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Neighbours Harold star’s life – attacked by kids, adoption bombshell and tragedy

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    Neighbours fans were thrilled to see the return of iconic character Harold Bishop as the beloved soap made a huge comeback to Amazon.

    Harold was a firm favourite on Ramsay Street from his arrival in 1987, and made a number of special appearances on the soap after his initial exit in 1991.

    He eventually left for good in 2011 after popping in and out a few times, but thrilled fans when he came back for the 2022 finale, and is now back in Erinsborough once again.

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    But what about Ian’s real life? From an adoption twist dramatic enough to rival that of Ramsay Street to a tragic death hitting close to home, Daily Star investigates.

    Adoption hell

    Ian learned at the ripe age of 54 that his mother wasn’t his biological mother at all – and he had actually been adopted.

    The star learned that his birth mother Peg Kline had fallen pregnant with him when she was just 13 years old.

    He only found out when his adoptive mother Connie told him the truth about his birth, just a mere 24 hours before she sadly passed away.

    Peg – who is also now deceased – revealed to ABC the details of Ian’s birth after he went in search of his biological mum, explaining: “When I was 13 – it was in 1938 – and I was a very naive, uneducated 13-year-old…

    “Parents couldn't bring themselves to talk about sex or things like that. It was this so-called friend of the family and he was 26 years old. And he did the wrong thing.”

    Depression battle

    Learning the truth about his identity sent Ian into a spiral of depression, telling Daily Mail Australia in 2017 that he was “taking too much medication” to really be affected by “the black dog”.

    He explained: “I had basically been living a lie for 54 years. I couldn’t even look in the mirror because I didn’t know who I was.”

    The star sought out therapy to battle the condition, which resulted in him writing a memoir about his experiences.

    He added: “I honestly believe seven out of 10 men would go through some form of depression.

    “Men are reasonably stupid – they won't go and see about these things. But thank God more and more footballers and sportsmen have started to go to print about things like depression, because hopefully the tide may be turning.”

    Family life

    Both of Ian’s mothers sadly died within years of him discovering the truth, though he managed to get to know his adoptive mum Peg and his two half-brothers at the time.

    However, he admitted he didn’t feel like it was a mother and son bond, instead referring to his birth mother as one of his “best friends”.

    Peg sadly died from cancer in 2005, while adoptive mum Connie passed in 1992.

    In his personal life, Ian is married to wife Gail, and the pair share several children and grandchildren together.

    ‘Bullied’ by kids

    Speaking about being recognised as his character Harold, Ian hasn’t had it easy over the years.

    He found himself the unfortunate target of a gang of youngsters, who hurled abuse at him while out and about, admitting fame can be “ugly”.

    Some of the abusers even tossed beer over the veteran actor in the street.

    He explained back in 2008: “The recognition I get can be ugly. They hunt in packs, see me, laugh, point, sometimes chuck lager and shout abuse.

    “I absolutely hate it. By semi-retiring – just coming back for a stint every four months – I become a bit less recognisable and hopefully less subjected to the horrible abuse I’ve suffered.”

    Slamming soap

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    Ian’s decision to quit Neighbours came amid fears he was becoming typecast – and he admitted he wished he’d quit the show before he did.

    The star went for an audition for a very different role indeed, but was told: “Oh, you were Harold. You couldn’t possibly be a murdering paedophile.”

    He later marched into the Neighbours producer’s office and blurted that he didn’t want to play Harold any more. He added to Studio 10 that he only wished he’d made the decision sooner.

    However, despite the woes the show brought him, Ian clearly didn’t want to see Neighbours axed for good, as he even begged the Australian government to get involved in reversing the decision.

    He told Courier Mail: “I think the Australian government should have bought it, put it on the ABC and used it as a living, working school for actors, writers and cameramen and put it to air as such.”

    *Neighbours airs weekdays at 1.45pm and 6pm on Channel 5 and streams on My5


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