INTERVIEW | Jared Harris on father Richard: “He kept Limerick and Ireland in his heart”

Jared Harris, with a painting of his father in the background.

AHEAD of the Richard Harris Archive Collection launch, the Limerick Post Caught up with the legendary Limerick actor’s son, a screen legend in his own right, Jared Harris. 

After clearing out their father’s home in the Bahamas, the family of stage and screen idol Richard Harris discovered enough letters, manuscripts, and memorabilia to fill a Hollywood treasure trove, much of it which they have now donated to University College Cork (UCC), with a preview exhibition coming to Limerick’s Hunt Museum.

“We were been spending quite a lot of time trying to figure out where to go [with the items],” said Jared Harris of the family’ generous donation.

“There’s several universities in the United States that specialise in collecting actor’s memorabilia, but we wanted it to go to Ireland, you know, we wanted it to go specifically to Munster. And we wanted that the first exhibition of it to be in Limerick. It was very important that that happen.”

Letters from his children, unpublished material, photographs, and posters make up just some of the collection that will be open to the public for the first time.

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“[There are] letters that he wrote to his parents when he was just starting out when he was here in London. In fact, in one of them, he talks about his intention to ask my mother to marry him. I’d never seen that before.

“It’s kind of wonderful that he kept it. But he didn’t keep it in a way with an intention for it to be seen. He kept it for himself. They were mementos that he did not want to part with, that are important to him,” Jared added.

Famous for his role as King Arthur, Limerick-born Harris was very proud of his roots, especially his time with Young Munster.

Harris’ Young Munster plaque.

“It’s very important to him. You know, he kept Limerick and Ireland in his heart. And you can see that in the writings.

“In fact, humorously, we found a letter where it’s to do with the Munster Cup where he’s praising one of the Limerick teams and having a little dig at one of the Cork teams.

“You can see in this in this archive just how important his Irishness was to him. But also how proudly he waved that flag throughout his career as he went around the world. Even though he may have travelled far, it was always close to his heart.” he explained.

Jared spoke too about growing up in the shadow of his father’s fame, and what it was like to be the son of such an iconic figure.

“Thing is I don’t know what it was like not to grow up with Richard Harris as your dad, so I can’t compare it to anything,” he admitted.

“None of us were in any doubt of the fact that he loved us. He wasn’t present a lot because he was working and we were off at boarding school. But when we were with him, we knew that we were his sole focus of attention.

“There’s a certain sort of anarchy to young children that irritates adults that he really enjoyed.”

Harris posing with his Camelot crown.

Jared fondly recalls one childhood memory, very in keeping with his father’s hellraiser image, where the family arrived to their Bahamas home for the first time to a house full of bric-a-brac belonging to the previous owners who were there to welcome the Irish clan in.

“We’re bored and we start kicking the football around and one of the adults tells us to stop doing it – which irritated my father – and we break something.

“When we get told off for breaking it, the person says to us, you know, ‘we could have got $50 for that’. And my father says, ‘there’s another one over there just like it, I’ll give you $100 if you break that one, $200 if you break it with a header’.”

Harris in Pirandello’s Henry IV with a note from Peter O’ Toole.

Speaking to Limerick’s Live 95, Harris said that Limerick was the first choice to house the Cork-bound treasure trove, but it was not meant to be.

“Limerick was always the sentimental choice and the first choice. But for whatever reason, you know, you don’t really know why these things don’t work out. It didn’t work out. Cork ended up being the perfect place for it.”

Details of Richard Harris Archive exhibition at the Hunt Museum will be released in the coming weeks before its final stop at UCC.