seamus dubhghaill

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


Leave a comment

Death of Novelist & Playwright Kate O’Brien

Kathleen Mary Louise “Kate” O’Brien, novelist and playwright, dies in Canterbury, England, on August 13, 1974.

O’Brien is born in Limerick, County Limerick on December 3, 1897. Following the death of her mother when she is five years old, she becomes a boarder at Laurel Hill Convent. She graduates in English and French from the newly established University College Dublin, and she then moves to London, where she works as a teacher for a year.

In 1922–1923, O’Brien works as a governess in the Basque Country, in the north of Spain, where she begins to write fiction. Upon her return to England, she works at the Manchester Guardian. After the success of her play Distinguished Villa in 1926, she takes to full-time writing and is awarded both the 1931 James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Hawthornden Prize for her debut novel Without My Cloak. O’Brien is best known for her 1934 novel The Ante-Room, her 1941 novel The Land of Spices, and the 1946 novel That Lady.

Many of O’Brien’s books deal with issues of female agency and sexuality in ways that are new and radical at the time. Her 1936 novel, Mary Lavelle, is banned in Ireland and Spain, while The Land of Spices is banned in Ireland upon publication. In addition to novels, she writes plays, film scripts, short stories, essays, copious journalism, two biographical studies, and two very personal travelogues. Throughout her life, she feels a particular affinity with Spain. While her experiences in the Basque Country inspire Mary Lavelle, she also writes a life of the Spanish mystic Teresa of Avila, and she uses the relationship between the Spanish king Philip II and Maria de Mendoza to write the anti-fascist novel That Lady.

O’Brien writes a political travelogue, Farewell Spain, to gather support for the leftist cause in the Spanish Civil War, and it has been argued that she is close to anarchism in the 1930s. A feminist, her novels promote gender equality and are mostly protagonised by young women yearning for independence. Several of her books include positive gay/lesbian characters. Her determination to encourage a greater understanding of sexual diversity makes her a pioneer in queer literary representation. She is very critical of conservatism in Ireland, and by spearheading a challenge to the Irish Censorship Act, she helps bring to an end the cultural restrictions of the 1930s and 40s in the country.

Kate O’Brien lives much of her life in England and died in Faversham, near Canterbury, on August 13, 1974.


Leave a comment

Birth of Arthur Colahan, Doctor & Songwriter

Arthur Nicholas Whistler Colahan, Irish doctor, British Army officer and songwriter, is born in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, on August 12, 1884. The eldest child of Professor Nicholas Whistler Colahan and Elisabeth Quinn of Limerick, the family moves to Galway and he grows up there.

After completing his secondary education at St. Joseph’s College, Galway, he enrolls at University College Dublin in 1900 where he receives an Arts degree and then studies medicine. He transfers to University College, Galway and graduates in 1913. He is a member of the college Literary and Debating Society and participates in drama.

He begins his medical career in the County Infirmary in Galway, and then moves to Holles Street Hospital. He joins the Royal Army Medical Corps and is badly affected by mustard gas in India. After the war he settles in Leicester, where he spends the rest of his career as a neurological specialist.

Colahan is also a composer of popular songs. He is a quiet man who is often homesick for his beloved Galway Bay. These feelings lead him to write his most famous work, “Galway Bay.” Popularised by Bing Crosby, it becomes the biggest selling record of all time at one point. Theories abound as to where the song is written or where it is first heard. Some say it is in the home of Dr. Morris at 1 Montpelier Terrace, while others believe it is in The Vicars Croft on Taylor’s Hill, from where one can see Galway Bay.

Other songs written by Colahan include “Maccushla Mine,” “Asthoreen Bawn,” “Until God’s Day,” “The Kylemore Pass” and “The Claddagh Ring.” Sadly, before his music is selling in the High Street he dies on September 15, 1952, and is buried in an unmarked grave back in his Irish birthplace.


Leave a comment

Death of James O’Neill, Irish American Theatre Actor

James O’Neill, Irish American theatre actor and the father of American playwright Eugene O’Neill, dies in New London, Connecticut, on August 11, 1920.

O’Neill is born on November 15, 1847 in County Kilkenny. The family emigrates to the United States and settles in Buffalo, New York. In 1857 they move to Cincinnati, Ohio where James is apprenticed to a machinist.

At the age of 21, he makes his stage debut in a Cincinnati production of Dion Boucicault‘s The Colleen Bawn (1867). Also in 1867, he has a minor part in Edwin Forrest‘s production of Virginius, and then joins a travelling repertory company. By the age of 24 he has already established a reputation among theater managers as a box-office draw, particularly with the ladies. But he is also working doggedly at his craft, ridding himself of all vestiges of brogue and learning to pitch his voice resonantly. He is considered a promising actor, quickly working his way up the ranks to become a matinée idol.

In 1874 O’Neill joins Richard M. Hooley‘s company, and the following year tours San Francisco, Virginia City and Sacramento. He then heads back east to join the Union Square Company.

On June 14, 1877, while in New York City, O’Neill marries Mary Ellen Quinlan, daughter of Thomas and Bridget Quinlan. In the fall of 1877, three months after his marriage, a woman by the name of Nettie Walsh sues O’Neill, claiming that he had married her five years earlier, when she was only 15, and that he is the father of her three-year-old son. Nettie Walsh loses her case and the publicity, although it wounds his bride, enhances his reputation as a romantic leading man.

As early as 1875, while a stock star at Hooley’s Theatre in Chicago, O’Neill plays the title role in a stage adaptation of Alexandre DumasThe Count of Monte Cristo. In early 1883 he takes over the lead role in Monte Cristo at Booth’s Theater in New York, after Charles R. Towne dies suddenly in the wings after his first performance. O’Neill’s interpretation of the part caused a sensation with the theater-going public.

O’Neill soon tires of the Count and his lines come out by rote and his performances become lackadaisical. Monte Cristo remains a popular favorite so he continues the role on tour as regular as clockwork. He goes on to play this role over 6,000 times.

In the middle of 1920 O’Neill is struck by an automobile in New York City and taken to Lawrence+Memorial Hospital in New London, Connecticut. He dies, at the age of 72, on August 11, 1920 of colorectal cancer at the family summer home, the Monte Cristo Cottage, in Connecticut. His funeral at St. Joseph’s Church is attended by, among others, O’Neill’s sister, Mrs. M. Platt of St. Louis and Edward Douglass White, Sr., Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. O’Neill is buried in St. Mary’s cemetery.


Leave a comment

National Gallery of Ireland Act, 1854

A statutory provision, the National Gallery of Ireland Act, 1854, is made on August 10, 1854, for the establishment of a national gallery of paintings, sculpture, and fine arts in Ireland.

The National Gallery of Ireland, which opens its doors ten years later, houses the national collection of Irish and European art. It is located in the centre of Dublin with one entrance on Merrion Square, beside Leinster House, and another on Clare Street. The Gallery has an extensive, representative collection of Irish painting and is also notable for its Italian Baroque and Dutch masters painting.

The façade of the National Gallery copies the Natural History building of the National Museum of Ireland which is already planned for the facing flank of Leinster House. The building itself is designed by Francis Fowke, based on early plans by Charles Lanyon.

The Gallery is unlucky not to have been founded around an existing collection, but through diligent and skillful purchase, by the time it opens it has 125 paintings. In 1866 an annual purchase grant is established and by 1891 space is already limited. In 1897, the Dowager Countess of Milltown indicates her intention of donating the contents of Russborough House to the Gallery. This gift includes about 223 paintings, 48 pieces of sculpture, 33 engravings, much silver, furniture and a library, and prompts construction from 1899 to 1903 of what is now called the Milltown Wing, designed by Thomas Newenham Deane.

At around this time Henry Vaughan leaves 31 watercolours by J.M.W. Turner with the requirement that they can only be exhibited in January, this to protect them from the ill-effects of sunlight. Though modern lighting technology has made this stipulation unnecessary, the Gallery continues to restrict viewing of the Vaughan bequest to January and the exhibition is treated as something of an occasion.

Another substantial bequest comes with the untimely death in the sinking of the RMS Lusitania of Hugh Lane (1875–1915), since 1914 director of the Gallery. Not only does he leave a large collection of pictures, he also leaves part of his residual estate and the Lane Fund has continued to contribute to the purchase of art works to this day. In addition to his involvement in the Gallery, Hugh Lane has also hoped to found a gallery of modern art, something only realised after his death in Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane. George Bernard Shaw also makes a substantial bequest, leaving the Gallery a third of royalties of his estate in gratitude for the time he spent there as a youth.

The Gallery is again extended in 1962 with a new wing designed by Frank DuBerry of the Office of Public Works. This opens in 1968 and is now named the Beit Wing. In 1978 the Gallery receives from the government the paintings given to the nation by Alfred Chester Beatty and in 1987 the Sweeney bequest purchases fourteen works of art including paintings by Pablo Picasso and Jack Butler Yeats. The same year the Gallery is once again given some of the contents of Russborough House when Alfred Beit donates 17 masterpieces, including paintings by Diego Velázquez, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Jan Steen, Johannes Vermeer and Henry Raeburn.

In the 1990s a lost Caravaggio, The Taking of Christ, known through replicas, is discovered hanging in a Jesuit house of studies in Leeson Street in Dublin by Sergio Benedetti, senior conservator of the gallery. The Jesuits generously allow this painting to be exhibited in the Gallery and the discovery is the cause of national excitement. In 1997 Anne Yeats donates sketchbooks by her uncle Jack Yeats and the Gallery now includes a Yeats Museum. Denis Mahon, a well known art critic, promises the Gallery part of his rich collection and eight painting from his promised bequest are on permanent display, including Jacob Blessing the Sons of Joseph by Guercino.


Leave a comment

Birth of Frank McGuinness, Playwright & Poet

Frank McGuinness, award-winning Irish playwright and poet, is born in Buncrana, a town located on the Inishowen peninsula of County Donegal on July 29, 1953. As well as his own works, which include The Factory Girls, Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme, Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me and Dolly West’s Kitchen, he is recognised for a “strong record of adapting literary classics, having translated the plays of Jean Racine, Sophocles, Henrik Ibsen, Federico García Lorca, and August Strindberg to critical acclaim.”

McGuinness is educated locally and at University College Dublin, where he studies Pure English and medieval studies to postgraduate level.

He first comes to prominence with his play The Factory Girls, but establishes his reputation with his play about World War I, Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme, which is staged in Dublin‘s Abbey Theatre and internationally. The play makes a name for him when it is performed at Hampstead Theatre, drawing comments about McGuinness’s Irish Catholic background. It wins numerous awards including the London Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright for McGuinness and the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize. He has also written new versions of classic dramas, including works by Henrik Ibsen, Anton Chekhov, and Euripides, adapting the literal translations of others. In addition, he writes the screenplay for the film Dancing at Lughnasa, adapting the stage play by fellow Ulsterman Brian Friel.

McGuinness’s first poetry anthology, Booterstown, is published in 1994. Several of his poems have been recorded by Marianne Faithfull, including Electra, After the Ceasefire and The Wedding.

McGuinness previously lectured in Linguistics and Drama at the University of Ulster, Medieval Studies at University College, Dublin and English at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. Then he is a writer-in-residence lecturing at University College Dublin before being appointed Professor of Creative Writing in the School of English, Drama and Film there in 2007.


Leave a comment

Birth of John Field, Pianist & Composer

John Field, pianist, composer, and teacher, is born in Dublin into a musical family on July 26, 1782. He is the eldest son of Irish parents who are members of the Church of Ireland. His father, Robert Field, earns his living by playing the violin in Dublin theatres.

Field first studies the piano under his grandfather, who is a professional organist, and later under Tommaso Giordani. He makes his debut at the age of nine, a performance that is well-received, on March 24, 1792 in Dublin. By late 1793, the Fields have settled in London, where the young pianist starts studying with Muzio Clementi.

Field continues giving public performances and soon becomes famous in London, attracting favourable comments from the press and the local musicians. Around 1795 his performance of a Jan Ladislav Dussek piano concerto is praised by Joseph Haydn. Field continues his studies with Clementi, also helping the Italian with the making and selling of instruments. He also takes up the violin, which he studies under Johann Peter Solomon. His first published compositions are issued by Clementi in 1795. The first historically important work, the Piano Concerto No. 1, H 27, is premiered by the composer in London on February 7, 1799, when he is 16 years old. Field’s first official opus is a set of three piano sonatas published by Clementi in 1801.

In summer 1802 Field and Clementi leave London and go to Paris on business. They soon travel to Vienna, where Field takes a brief course in counterpoint under Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, and in early winter arrive in Saint Petersburg. Field is inclined to stay, impressed by the artistic life of the city. Clementi leaves in June 1803, but not before securing Field a teaching post in Narva. After Clementi’s departure, Field has a busy concert season, eventually performing at the newly founded Saint Petersburg Philharmonia. In 1805 Field embarks on a concert tour of the Baltic states, staying in Saint Petersburg during the summer. The following year he gives his first concert in Moscow. He returns to Moscow in April 1807 and apparently does not revisit Saint Petersburg until 1811. In 1810 he marries Adelaide Percheron, a French pianist and former pupil.

In 1811 Field returns to Saint Petersburg where he spends the next decade of his life, more productive than ever before, publishing numerous new pieces and producing corrected editions of old ones. He is successful in establishing a fruitful collaboration with both H.J. Dalmas, the most prominent Russian publisher of the time, and Breitkopf & Härtel, one of the most important music publishing houses of Europe. By 1819 Field is sufficiently wealthy to be able to refuse the position of court pianist that is offered to him. His lifestyle and social behaviour are becoming more and more extravagant.

In 1818 Field revisits Moscow on business, prompted by his collaboration with the publisher Wenzel. He and his wife give a series of concerts in the city in 1821, the last of which marks their last appearance in public together. Adelaide leaves Field soon afterward and attempts a solo career, which is not particularly successful. Field stays in Moscow and continues performing and publishing his music. In 1822 he meets Johann Nepomuk Hummel and the two collaborate on a performance of Hummel’s Sonata for Piano 4-Hands, Op. 92.

Partly as a result of his extravagant lifestyle, Field’s health begins to deteriorate by the mid-1820s. From about 1823 his concert appearances started decreasing. By the late 1820s he is suffering from colorectal cancer. Field leaves for London to seek medical attention. He arrives in September 1831 and, after an operation, gives concerts there and in Manchester. He stays in England for some time, meeting distinguished figures such as Felix Mendelssohn and Ignaz Moscheles. After a series of concerts in various European cities, Field spends nine months in a Naples hospital. His Russian patrons rescue him. He briefly stays with Carl Czerny in Vienna, where he gives three recitals, and then returns to Moscow. He gives his last concert in March 1836 and dies in Moscow almost a year later, on January 23, 1837, from pneumonia. He is buried in the Vvedenskoye Cemetery.


Leave a comment

Birth of Watercolourist Michael Angelo Hayes

Painter Michael Angelo Hayes is born in Waterford on July 25, 1820. Probably the best 19th century painter of animals in Ireland, Hayes is most accomplished as a watercolourist, although he occasionally uses oils.

Hayes is the son and pupil of Tipperary watercolour miniaturist Edward Hayes RHA. It is clear from his christening that he is expected to become an artist.  Fortunately, the younger Hayes is a talented draughtsman, and by his late teens has acquired something of a reputation as a painter of horses and military subjects.

Hayes begins showing at the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) in 1837, then for three years 1840-1842.  In 1842, he is appointed Military Painter-in-ordinary to the Lord Lieutenant.  He passes the next few years in London, where he exhibits watercolours at the New Society of Painters in Water Colours, of which he is elected an Associate Member in 1848, the same year he makes his one and only contribution to the Royal Academy of Arts.

Returning to Dublin, Hayes resumes exhibiting at the RHA, at the same time becoming involved in its administration.  He is elected an Associate member in 1853, a full Academician the following year, and Secretary in 1856.  The affairs of the Academy are totally disorganized at the time, inducing Hayes and others to resolve the situation.  His efforts to reform the institution and secure its finances meets with entrenched opposition from older members, which results in Hayes being removed from his post, although he is successfully reinstated in 1861.

Not long afterwards he is appointed secretary to the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Peter McSwiney, who happens to be his brother-in-law, and later becomes City Marshal in 1867.  He continues as Secretary of the RHA until he resigns in 1870, and continues showing until 1874.

Hayes makes a special study of horses in motion, and in 1876 publishes his conclusions in an illustrated pamphlet, The Delineation of Animals in Rapid Motion.  One of his Dublin paintings, Sackville Street, Dublin, depicts a view of Dublin’s premier street in the 1850s. The painting is a documentary of social life in Dublin. It achieves widespread popularity when reprinted as a lithograph.

Michael Angelo Hayes dies prematurely in 1877 in a tragic drowning accident at his home.