Elspeth Ballantyne

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Elspeth Ballantyne
Born (1939-04-20) 20 April 1939 (age 83)
Years activeFilm and television 1963–2013
Theatre 1954–1991, 2008–2009[1]
Known for
(m. 1968; div. 1977)

Elspeth Ballantyne (born 20 April 1939) is an Australian former actress, who appeared in productions in theatre, television and films over a career that spanned nearly 60 years, a veteran of the industry having started her career in theatre in 1954, at the age of just fifteen[1]

Ballantyne is probably best known for her small screen roles in numerous TV serials. Her first major TV role was in the serial Bellbird in 1967 as librarian Lori Chandler, opposite actor Dennis Miller, whom she would marry the following year, she remained in the role until 1971.

She became a staple of the early Crawford Production serials in the 1970s, however became best known for her role in the TV cult series Prisoner (known internationally as Prisoner: Cell Block H) from 1979 to 1986 as original character of firm but fair Prison Officer Meg Jackson (later Morris). She was the only actress to appear in the series' full 8-year run.

After Prisoner she took guest roles in The Flying Doctors and G.P., before becoming a regular starring in the soap opera Neighbours as coffee shop owner Cathy Alessi, the wife of Benito Alessi (George Spartels and children Rick and Marco Dan Falzon and Felice Arena, as part of a new Italian family that was introduced to the series in 1992, she left the show the following year.

Subsequently, she appeared in guest parts on TV dramas Blue Heelers, The Secret Life of Us' and All Saints and miniseries Paper Giants: Magazine Wars (2013)

She has featured in film roles (with features and telemovies) including The Caterpillar Wish (2006), Moonlight and Magic (2007), Red Hill (2010), Boronia Boys (2009) and sequel Boronia Backpackers (2011)


Early career[edit]

Ballantyne was born into a show business family in Adelaide, South Australia, the daughter of Colin Sandergrove Ballantyne[2] a photographer, who became a prominent figure in theatre as an actor, producer and director and arts administrator who was head of the South Australian Theatre Company.

Having started her career as a laboratory technician with the Royal Adelaide Hospital, she then attended drama school, at NIDA. She went on to act as librarian Lori Chandler in the rural soap opera Bellbird, screened on ABC.[3]

TV series Prisoner and Neighbours[edit]

Ballantyne subsequently played compassionate prison officer Meg Jackson in the soap opera Prisoner. Ballantyne was the only actor to stay with the series for its entire eight-year run. She later reprised her famous role of Meg in the original stage tour of Prisoner: Cell Block H – The Stage Play, which toured the UK in 1989.

In the early 1990s, she had a stint in Channel Ten soap opera Neighbours, as part of the Italian Alessi family.

Film roles[edit]

She has appeared in feature films The Caterpillar Wish as Mrs. Woodbridge, and in Moonlight & Magic as thrift shop owner Desma. Ballantyne also appeared in the drama short film Twenty Five Cents (2007), and as the wheelchair-bound matriarch in the short The Last Tupper (2011). She played Maxine Danials in the Boronia movies Boronia Boys (2009) and Boronia Backpackers (2011) and Paper Giants: Magazine Wars in 2013.

Personal life[edit]

Ballantyne was married to actor Dennis Miller from 1968 to 1977. Both had leading roles in the long-running series Bellbird. They have two sons together: Matthew and Tobias.[4] She is the sister of film producer Jane Ballantyne.


Year TV show/TV movie Role Episode/Other Notes
1963 Consider Your Verdict Cynthia Martin ”Queen Versus Luxton” (#1.106)
Double Yolk Jane "TV movie/Play
And The Big Men Fly TV Movie
1964–1975 Homicide various roles
Maureen Davis
Cheryl Evans
Suzi Knight
4 episodes
“The Silent Witness- 1964 (#1.9)
”One Itch To Murder”- 1972 (#9.34)
”The Fireworks Man”- 1974 (#11.34)
”Rage”- 1975 (#12.22)
1965 Photo Finish TV Movie
Daphne Laureola TV play
1966 Plain Jane Kathleen TV movie/play
Anonymous TV play
1967–1971 Bellbird Laura 'Lori' Chandler / Laura 'Lori' Grey Regular cast-518 episodes
1973 Ryan Rhoda Bitov The Girl With The Golden Slippers (#1.11)
1974 Marion
This Love Affair
1972–1975 Matlock Police Various roles
Shirley Evans
Jenny Fisher
Judy Martin
Jean Thompson
4 episodes
“Chain Reaction”- 1972 (#2.82)
The Loan Wolf”- 1973 (#3.126)
”Prosperity Breeds Contempt”- 1974 (#4.148)
“First Day Out” - 1975 (#5.185)
1972–1975 Division 4 Various roles
Janet Walker
Dr. Jan Moore
Fran Taylor
Iris Ryan
Karen Marsh
Sen. Const. Terri Standish
June Salmon
9 episodes
”For The Love Of Money”- 1972 (#4.27)
”Senior Stewart”- 1972 (#4.38)
”Flight Plan”- 1972 (#5.1)
Traveling Man”- 1973 (#5.12)
”Talk Back”- 1973(#6.4)
”The Virgil”- 1974 (#6.35)
”Easy Mark”- 1975 (#7.4)
A Sense of Duty Part 1&2”-1975 (#7.15, 16)
1975 ” Quality of Mercy “ ”The Love Job” (#1.2)
1976 End Play Welfare Officer
Tandarra Molly Martin ”That's What Worries Me (#1.13)
Power Without Glory Dorothy Wells 2 episodes
”Confound Their Politics” (#1.23) “Fallen Heroes” (#1.24)
Solo One Sylvia Simpson ”Little Joe” (#1.5)
1977 Bluey Rhoda Lewis ”Son of Bluey” (#1.39)
1978 Cop Shop Claudie Gaynor, Dawn Curran (2 episodes) Episodes: #1.52, #1.71, #1.72
Blue Fin Mrs. Pascoe Film
1979–1986 Prisoner
(UK:'Prisoner: Cell Block H / Canada 'Caged Women'.)
Meg Morris/Meg Jackson Regular cast- 669 episodes
1979 Ride on Stranger
1982 Breakfast in Paris Millie Film
1987–1991 The Flying Doctors 3 roles
Barbara Freeman
Wendy Ross
Alice Franklin
3 episodes
"The Unluckiest Boy In Town" – 1987 (#2.3)
”Cadenza” – 1988 (#4.20)
”None So Blind” -1991 (#8.6)
1988 Captain Johnno Mrs. Greenwood TV Movie
Spit MacPhee Grace Tree TV miniseries
1989–1991 Pugwall Aunt Annabelle 10 episodes
1989 Blowing Hot and Cold Shelagh MacBean Film
1991 G.P. Jean Watson “The Price You Pay” (#3.27)
1992–1993 Neighbours Cathy Alessi Regular Cast- 45 episodes
1997 One Way Ticket Elizabeth Film
1998 State Coroner Pat Thompson “Three's A Crowd” (#2.9)
2000 Selkie Loopy Laura TV movie
SeaChange Coral Kiss 2 Episodes
”Love Is In the Time of Coleridge’’ (#3.11)
”To Thine Own Self Be Relatively True(#3.12)
2002 Blue Heelers Margaret White ”Sins of The Father” (#9.16)
Marshall Law Irene "Money Talks" (#1.17)
2003 The Secret Life of Us Celebrant ”The Quality of My Life” (#3.6)
2003–2004 Stingers Chief Comm. Steadman 2 episodes
“Boosted”- 2003 (#7.27)
”Break and Enter”- 2004 (#8.8)
2004 All Saints Anne Lytton ”Benefit of the Doubt” (#7.30), “Don't Look Back (#7.31)
2005 Last Man Standing Aunty Marg Episode 1.1
”Three Dollars” Eddie's Mother Film
2006 The Caterpillar Wish Mrs. Woodbridge Film
2007 Moonlight & Magic Desma Film
Twenty Five Cents (Short)- 6 minutes
2008 City Homicide Miss Evelyn Purcell ”Thicker Than Water” (#2.1)
“Floating” Elderly Lady (Short)- 15 minutes
2009 “Boronia Boys” Maxine Film
2010 Red Hill Old Woman Film
Rush Edie Episode #3.22
”The Last Tupper” Rhona (Short) – 7 minutes
2011 Boronia Backpackers Maxine Daniels Film
2013 Paper Giants: Magazine Wars Emily King Episode #1.1


  1. ^ a b "Elspeth Ballantyne".
  2. ^ Peter Ward (2007). Ballantyne, Colin Sandergrove (1908-1988). Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  3. ^ "Elspeth Ballantyne Biography - Rotten Tomatoes". www.rottentomatoes.com.
  4. ^ Pogorelske, Paulyne (7 August 1982). "Life as a Single Parent". TV Week.

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