seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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The Inaugural Meeting of Aosdána

The inaugural meeting of Aosdána, an Irish association of artists, takes place in the Old Parliament House in Dublin on April 14, 1983. It is created in 1981 on the initiative of a group of writers with support from the Arts Council of Ireland. Membership, which is by invitation from current members, is limited to 250 individuals, up from 200 prior to 2005. Its governing body is called the Toscaireacht.

At the suggestion of writer Anthony Cronin, who becomes a founding member, Aosdána is originally established in 1981 by Taoiseach Charles Haughey, well known for his support for the Arts, although columnist Fintan O’Toole has argued that this also serves to deflect criticism of Haughey’s political actions. Haughey’s successor, Garret FitzGerald, formally addresses the inaugural assembly of Aosdána in Dublin.

The process of induction into Aosdána relies entirely on members proposing new members. Applications by artists themselves are not allowed. Some members receive a stipend, called the Cnuas, from the Arts Council of Ireland. This stipend is intended to allow recipients to work full-time at their art. The value of the Cnuas in 2015 is €17,180.

The title of Saoi is the highest honour that members of Aosdána can bestow upon a fellow member. No more than seven living members can be so honoured at one time. The honour is conferred by the President of Ireland in a ceremony during which a gold torc is placed around the neck of the recipient by the President. The current living Saoithe are Seóirse Bodley (composer), Camille Souter (painter), Imogen Stuart (sculptor), George Morrison (film-maker), Edna O’Brien (writer), and Roger Doyle (composer). Among the deceased holders of the title of Saoi are the Nobel Laureates Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney, dramatists Brian Friel and Tom Murphy, and the artists Patrick Scott and Louis le Brocquy.

The poet Pearse Hutchinson, a member of Aosdána, describes the organisation as “a miracle and a godsend” that allows him to continue writing at a time when he might have had to give up. Composer Roger Doyle has also spoken about the difference it makes, “I was elected to Aosdána in 1986. This gave me a small stipend from the Government each year, which enabled me to devote all my time to composing. This changed my life for the better and I have composed non-stop since then.”

The Toscaireacht is a committee of ten members, called Toscairí, of the Aosdána. It meets several times a year to deal with the administration and external relations of Aosdána, reports to every General Assembly, which meets once a year, and sets its Agenda. When new members of Aosdána are proposed, the Toscairí have the task of verifying that the nomination process has been complied with, and also that the candidate is willing to accept membership, before the next stage of election is begun.

Toscairí are elected to the Toscaireacht by the members of Aosdána for two year terms. All members of Aosdána are eligible for election, and nominations must be made in writing by three members. The electoral process is in two stages. First, within each of Aosdána’s three disciplines (Music, Literature, and Visual Arts), the two nominees with the highest number of votes are elected. This guarantees a minimum of two Toscairí from each of the disciplines. Next, the remaining four places are filled by the remaining nominees from any discipline who have the highest number of votes.

The current Toscairí are Anne Haverty (literature), Deirdre Kinahan (literature); Eamon Colman (visual art), Enda Wyley (literature), Geraldine O’Reilly (visual art), Gerard Smyth (literature), Gráinne Mulvey (music), Mary O’Donnell (literature), Michael Holohan (music), and Theo Dorgan (literature).

The procedure at meetings is laid down in the Toscaireacht’s Standing Orders. Minutes of its meetings appear on Aosdána’s web site (aosdana.artscouncil.ie).


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Abbey Theatre Premiere of “The Shadow of a Gunman”

The Shadow Of A Gunman, a 1923 tragicomedy play by Seán O’Casey, premieres at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin on April 12, 1923.

The play is the first in O’Casey’s “Dublin Trilogy” – the other two being Juno and the Paycock (1924) and The Plough and the Stars (1926). It is set in Dublin in May 1920 during the Irish War of Independence and centres on the mistaken identity of a building tenant who is thought to be an Irish Republican Army (IRA) assassin. Each act takes place in Seumus Shield’s room in a tenement in Hilljoy Square.

Donal Davoren is a poet who has come to room with Seumus Shields in a poor, Dublin tenement slum. Many of the residents of the tenement mistake Donal for an IRA gunman on the run. Donal does not refute this notoriety, especially when it wins him the affection of Minnie Powell, an attractive young woman in the tenement. Meanwhile, Seumus’ business partner, Mr. Maguire, drops a bag off at Seumus’ apartment before participating in an ambush in which he is killed. Seumus believes the bag to contain household items for re-sale. The city is put under curfew as a result of the ambush. The Black and Tans raid the tenement and, at that point, Donal and Seumus discover the bag is full of Mills bombs. Minnie Powell takes the bag and hides it in her own room. The Black and Tans find nothing of note in Seumus’ room, but arrest Minnie Powell, who is later shot and killed trying to escape.

The first performance of The Shadow of a Gunman in England is given in 1958 at the Progress Theatre in Reading, Berkshire.

A 1972 televised version of The Shadow of a Gunman stars Frank Converse and Academy Award winner Richard Dreyfuss. In 1973, Alvin Rakoff directs a televised version for BBC Two starring Stephen Rea, Sinéad Cusack and Donal McCann. In 1992 Kenneth Branagh, Stephen Rea and Bronagh Gallagher star in an adaption as part of the 1992 BBC Two Performance series.

In the music video for Northern Irish rock/pop band The Adventures song “Send My Heart” (1984), the lead character is seen trying out for a version of the play.


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Birth of Sculptor Oliver Sheppard

Oliver Sheppard RHA, Irish sculptor most famous for his 1911 bronze statue of the mythical Cúchulainn dying in battle, is born at Old Town, Cookstown, County Tyrone on April 10, 1865. His work is also part of the art competitions at the 1924 Summer Olympics and the 1928 Summer Olympics.

Sheppard is born to Simpson Sheppard, a sculptor, and Ellen White, of Ormond Quay, Dublin.

Sheppard is based in Dublin for almost all of his life, having travelled widely across Europe. He and his wife Rosie have several children. They live at Howth and 30 Pembroke Road in central Dublin. She dies in 1931.

Sheppard’s main influence is the Frenchman Édouard Lantéri who teaches him at the Royal College of Art in London, and then at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin (now the National College of Art and Design), where he later becomes a lecturer.

From 1902 to 1937 Sheppard teaches sculpture at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art, which is renamed the National College of Art in 1936. His annual stipend is £250 but for this he only has to lecture on three mornings per week, allowing him plenty of time for work on commissioned projects. One of his most famous students is the sculptor Kathleen Cox.

As a prominent sculptor Sheppard is a member of the Royal Hibernian Academy, the Royal Dublin Society, and is made a governor of the National Gallery of Ireland from 1925–41. He also exhibits works at European exhibitions during his lifetime, occasionally winning prizes.

Sheppard is generally critical of the low standards of sculpture in Ireland, saying, “For the last sixty years or so thousands of figures and groups have been executed in Dublin for ecclesiastical purposes, and, with one or two exceptions…was not up to a reasonable standard. The making of a work of art hardly entered into it at all. The sculptor, well trained and properly encouraged, should collaborate with the architect.”

In 1890–1910 Sheppard is a part of the Celtic Revival movement, and, from his works such as Inis Fáil, is admired by his student William Pearse. Through him he meets his brother, Patrick Pearse, who later helps launch the Easter Rising in 1916. While most of the Revival’s artists are writers, playwrights and poets, Sheppard can claim to be the main sculptor working on themes similar to theirs.

Sheppard is in the minority of Irish Protestants who support independence, starting with support for the Irish Parliamentary Party in the 1880s, when he is an art student. After the Irish War of Independence (1919–21) he says, “They thought me too old to fight but I have tried to help in other ways. My politics are simple. I have always thought that this country should be a free country.” His opinions are not overly dogmatic, considering his work on the war memorials in 1920.

In the mid-1920s the first series of Irish Free State coinage is planned, and is finally launched in 1928. Sheppard is one of the designers short-listed but his designs are not accepted.

Sheppard dies in Dublin on September 14, 1941.

(Pictured: “The Dying Cúchulainn,” sculpture by Oliver Sheppard, now at the General Post Office (GPO) in Dublin)


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Birth of Irish Painter Sir Frederic William Burton RHA

Irish painter Sir Frederic William Burton RHA is born in County Wicklow on April 8, 1816. The third son of Samuel Frederick Burton and his wife Hanna Mallett, he is taken by his parents to live in County Clare on the west coast of Ireland at the age of six. The old Burton seat is Clifden House, Corofin, County Clare, which is built around the middle of the eighteenth century. The artist’s grandparents were Major Edward William Burton, Clifden, who was High Sheriff of Clare in 1799, and his wife, Jane Blood of nearby Roxton, County Clare. In his youth he has strong sympathy with the Young Ireland movement.

Educated in Dublin, Burton is elected an associate of the Royal Hibernian Academy at the age of twenty-one and an academician two years later. In 1842 he begins to exhibit at the Royal Academy. A visit to Germany and Bavaria in 1842 is the first of a long series of trips to various parts of Europe, which give him a profound knowledge of the works of the Old Masters. From 1851 he spends seven years working as a painter in the service of Maximilian II of Bavaria.

Burton works with George Petrie on archaeological sketches and is on the council of the Royal Irish Academy and the Archaeological Society of Ireland. He is elected an associate of the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolours in 1855, and a full member in the following year. He resigns in 1870, and is reelected as an honorary member in 1886.

In 1874 Burton is appointed the third director of the National Gallery, London, in succession to Sir William Boxall RA. In June 1874, he obtains a special grant to acquire the art collection of Alexander Barker, which includes Piero della Francesca‘s Nativity and Sandro Botticelli‘s Venus and Mars. In 1876 a bequest of 94 paintings, mainly by Dutch artists but also including works by Antonio del Pollaiuolo, Dieric Bouts and Canaletto, is made by the British haberdasher Wynne Ellis. Also in this year an extension to the Gallery by Edward Middleton Barry is completed.

During the twenty years that Burton holds this post he is responsible for many important purchases, among them Leonardo da Vinci‘s Virgin of the Rocks, Raphael‘s Ansidei Madonna, Anthony van Dyck‘s Equestrian portrait of Charles I, Hans Holbein the Younger‘s Ambassadors, and the Admiral Pulido Pareja, by Diego Velázquez (this subsequently attributed to Velázquez’s assistant Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo). He also adds to the noted series of Early Italian pictures in the gallery. The number of acquisitions made to the collection during his period of office exceeds 500.

Burton’s best-known watercolours, The Aran Fisherman’s Drowned Child (1841) and The Meeting on Turret Stairs (1864) are in the National Gallery of Ireland. The Meeting on Turret Stairs is voted by the Irish public as Ireland’s favourite painting in 2012 from among ten works shortlisted by critics. A knighthood is conferred on him in 1884, and the degree of LL.D. of Dublin in 1889.

Burton dies in Kensington, West End of London on March 16, 1900 and is buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin.

(Pictured: “Sir Frederic William Burton,” painting by Henry Tanworth Wells (died 1903), given to the National Portrait Gallery, London in 1913)


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Birth of Irish Entertainer Adèle King

Adèle King, Irish entertainer better known as Twink, is born on April 4, 1951 in Dublin. She is the mother of singer Chloë Agnew from the group Celtic Woman.

King begins singing and acting at the age of five. She is a Gaiety Kiddie and works in pantomime with performers such as Jimmy O’Dea, Milo O’Shea and Maureen Potter. She is also a Young Dublin Singer, from which is formed the trio Maxi, Dick and Twink.

King spends more than 30 years in Dublin’s theatres, 26 years in the Gaiety Theatre, two years in the Point Theatre and five years in the Olympia Theatre. At the Olympia Theatre she co-produces and co-writes much of the shows. She has been described as Ireland’s “Panto Queen.” She has roles in a number of theatrical productions in Ireland, including Dirty Dusting at the Gaiety Theatre and Menopause: The Musical.

King appears on Irish television regularly since the late 1960s. She stars in her own series Twink on RTÉ. She spends ten years on Play the Game, and makes many appearances as a guest on a wide range of programmes, including RTÉ’s The Late Late Show, being the subject of a tribute on that show in 2005. She also is the subject of a weekend visit by the television programme Livin’ with Lucy with Lucy Kennedy.

In 1993 King is the guest act at a Christmas concert by Perry Como at Dublin’s Point Theatre, televised to a worldwide audience of 880 million. In 2003 she takes part in RTÉ’s Celebrity Farm and in 2011 she wins TV3‘s Celebrity Head Chef, receiving €10,000 for charity as a result.

King has written an agony aunt page for the Irish magazine TV Now. In 2011, she is given an agony aunt programme on TV3 called Give Adele a Bell. However, after a delay, the programme is cancelled in June 2012 without an episode being made. She wins a Jacob’s Award for her performance in her 1981 Christmas Light Entertainment Special on RTÉ2.

King establishes a performance school in the summer of 2002, the Adèle King Theatre School in Castleknock and Greenhills. Pupils of the school have appeared on television, in films, and in commercials in Ireland and abroad. The school does not re-open for the 2008 autumn term.

King marries oboist David Agnew in 1983 and has two children, Chloë in 1989, who sings with the group Celtic Woman, and Naomi in 1993. The marriage ends after 21 years, in October 2004.

King describes the Irish singer Linda Martin as a “cunt” during a tirade in May 2010. The two had been friends for 30 years but afterwards both say they have no plans to speak to each other again.

King has pet dogs, cats, birds, and a donkey. She lives with her daughters in Knocklyon, Dublin. In April 2015 it is reported that she and her ex-husband face a bid by the Bank of Scotland to repossess a house which is mortgaged in both their names. The application for possession against King had already previously been adjourned by the court.

In September 2014 it is widely reported across major Irish media outlets that King’s dog, Teddy Bear, had been kidnapped. Commenting on the events, she is quoted describing Linda Martin as being “a very powerful woman in the dog world” and that the kidnapping marked her own personal “Erin Brockovich moment.” On September 24 she is reunited with her dog after a public tip-off leads to the police arrest of a man in Dublin.

(Photo credit to Crispin Rodwell, The Sun Dublin)


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Death of Brian O’Nolan, Novelist & Playwright

Brian O’Nolan, Irish novelist, playwright and satirist considered a major figure in twentieth century Irish literature, dies of a heart attack in Dublin on April 1, 1966. He is better known by his pen name Flann O’Brien.

O’Nolan is born in Strabane, County Tyrone on October 5, 1911. He attends Blackrock College where he is taught English by President of the College, and future Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid. He also spends part of his schooling years in Synge Street Christian Brothers School. His novel The Hard Life is a semi autobiographical depiction of his experience with the Christian Brothers.

O’Nolan writes prodigiously during his years as a student at University College, Dublin (UCD), where he is an active, and controversial, member of the well known Literary and Historical Society. He contributes to the student magazine Comhthrom Féinne (Fair Play) under various guises, in particular the pseudonym Brother Barnabas. Significantly, he composes a story during this same period titled “Scenes in a Novel (probably posthumous) by Brother Barnabas”, which anticipates many of the ideas and themes later to be found in his novel At Swim-Two-Birds.

In 1934 O’Nolan and his student friends found a short-lived magazine called Blather. The writing here, though clearly bearing the marks of youthful bravado, again somewhat anticipates O’Nolan’s later work, in this case his Cruiskeen Lawn column as Myles na gCopaleen. Having studied the German language in Dublin, he may have spent at least parts of 1933 and 1934 in Germany, namely in Cologne and Bonn, although details are uncertain and contested.

A key feature of O’Nolan’s personal situation is his status as an Irish government civil servant, who, as a result of his father’s relatively early death, is obliged to support ten siblings, including an elder brother who is an unsuccessful writer. Given the desperate poverty of Ireland in the 1930s to 1960s, a job as a civil servant is considered prestigious, being both secure and pensionable with a reliable cash income in a largely agrarian economy. The Irish civil service is fairly strictly apolitical, prohibiting Civil Servants above the level of clerical officer from publicly expressing political views. This fact alone contributes to his use of pseudonyms, though he had started to create character-authors even in his pre-civil service writings. He rises to be quite senior, serving as private secretary to Seán T. O’Kelly and Seán McEntee.

Although O’Nolan is a well known character in Dublin during his lifetime, relatively little is known about his personal life. On December 2, 1948 he marries Evelyn McDonnell, a typist in the Department of Local Government. On his marriage he moves from his parental home in Blackrock to nearby Merrion Street, living at several further locations in South Dublin before his death. The couple has no children.

O’Nolan is an alcoholic for much of his life and suffers from ill health in his later years. He suffers from throat cancer and dies from a heart attack in Dublin on the morning of April 1, 1966. He is buried in Deans Grange Cemetery in Dublin.


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Birth of Shakespearean Actress Harriet Smithson

Harriet Constance Smithson, Anglo-Irish Shakespearean actress of the 19th century and best known as the first wife and muse of Hector Berlioz, is born at Ennis, County Clare on March 18, 1800.

Her father, William Joseph Smithson, is an actor and theatrical manager from Gloucestershire, England, and her mother is an actress whose full name is unknown. She also has a brother, Joseph Smithson, and a sister, name also unknown. In October 1801, she is left in the care of Reverend James Barrett, a priest of the Church of Ireland, parish of Drumcliffe. Barrett becomes her guardian and raises her as though she were his own daughter. He instructs her “in the precepts of religion,” and keeps everything connected with the stage from her view. After his death on February 16, 1808, the Smithsons send Harriet to a boarding school in Waterford.

On May 27, 1814, Smithson makes her first stage appearance at the Theatre Royal, Dublin, as Albina Mandevill in Frederick Reynolds‘s The Will. Her performance is well received. In 1815, she takes her parents’ place in Montague Talbot’s company in Belfast after they return to Dublin. The season opens on January 1, 1816, where she extends her range in roles, performing in multiple comedies. She then travels to Newry, Limerick, Dublin, and Birmingham, where she joins Robert Elliston‘s company. She spends the next two months playing over forty roles in various genres.

Four years later, January 20, 1818, Smithson makes her first London appearance at Drury Lane as Letitia Hardy in The Belle’s Stratagem. Her first performance receives mixed reviews from critics, but she quickly gains some favour of critics and performers as she obtains more experience. She joins the permanent company at the Royal Coburg Theatre later that year. However, she rejoins Drury Lane Company in the autumn of 1820. On February 20, 1821, she takes the lead female role in Thérèse by John Howard Payne, when the cast actress falls ill. Overall, the London public remembers her as The Times put it, “a face and features well adapted to her profession; but [an actress] not likely to make a great impression on a London audience, or to figure among stars of the first magnitude.”

In 1827, Smithson makes her Paris début as Lydia Languish in The Rivals at the Théâtre de l’Impératrice. Though she receives negative reviews for this role, she is highly praised for her beauty and ability in the subsequent performance of She Stoops to Conquer. On September 11, 1827, she is given the small part of Ophelia next to Charles Kemble in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. She leaves a long lasting impression on the French through her interpretation of Ophelia’s madness, utilizing pantomime and natural presentation.

The tremendous success of Hamlet leads to the announcement of Romeo and Juliet, for September 15. Smithson is cast as Juliet, where she revolutionizes the women’s role in theatre by becoming as important as her male counterpart. Until this point, women’s lines in theatre are heavily cut and censored to reduce the role for the company’s “restricted talent.” Again, the production is widely well received. On September 18, Shakespeare’s Othello becomes the third Shakespeare tragedy to be performed by The English theatre. Her performance as Desdemona is less effective, but the production is popular enough to be repeated the following week. She is cast as Jane Shore in the renowned tragedy The Tragedy of Jane Shore, a role in which she moves her audience to tears. The production soon becomes the most performed play in the English season. At the end of her time in France, she had acted in several productions with famous actors such as William Charles Macready, Edmund Kean, and Charles Kemble.

As opportunities to continue her work in Paris dwindle, Smithson returns to London to perform Jane Shore again. The production opens at Covent Garden on May 11, 1829 under unfavorable circumstances. Some audience members, who had read her reviews before she went to Paris, feel reluctant to attend the show. However, just seven days after her next performance as Juliet, in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the press gives her glowing reviews.

After Covent Garden closes for the summer in 1832, Smithson tours England to minor theatres performing almost exclusively in tragedies. In June 1832, she joins the Theatre Royal Haymarket, where she has limited success and receives criticism about her weight.

In 1830, Smithson goes back to Paris to set up an English theatre under her own management. She obtains permission to perform at the Theatre-Italien where she performs several unsuccessful plays. A year later, she breaks her leg and is forced to put her career on hold until her leg heals, leaving her in great debt. She gives her last performance, as Ophelia, on December 15, 1836, before her health deteriorates.

Toward the end of her life, Smithson suffers from paralysis, which leaves her barely able to move or speak. She dies on March 3, 1854, at her home on the rue Saint-Vincent, and is buried at the Cimetière Saint-Vincent. Berlioz has her body is later reinterred at the Montmartre Cemetery when Cimetière Saint-Vincent undergoes redevelopment.

(Pictured: Oil on canvas portrait of Harriet Smithson by Claude-Marie-Paul Dubufe, located at the Musee Magnin, Dijon, France)


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Birth of Isaac Weld, Writer, Explorer & Artist

Isaac Weld, Irish topographical writer, explorer, and artist, is born on Fleet Street, Dublin on March 15, 1774. He is a member of the Royal Dublin Society.

Weld’s name stems from his great-grandfather Nathanael Weld’s close friendship with Sir Isaac Newton, and as such both his grandfather and father are also named Isaac. His father is a close friend of Charles James Fox. His sister marries George Ensor, and their half-brother is Charles Richard Weld, traveler and author of A Vacation Tour in the United States and Canada (London, 1855), which is dedicated to his brother, Isaac. He is sent to the school of Samuel Whyte at Grafton Street and from there to another private school Barbauld at Palgrave near the town of Diss in Norfolk. From Diss he proceeds to Norwich as a private pupil of Dr. William Enfield. He leaves Norwich in 1793.

In 1795 he sails to Philadelphia from Dublin and spends two years traveling in the United States and Canada, partly as an adventure and partly as research into suitable countries to which the Irish can emigrate. He visits Monticello and Mount Vernon and meets George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. He travels on horseback, by coach and by canoe in Canada with local native guides. He returns in 1797 “without entertaining the slightest wish to revisit it.” He finds the Americans to be obsessed with material things and prefers Canada. His published Travels (1799) quickly goes into three editions and is translated into French, German, Italian, and Dutch.

Weld writes on slavery that “there will be an end to slavery in the United States…[as] negroes will not remain deaf to the inviting call of liberty forever.” With regard to Americans in general, he states, “Civility cannot be purchased from them on any terms; they seem to think that it is incompatible with freedom.” On Washington, D.C., he writes “If the affairs of the United States go on as rapidly as they have done, it will become the grand emporium of the West, and rival in magnitude and splendour the cities of the whole world.”

Weld visits Killarney, navigates the lakes in a boat he made from compressed brown paper, and publishes Scenery of Killarney (1807), illustrated with his own drawings. He is also well known for his drawings of American life and, in particular, the Niagara Falls.

In May 1815 Weld sails from Dún Laoghaire to London in the 14 horsepower (10 kW) steamboat Thames, the first such vessel to make the passage. He compiles the Statistical Survey of the County of Roscommon (1838) for the Royal Dublin Society, of which he is Honorary Secretary and Vice-President. In later life, he spends much time in Italy and particularly Rome, where he develops a friendship with Antonio Canova.

Weld dies at his home, Ravenswell, near Bray, County Wicklow, on August 4, 1856, and is buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin.

Weld is part of the Weld family of New England. His ancestor, Thomas Welde, is a Puritan minister from Suffolk, England who is one of three brothers who emigrated to Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1632. His great-great-grandfather, Thomas Weld, helps to publish the Bay Psalm Book, the first book published in America. His great-grandfather, Nathaniel, is graduated at Harvard College. He leaves Massachusetts for Kinsale and then Blarney Castle, County Cork, in 1655 to be a Puritan Chaplain with Oliver Cromwell. He later moves to Dublin.

The family that stays in America grows in wealth and influence and includes such notables as Governor of Massachusetts William Weld, Isabel Weld Perkins, and Theodore Dwight Weld.


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Birth of Ciarán Bourke, Founding Member of The Dubliners

Ciarán Bourke, Irish musician and one of the founding members of the Irish folk band The Dubliners, is born in Dublin on February 18, 1935.

Although born in Dublin, Bourke lives most of his life in Tibradden, County Dublin. His father, a doctor, is in practice in the city. The children have an Irish-speaking nanny. His early exposure to Irish continues throughout his education, attending Colaiste Mhuire, Parnell Square, Dublin. He later attends University College Dublin for a course in Agricultural Science. He does not take his degree but always retains an interest in farming.

After leaving university Bourke meets two of his future bandmates in The Dubliners, Ronnie Drew and Barney McKenna, who invite him to join their sessions in O’Donoghue’s Pub where he plays tin whistle, mouth organ and guitar, and sings. Luke Kelly, who had been singing around the clubs in England, returns to Dublin and joins them, with the four gaining local popularity. Taking the name The Dubliners, the group puts together the first folk concert of its kind in Dublin. The concert is a success, then a theatrical production called “A Ballad Tour of Ireland” is staged at the Gate Theatre shortly afterwards. In 1964 fiddle player John Sheahan joins the band and this becomes known as the original Dubliners line-up.

Bourke is responsible for bringing a Gaelic element to The Dubliners’ music with songs such as “Peggy Lettermore” and “Sé Fáth Mo Bhuartha” being performed in the Irish language. He also sings a number of the group’s more lighthearted and humorous numbers such as “Jar of Porter,” “The Dublin Fusiliers,” “The Limerick Rake,” “Mrs. McGrath,” “Darby O’Leary,” “All For Me Grog” and “The Ballad of Ronnie’s Mare,” as well as patriotic songs such as “Roddy McCorley,” “The Enniskillen Dragoons,” “Take It Down From The Mast” and “Henry Joy.”

On April 5, 1974 The Dubliners travel to Eastbourne where they are to appear in concert. Kelly is worried by the way Bourke keeps moving his head about, as if trying to alleviate increasing pain. Four minutes into the second half, it is decided he cannot continue with the show. Kelly insists that a doctor should be phoned and instructs to await their return to the Irish Club at Eaton Square. The roadie for the trip, John Corry, thinks that it is better to drive straight to St. George’s Hospital in London, where the doctors diagnose a brain aneurysm. He is transferred to the Atkinson Morley Hospital in Wimbledon, while doctors wait for his wife to return from a trip to Ghana, to get her signature before operating. She is told that there is danger of further haemorrhaging. He is operated on at the earliest opportunity. The bleeding begins again while he is on the table which means that they cannot repair the damage, only staunch the bleeding. This leaves him paralysed down his left side and confused as to where he is and what has happened.

Bourke receives intensive therapy, attending a clinic in Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin. He is heartened by his progress and insists on rejoining The Dubliners on their next tour of the Continent in November that year.

Bourke’s continued insistence that he is fit enough to join them on the forthcoming German tour causes them considerable disquiet. They prefer he ease himself back to work, with a few small shows in Ireland. The tour gradually begins to take its toll on him, and it is decided that for the sake of his health he should return home. He flies from Brussels to Dublin.

Bourke makes his last public appearance on Ireland’s RTÉ One during The Late Late Show‘s tribute to The Dubliners in 1987. Despite his lingering paralysis he recites “The Lament for Brendan Behan” after which everyone in the studio, led by Ronnie Drew, sing “The Auld Triangle.”

Bourke dies on May 10, 1988 after a long illness. From 1974 until his death he had continued to be paid by the band. A fifth member of the group is not recruited until after his death.


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Birth of Mary Swanzy, Landscape & Genre Artist

Mary Swanzy, Irish landscape and genre artist, is born in Dublin on February 15, 1882. Noted for her eclectic style, she paints in many styles including cubism, futurism, fauvism, and orphism, she is one of Ireland’s first abstract painters.

Swanzy is the second of three daughters of Sir Henry Rosborough Swanzy, an eye surgeon, and his wife Mary (née Denham). She attends Alexandra College, Earlsfort Terrace, a finishing school at the Lycée in Versailles, France, and a day school in Freiburg, Germany. This education means that she is fluent in French and German. She goes on to take art classes at Mary Manning‘s studio, under the direction of John Butler Yeats. Manning encourages her to study modelling with John Hughes at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art.

Living within walking distance of the National Gallery of Ireland, she spends a lot of time studying and copying the great masters. Her first exhibition is with the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) in 1905 with Portrait of a child, continuing to exhibit portraits every year until 1910. In 1905 she goes to Paris and works at the Académie Delécluse, an atelier-style art school. She goes on to attend the studio of Antonio de La Gándara in 1906, and takes classes at Académie de la Grande Chaumière and Académie Colarossi. While in Paris she is exposed to the works of Gauguin, Matisse, and Picasso, which make a lasting impression on her.

On her return to Dublin, Swanzy paints portraits and genre scenes and holds her first show at Mill’s Hall, Merrion Row in 1913. She holds another show there in 1919, where she exhibits nearly 50 pieces. This exhibition is reviewed by Sarah Purser who notes the lack of melancholy and light optimism in Swanzy’s Irish landscapes. Swanzy paints in a number of styles, often reflecting the major art developments in Paris.

After the deaths of her parents, she is financially independent and can travel, spending her time between Dublin and Saint-Tropez during World War I while continuing to paint. She also exhibits with the Société des Artistes Indépendants in 1914 and 1916, being elected to the committee in 1920. While visiting her sister who is involved with the Protestant relief mission in Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, she paints landscapes, village life, and peasant scenes. These works are shown in the autumn of 1921 in the Dublin Painters’ Gallery with six other artists including Jack Butler Yeats, Paul Henry, and Clare Marsh with whom she shares a studio.

Swanzy begins to travel to more exotic countries from the 1920s, Honolulu around 1923, and later Samoa. As a result, she paints local tropical flowers, trees, and native women, with a palette and style similar to that of Fauvism. She stays for a time in Santa Barbara, California, working in a local studio and exhibiting some of her Samoan work at the Santa Barbara Arts Club Gallery. She returns to Ireland in February 1925 and exhibits three of her Samoan paints at the RHA, and 14 at her one-woman show in the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris in October 1925. Gertrude Stein writes her to congratulate her on her Paris exhibition.

In the mid 1920s Swanzy settles in Blackheath, London, making regular trips to Dublin and abroad. In 1932 Purser holds an exhibition of Swanzy’s work for invited guests in her house. At this time her painting is influenced by orphism and is reviewed positively. Her work becomes more allegorical in later years, with The message in the Hugh Lane Gallery demonstrating this. During World War II she stays with her sister in Coolock for three years. In 1943, she holds a one-woman show at the Dublin Painters’ Gallery, and is also featured at the first Irish Exhibition of Living Art. She is exhibited at St. George’s Gallery, London in 1946 along with Henry Moore, Marc Chagall, and William Scott.

Swanzy is made an honorary member of the RHA in 1949, showing with them in 1950 and 1951. She does not exhibit in Ireland for a number of years, but the Hugh Lane Gallery holds a major retrospective of her work in 1968. Following this she holds two one-woman shows at the Dawson Gallery in 1974 and 1976. In 1975 she is featured at the Cork ROSC art exhibition and resumes showing with the RHA. She continues to paint until her death at her home in London on July 7, 1978.

In 1982 the Taylor Galleries holds an exhibition to mark the centenary of Swanzy’s birth. More recently she is featured in the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) 2013 exhibition Analysing Cubism. From October 2018-February 2019, also in IMMA, she is the subject of the solo exhibition Mary Swanzy Voyages.

(Pictured: Sunlit Landscape, oil-on-canvas, by Mary Swanzy)