August 28th is a day of sadness for Jaws fans, as on that date in 1978 Robert Archibald Shaw died. He was only 51.
He suffered a heart attack while driving from Castlebar, County Mayo, to his home for the previous few years in Tourmakeady in County Mayo in Ireland.
Feeling ill, he stopped the car, stepped out, and then collapsed and sadly died on the roadside. His ashes were scattered near his home.
In 2008 a memorial stone was unveiled near where Shaw died, commemorating him. It’s fitting as he was once quoted as saying that it was the only completely unspoiled place in which he had ever lived.
His widow, Virginia, attended the unveiling, where she said: “He was a wonderful person. He was fun, generous, naughty, drank too much and loved his children.
“He just wanted to be himself. He wanted real life. Tourmakeady gave him that. He didn’t like the razzmatazz of Hollywood.”
According to friends, Shaw described Tourmakeady as “the nearest point on earth to heaven" and added. "When I go, I hope it will be from here."
As a renowned and award-winning playwright and author, actor and loving father to ten children, this talented and complicated man packed more into his short 51 years than many do in much longer lifetimes.
Even after over 40 years since his untimely death, his towering legacy remains, as does his huge screen presence, bigger than any IMAX screen you would care to put Jaws, The Sting, A Man For All Seasons or any of his 40 plus films on.
Shaw wrote five novels and three plays. He was working on a sixth novel at the time of his death. He once remarked: “I find acting much easier than writing, but writing is more important to me. I think as I get older I'd rather write, but acting is so much more profitable."
His best-known book was The Man in the Glass Booth, which was also made into a film the same year that Jaws was unleashed across cinema screens.
Robert Shaw, we’ll drink to your legacy.