As a new biopic about Laurel and Hardy is about to open, Stan Laurel’s name has been back in the news. It’s not because of his work, either; it’s because of his mother. More accurately, it’s because of the state of his mother’s grave.
Margaret “Madge” Metcalfe Jefferson was born in 1860 or ’61, depending on who you ask. According to the UCLA Film and Television Archive, she and her husband Arthur, better known as AJ, were well entrenched in the world of entertainment long before their famous son was even born.
AJ was an actor, director, producer, and playwright who managed several theaters in the north of England, and Madge was a popular actress. The couple moved around as part of their theater careers, but ended up in Glasgow, Scotland, where Stan spent much of his childhood.
When Madge died in her late 40s, she was buried in Cathcart Cemetery, in East Renfrewshire, Scotland. Arthur and Madge had four children, and the second was Arthur Stanley Jefferson, who would come to be known as Stan Laurel.
Despite her own popularity, or her son’s, her grave has fallen into disrepair over the years, becoming overgrown and lacking a headstone.
Now, her great-great-granddaughter, Kassidy Cook, is planning on heading to Scotland from her home in Calofornia to rectify the situation. The matter was brought to her attention by a Laurel and Hardy expert, Ross Owen, who consulted on Stan and Laurel, according to the Sunday Post.
Speaking about her mission of ancestral mercy, Cook said she had paperwork that suggested there had once been a stone marking the grave and that it may have been stolen or destroyed at some point.
Her plan for funding the mission is to hold a lottery, selling tickets for $1 each, with the idea that the winner would be able to receive a piece of memorabilia from the family archives and hopefully also attend when the new stone is unveiled. The goal is to have it ready by this summer.
Cook is not a stranger to Scotland. When she was a child, she went to visit her grandmother, Lois, who was Stan’s only daughter. Lois died in 2017.
Cook said that she visited for three weeks, when she was about 12, and spent the time visiting Stan’s former home, the pub his sister worked at, and various theaters where he had performed over the years.
When she was a child, she knew her family wasn’t exactly like everyone else’s and said that her home growing up was full of statues and pictures of her famous relative, but she wasn’t sure at the time if they were related or if her family were just really big fans. She also didn’t know back then just how popular Laurel and Hardy were.
Cook said “It was only when I went to a convention in Denmark and chatted with the thousands of attendees – who didn’t know I was connected to Stan – that I realized how cherished his movies were and what joy he had brought to so many.”
Carrying on the family’s longstanding ties with the world of entertainment, she’s putting together a film production company for underprivileged children, which also furthers the family legacy for helping others. She’s hoping that the new biopic will help gain publicity for her project and introduce a new generation of fans to Laurel and Hardy.
She said that Stan went out of his way to be approachable to people, including always having a published phone number, and he believed in treating everyone equally. He was raised to be a normal guy and never really lost that perspective after he became famous.
She believes that her great-grandfather would be surprised and happy by how excited people still get over the work he did as part of Laurel and Hardy.