seamus dubhghaill

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


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Death of Siobhán McKenna, Stage & Screen Actress

Siobhán McKenna, Irish stage and screen actress, dies of lung cancer on November 16, 1986, in Dublin.

McKenna is born Siobhán Giollamhuire Nic Cionnaith into a Catholic and nationalist family in Belfast on May 24, 1923. She grows up in Galway, where her father is Professor of Mathematics at University College Galway, and in County Monaghan, speaking fluent Irish. She is still in her teens when she becomes a member of an amateur Gaelic theatre group and makes her stage debut at Galway’s Gaelic theatre, the Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe, in 1940.

McKenna is remembered for her English language performances at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin where she eventually stars in what many consider her finest role in the George Bernard Shaw play, Saint Joan.

While performing at the Abbey Theatre in the 1940s, she meets actor Denis O’Dea, whom she marries in 1946. Until 1970 they live in Richmond Street South, Dublin. They have one child, a son Donnacha O’Dea, who swims for Ireland at the 1968 Summer Olympics and later wins a World Series of Poker bracelet in 1998.

In 1947, McKenna makes her debut on the London stage in The Chalk Garden. She reprises the role on Broadway in 1955, for which she receives a Tony Award nomination for “Best Actress in a Leading Role, Drama.” In 1956, she appears in the Cambridge Drama Festival production of Saint Joan at the Off-Broadway Phoenix Theatre. Theatre critic Elliot Norton calls her performance the finest portrayal of Joan of Arc in memory. Siobhán McKenna’s popularity earns her the cover of Life magazine. She receives a second Tony Best Actress nomination for her role in the 1958 play, The Rope Dancers, in which she stars with Art Carney and Joan Blondell.

Although primarily a stage actress, McKenna appears in a number of made-for-television films and dramas. She also appears in several motion pictures such as King of Kings in 1961, as the Virgin Mary. In 1964, she performs in Of Human Bondage and the following year in Doctor Zhivago. She also appears in the miniseries The Last Days of Pompeii as Fortunata, wife of Gaius, played by Laurence Olivier. She stars in the title role of the Tales of the Unexpected episode “The Landlady.”

McKenna is awarded the Gold Medal of the Éire Society of Boston, for having “significantly fulfilled the ideals of the Éire Society, in particular, spreading awareness of the cultural achievements of the Irish people.”

Siobhán McKenna’s final stage appearance comes in the 1985 play Bailegangaire for the Druid Theatre Company. Despite surgery, she dies of lung cancer on November 16, 1986, in Dublin, at 63 years of age. She is buried at Rahoon Cemetery in County Galway.

In 1988, two years after her death, McKenna is inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame. The Siobhán McKenna Theatre in Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich, in her native Belfast is named in her honour.

 


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Death of Actress Maureen O’Hara

maureen-oharaMaureen O’Hara, Irish actress and singer, dies peacefully in her sleep at her home in Boise, Idaho on October 24, 2015. The famously red-headed O’Hara is known for her beauty and playing fiercely passionate but sensible heroines, often in westerns and adventure films. She works on numerous occasions with director John Ford and longtime friend John Wayne, and was one of the last surviving stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

O’Hara is born Maureen FitzSimons on August 17, 1920, in Ranelagh, County Dublin and grows up in an “eccentric” devout Catholic family, and aspires to become an actress from a very young age. She trains with the Rathmines Theatre Company from the age of 10 and at the Abbey Theatre from the age of 14. She is given a screen test, which is deemed unsatisfactory, but Charles Laughton sees potential and arranges for her to co-star with him in Alfred Hitchcock‘s Jamaica Inn in 1939. She moves to Hollywood the same year to appear with him in the production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and is given a contract by RKO Pictures. From there, she goes on to enjoy a long and highly successful career, and acquires the nickname “The Queen of Technicolor,” which she detests, believing that people see her only for her beauty rather than talent.

O’Hara gains a reputation in Hollywood for bossiness and prudishness, avoiding the partying lifestyle. She appears in films such as How Green Was My Valley (1941), her first collaboration with John Ford, The Black Swan (1942) with Tyrone Power, The Spanish Main (1945), Sinbad the Sailor (1947), the Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street (1947) with John Payne and Natalie Wood and Comanche Territory (1950).

O’Hara appears in her first film with John Wayne, the actor with whom she is most closely associated, with Rio Grande (1950). This is followed by The Quiet Man (1952), her best-known film, and The Wings of Eagles (1957), by which time her relationship with Ford has deteriorated. Such is her strong chemistry with Wayne that many assume they are married or in a relationship. In the 1960s O’Hara increasingly turns to more motherly roles as she ages, appearing in films such as The Deadly Companions (1961), The Parent Trap (1961), and The Rare Breed (1966).

O’Hara retires from the industry in 1971 after starring with Wayne one final time in Big Jake, but returns 20 years later to appear with John Candy in Only the Lonely (1991). In the late 1970s, O’Hara helps run her third husband’s flying business in St. Croix in the American Virgin Islands, and edits a magazine, but later sells them to spend more time in Glengariff in Ireland. She is married three times and has one daughter, Bronwyn, born in 1944 to her second husband.

Her autobiography, ‘Tis Herself, is published in 2004 and becomes a New York Times Bestseller. In November 2014, she is presented with an Honorary Academy Award with the inscription “To Maureen O’Hara, one of Hollywood’s brightest stars, whose inspiring performances glowed with passion, warmth and strength.”

Maureen O’Hara dies of natural causes in her sleep at the age of 95 on October 24, 2015, at her home in Boise, Idaho. O’Hara is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia next to her late husband Charles F. Blair, Jr..


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Death of Padraic Fallon, Poet & Playwright

padraic-fallonPadraic Fallon, Irish poet and playwright, dies on October 9, 1974 in Aylesford, England.

Fallon is born in Athenry, County Galway on January 3, 1905. His upbringing and his early impressions of the town and the surrounding landscape are intimately described in his poetry. After passing the civil service exams in 1923 he moves to Dublin to work in the Customs House. In Dublin he becomes part of the circle of George William Russell (Æ) who encourages his literary ambitions and arranges for the publication of his early poetry. He forms close friendships with Seumas O’Sullivan, editor of The Dublin Magazine, the poets Austin Clarke, Robert Farren, F.R. Higgins and Patrick McDonagh, and later the novelist James Plunkett.

In 1939, Fallon leaves Dublin to serve as a Customs official in County Wexford, living in Prospect House, near Wexford with his wife, Dorothea (née Maher) and his six sons. During this time he becomes a close friend of the painter Tony O’Malley.

Fallon’s early poetry, short stories and literary criticism are published in The Dublin Magazine and The Bell. He is a regular contributor to Raidió Éireann in the 1940s and 1950s, serving variously as a journalist, scriptwriter and literary critic. A number of his short stories and early dramatic pieces are broadcast by the station during the 1940s. The first of his verse plays for radio, Diarmuid and Gráinne, is broadcast by Raidió Éireann in November 1950. This is followed by The Vision of Mac Conglinne (1953), Two Men with a Face (1953), The Poplar (1953), Steeple Jerkin (1954), The Wooing of Étain (1954), A Man in the Window (1955), Outpost (1955), Deirdre’s King (1956), The Five Stations (1957), The Hags of Clough (1957), The Third Bachelor (1958), At the Bridge Inn (1960) and Lighting up Time (1961).

Three plays adapted from Irish mythology, Diarmuid and Gráinne, The Vision of Mac Conglinne and Deirdre’s King, receive particular contemporary critical acclaim. The landscape, mythology and history of Ireland, interwoven with classical themes and religious symbolism, are frequent themes in his poetry and dramatic works. A number of Fallon’s radio plays are later broadcast on BBC Third Programme and, in translation, in Germany, the Netherlands, and Hungary. The play The Seventh Step is staged at The Globe Theatre in Dublin in 1954. A second one, Sweet Love ’till Morn, is staged at the Abbey Theatre in 1971. He also writes dramatic pieces for television such as A Sword of Steel (1966) and The Fenians (1967), the latter produced by James Plunkett. In a number of his plays and radio dramas he cooperates with contemporary composers providing incidental music, an example being The Wooing of Étain (1954) with music by Brian Boydell.

Fallon retires from the Civil Service in 1963, returning to Dublin before moving to Cornwall in 1967 to live with his son, the sculptor Conor Fallon and his daughter-in-law, the artist Nancy Wynne-Jones. He and his wife return to Ireland in 1971. He spends his last years in Kinsale. He is visiting his son Ivan Fallon in Kent at the time of his death.

While Fallon’s poetry had previously appeared in The Dublin Magazine, The Bell, The Irish Times and a number of anthologies, his first volume of collected poetry, Poems, incorporating a number of previously unpublished poems, is not produced until 1974, months before his death. Three volumes of his poetry, edited by his son, the journalist and critic Brian Fallon, are published after his death: Poems and Versions in 1983, Collected Poems in 1990, and A Look in the Mirror and Other Poems in 2003. In 2005, three of his verse plays, The Vision of Mac Conglinne, The Poplar, and The Hags of Clough, are published in a single volume. A selection of his prose writings and criticism edited by Brian Fallon, A Poet’s Journal, is published in the same year.


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Birth of Martin Fay of The Chieftains

martin-fay-1Martin Joseph Fay, Irish fiddler and bones player and co-founder of the Irish traditional music ensemble The Chieftains, is born in Cabra, Dublin on September 19, 1936.

The Chieftains are credited with reviving worldwide interest in traditional Celtic music. Fay performs as the group’s fiddler and bones player for some 40 years.

Fay develops an early interest in the violin and takes music lessons at the Municipal School of Music in Dublin. He joins the orchestra of the Abbey Theatre during his teen years and is introduced to Irish folk music by the theatre’s musical director Sean O’Riada.

It was through O’Riada’s folk band, Ceoltóirí Chualann, that Fay meets the other original Chieftains members, Paddy Moloney, Seán Potts, and Michael Tubridy. The foursome releases their first album, Chieftains 1, in 1964. The Chieftains perform on local radio and television programs and in pubs throughout the British Isles, but it is not until the 1970s that they begin touring overseas.

The Chieftains gain international acclaim when their music is used in the Academy Award-winning sound track for the film Barry Lyndon (1975). In 1989, The Chieftains are officially designated Ireland’s musical ambassadors. Although the quartet’s membership changes over the years, Fay records more than 30 albums with The Chieftains.

In 2001, Fay decides to stop touring with The Chieftains, limiting his appearances with the group to events in Ireland. He subsequently retires in 2002. After a lengthy illness, he dies at the age of 76 in Cabra on November 14, 2012.


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Premiere of “O’Neil of the Glen”

o-neil-of-the-glenO’Neil of the Glen, the first production released by the Film Company of Ireland (FCOI), premieres at Dublin’s Bohemian Picture Theatre on August 7, 1916. The film is adapted by W.J. Lysaght from a book by the acclaimed Irish novelist, Mrs. M. T. Pender. The film is a romantic tale which features two well-known Abbey Theatre members, as well as a host of rising stars.

Formed in March 1916 by James Mark Sullivan and Henry Fitzgibbon, the FCOI becomes the most important indigenous fiction film producer of the 1910s.

On 29 June, FCOI announces a “trial exhibition,” or what would now be called a test screening, of their first completed production, O’Neil of the Glen, at Dublin’s Carlton Cinema. Addressing a lunch for the press at the Gresham Hotel following the screening, Fitzgibbon claims that FCOI “had started an industry which would eventually be a source of great revenue in Ireland.” For his part, Sullivan argues that the film showed that Irish productions – taking advantage of Irish “imagination, ideals, and artistic temperament and beautiful scenery” – could compete with those anywhere.

The Bohemian is one of Dublin’s biggest and most luxurious cinemas, and Frederick A. Sparling’s commitment to a run that is twice the usual three days “speaks well for the film and the undoubted drawing powers such a production will have for Irish audiences.” In the event, Sparling also includes an unplanned Sunday show to take advantage of the phenomenal level of interest.

In the following weeks and months, O’Neil of the Glen is exhibited around the country. Following substantial runs in Dublin and Belfast it is announced for a three-day runs at Galway’s Victoria Cinema Theatre on September 11-13 and Cork’s Coliseum Theatre on September 14-16.


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Birth of John B. Keane, Irish Playwright & Novelist

john-b-keaneJohn Brendan Keane, Irish playwright, novelist and essayist, is born in Listowel, County Kerry on July 21, 1928.

Keane is the son of a national school teacher, William B. Keane, and his wife Hannah Purtill. He is educated at Listowel National School and then at St. Michael’s College, Listowel. He works as a chemist’s assistant for A.H. Jones who dabbles in buying antiques. He has various jobs in the United Kingdom between 1951 and 1955 working as a street cleaner and a bartender and lives in a variety of places including Northampton and London. It is while he is in Northampton that he is first published in an unnamed women’s magazine for which he receives £15.

After returning from the UK, Keane is a pub owner in Listowel from 1955 where he writes plays for the local theatre company and sponsors, from 1971, the annual Listowel Writers’ Week. He marries Mary O’Connor at Knocknagoshel Church on January 5, 1955 and they have four children: Billy, Conor, John and Joanna.

His first play, Sive (1959), is initially rejected by the Abbey Theatre in Dublin but goes on to win the amateur All-Ireland Drama Festival. Later plays include The Field (1965), which is released in a bowdlerized film version in 1990, and Big Maggie (1969), which is produced on Broadway in 1982. In 1998 Keane is honoured with a medal from the Abbey for his contribution to Irish theatre.

Keane is an Honorary Life Member of the Royal Dublin Society from 1991, serves as president of Irish club of PEN International and is a founder member of the Society of Irish Playwrights as well as a member of Aosdána. He is named the patron of the Listowel Players after the Listowel Drama Group fractures. He remains a prominent member of the Fine Gael party throughout his life, never being shy of political debate.

John Keane dies of prostate cancer on May 30, 2002 in Listowel at the age of 73.

Keane’s nephew is the investigative journalist Fergal Keane. His son John is a journalist with the Kilkenny People while his son Billy regularly writes a column for the Irish Independent.


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Birth of Fiona Shaw, Actress & Director

fiona-shawFiona Mary Shaw, accomplished classical actress and theatre and opera director, is born in Farranree, County Cork on July 10, 1958. She is best known for her role as Petunia Dursley in the Harry Potter films and her role portraying Marnie Stonebrook in the HBO series True Blood.

Shaw attends secondary school at Scoil Mhuire in Cork. She receives her degree at University College Cork. She trains at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London and is part of a ‘new wave’ of actors to emerge from the Academy. She receives much acclaim as Julia in the Royal National Theatre production of Richard Sheridan‘s The Rivals (1983).

Shaw’s theatrical roles include Celia in As You Like It (1984), Madame de Volanges in Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1985), Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew (1987), Lady Franjul in The New Inn (1987), Young Woman in Machinal (1993), for which she wins the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress, Winnie in Happy Days (2007), and the title roles in Electra (1988), The Good Person of Sechuan (1989), Hedda Gabler (1991), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1998) and Medea (2000). She performs T. S. Eliot‘s poem The Waste Land as a one-person show at the Liberty Theatre in New York City to great acclaim in 1996, winning the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding One-Person Show for her performance.

Shaw plays Miss Morrison in the 1984 The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes episode “The Adventure of the Crooked Man” and Catherine Greenshaw in Agatha Christie’s Marple episode “Greenshaw’s Folly” in 2013.

Shaw notably plays the male lead in Richard II, directed by Deborah Warner in 1995. She has collaborated with Warner on a number of occasions, on both stage and screen. She has also worked in film and television, including My Left Foot (1989), Mountains of the Moon (1990), Three Men and a Little Lady (1990), Super Mario Bros. (1993), Undercover Blues (1993), Persuasion (1995), Jane Eyre (1996), The Butcher Boy (1997), The Avengers (1998), Gormenghast (2000), and five of the Harry Potter films in which she plays Harry Potter‘s aunt Petunia Dursley. She has a brief but key role in Brian DePalma‘s The Black Dahlia (2006).

In 2009, Shaw collaborates with Deborah Warner again, taking the lead role in Tony Kushner‘s translation of Bertolt Brecht‘s Mother Courage and Her Children. In a 2002 article for The Daily Telegraph, Rupert Christiansen describes their professional relationship as “surely one of the most richly creative partnerships in theatrical history.” Other collaborations between the two women include productions of Brecht’s The Good Woman of Szechuan and Henrik Ibsen‘s Hedda Gabler, the latter adapted for television.

Shaw appears in The Waste Land at Wilton’s Music Hall in January 2010 and in a Royal National Theatre revival of London Assurance in March 2010. In November 2010, She stars in Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin alongside Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan. The play is also staged in New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2011.

Shaw appears in season four of American TV show True Blood. Her character, Marnie Stonebrook, has been described as an underachieving palm reader who is spiritually possessed by an actual witch. Her character leads a coven of necromancer witches who threaten the status quo in Bon Temps, erasing most of Eric Northman‘s memories and leaving him almost helpless when he tries to kill her and break up their coven.

In 2012, Shaw appears in the Royal National Theatre revival of Scenes from an Execution by Howard Barker.

The world’s largest solo theatre festival, United Solo Theatre Festival, recognizes her performance in The Testament of Mary on Broadway with the 2013 United Solo Special Award.

In 2018 Shaw begins portraying Carolyn Martens, head of the MI6 Russian Desk, in BBC America‘s Killing Eve, for which she wins the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Television Series. Later the same year, she plays a senior MI6 officer in Mrs. Wilson.