Tipani. Of her ongoing positivity, Lawrence told New Idea in April “Ever the trouper, she remains positive and is hoping for a miracle“.

Lawrence shared a poignant photo of his mother yesterday, that was taken as she rested last week.

In a statement released today, the Seven Network said “Cornelia Frances was a unique person. Her on-screen presence inspired a generation of actors. This gift was coupled with an ability to bring a sense of dignity and presence into each room she entered. Her energy and character will be missed.”

On-screen brother Ray Meagher added “Cornie was an incredibly loved and valued member of our cast over many, many years. We had a moment of silence for her on set this morning and she’ll be sadly missed by both cast and crew.”

Former Home and Away actress Judy Nunn (Ailsa Stewart), a friend of Corney’s for over 40 years today told Back to the BayCorney and I were very good friends, I loved her dearly. We first met while working on ‘The Box’ feature film in 1975 and have been friends ever since. We also worked together on ‘Sons and Daughters’ and ‘Home and Away’, so we’ve been a fixture in each other’s lives both on-screen and off. Corn was not only an excellent actress, a fun human being and a stylish woman, she was one of the most generous people I’ve ever met. She will be sorely missed by all of her many friends.”

We send our heartfelt condolences to Lawrence, Tipani, and the rest of Corney’s family and friends.

There will be a full tribute from BTTB to follow in the coming days.

Already a household name due to her earlier appearances as bitchy Sister Scott in The Young Doctors, and Barbara Hamilton in Sons and Daughters, Corney first appeared as Alf Stewart’s sister Morag in Episode 102 of Home and Away, when she flew in from the city to attend niece Roo’s wedding to Frank Morgan.

Corney’s first appearance as Morag in 1988

The wedding, however didn’t go ahead as planned and Morag left Summer Bay soon after. Morag returned, now as a member of the main cast, to the series in 1989 for the wedding of Frank and her newly-discovered daughter (and arch nemesis), Bobby Simpson. She stayed on for 9 months, before leaving the series once again.

Morag’s next return to the series was after the death of Bobby in 1993. She was then exiled from Summer Bay after it was learnt by Ailsa that she was trying to manipulate Summer Bay to gain custody of her step-grandson, Sam.

She made a surprise comeback in 2001 as the judge presiding over the infamous Dani Sutherland vs. Kane Phillips trial, then made subsequent appearances on a regular basis over the next decade.

Corney’s last appearance on Home and Away came in early 2017, when Morag returned to Summer Bay to defend John Palmer over his arson charges.

Corney’s last scene as Morag

Corney’s last scene as Morag

The scenes were filmed only a couple of weeks before Corney received her diagnosis in November 2016, with her final episode eventually airing in Australia on 25th April 2017.

There will be a full tribute from BTTB to follow in the coming days.