seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Roddy Doyle, Novelist, Dramatist & Screenwriter

Roddy Doyle, novelist, dramatist and screenwriter known for his unvarnished depiction of the working class in Ireland, is born in Dublin on May 8, 1958. His distinctively Irish settings, style, mood, and phrasing make him a favourite fiction writer in his own country as well as overseas.

Doyle grows up in a middle-class family in Kilbarrack. His mother, Ita Bolger Doyle, is a first cousin of the short story writer Maeve Brennan. After majoring in English and geography at University College Dublin, he teaches those subjects for fourteen years at Greendale Community School, a Dublin grade school. During the summer break of his third year of teaching, he begins writing seriously. In the early 1980s he writes a heavily political satire, Your Granny’s a Hunger Striker, but it is never published.

Doyle publishes the first editions of his comedy The Commitments (1987; film 1991) through his own company, King Farouk, until a London-based publisher takes over. The work is the first installment of his internationally acclaimed The Barrytown Trilogy novels, which also include The Snapper (1990; film 1993), and The Van (1991; film 1996). The series centres on the ups and downs of the never-say-die Rabbitte family, who temper the bleakness of life in an Irish slum with familial love and understanding.

Doyle’s fourth novel, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha (1993), wins the 1993 Booker Prize. Set in the 1960s in a fictional working-class area of northern Dublin, the book examines the cruelty inflicted upon children by other children. The protagonist, 10-year-old Paddy Clarke, fears his classmates’ ostracism, especially after the breakup of his parents’ marriage. In 1994 he writes the BBC miniseries Family, which generates heated controversy throughout conservative Ireland. The program sheds harsh light on a family’s struggle with domestic violence and alcoholism and portrays the bleaker side of life in a housing project, the same venue he had used in the more comedic Barrytown novels. The Woman Who Walked into Doors (1996) and its sequel, Paula Spencer (2006), concern the ramifications of domestic abuse and alcoholism.

A Star Called Henry (1999) centres on an Irish Republican Army (IRA) soldier named Henry Smart and his adventures during the Easter Rising. Smart’s further adventures are detailed in Oh, Play That Thing (2004), which follows him as he journeys through the United States, and The Dead Republic (2010), which chronicles his return to Ireland. In Smile (2017) a lonely middle-aged man looks back on his life, especially his troubled childhood. His next novel, Love (2020), follows two old friends as they spend a night drinking and looking back at their lives. The Deportees and Other Stories (2007), Bullfighting (2011), and Life Without Children (2021) are short-story collections. He also writes a number of books for children, including Wilderness (2007) and A Greyhound of a Girl (2011).

In 1987 Doyle marries Belinda Moller, granddaughter of former Irish President Erskine Childers. They have three children – Rory, Jack and Kate.

In the television series Father Ted, the character Father Dougal Maguire‘s unusual sudden use of (mild) profanities, such as saying “I wouldn’t know, Ted, you big bollocks!,” is blamed on his having “been reading those Roddy Doyle books again.”


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Death of Molly Keane, Novelist & Playwright

Molly Keane, Irish novelist and playwright who writes as M. J. Farrell, dies on April 22, 1996 in Ardmore, County Waterford.

Keane is born Mary Nesta Skrine on July 20, 1904 in Ryston Cottage, Newbridge, County Kildare. Her mother is a poet who writes under the pseudonym Moira O’Neill. Her father is a fanatic for horses and hunting. She grows up at Ballyrankin House on the banks of the River Slaney, a few miles southeast of Bunclody, County Wexford and refuses to go to boarding school in England as her siblings had done. She is educated by her mother, governesses, and at a boarding school in Bray, County Wicklow. Relationships between her and her parents are cold and she states that she had no fun in her life as a child. Her own passion for hunting and horses is born out of her need for fun and enjoyment. Reading does not feature much in her family, and, although her mother writes poetry, it is of a sentimental nature, “suitable to a woman of her class.”

Keane claims she had never set out to be a writer, but at seventeen she is bed bound due to suspected tuberculosis, and turns to writing out of sheer boredom. It is then she writes her first book, The Knight of Cheerful Countenance, which is published by Mills & Boon. She writes under the pseudonym “M. J. Farrell,” a name over a pub that she had seen on her return from hunting. She explains writing anonymously because “for a woman to read a book, let alone write one was viewed with alarm: I would have been banned from every respectable house in County Carlow.”

In her teenage years Keane spends much of her time in the Perry household in Woodruff, County Tipperary. Here she befriends the two children of the house, Sylvia and John Perry. She later collaborates with John in writing a number of plays. Among them is Spring Meeting, directed by John Gielgud in 1938, and one of the hits of the West End that year. She and Gielgud become life long friends.

It is through the Perry family that Keane meets Bobby Keane, whom she marries in 1938. He belongs to a Waterford squirearchical family, the Keane baronets. The couple goes on to have two daughters, Sally and Virginia.

Keane loves Jane Austen, and like Austen’s, her ability lay in her talent for creating characters. This, with her wit and astute sense of what lay beneath the surface of people’s actions, enables her to depict the world of the big houses of Ireland in the 1920s and 1930s. She “captured her class in all its vicious snobbery and genteel racism.” She uses her married name for her later novels, several of which (including Good Behaviour and Time After Time) have been adapted for television. Between 1928 and 1956, she writes eleven novels, and some of her earlier plays, under the pseudonym “M. J. Farrell.” She is a member of Aosdána.

Keane’s husband dies suddenly in 1946, and, following the failure of a play, she publishes nothing for twenty years. In 1981 Good Behaviour comes out under her own name. The manuscript, which had languished in a drawer for many years, is loaned to a visitor, the actress Peggy Ashcroft, who encourages Keane to publish it. The novel is warmly received and is short-listed for the Booker Prize.

Following the death of her husband, Keane moves to Ardmore, County Waterford, a place she knows well, and lives there with her two daughters. She dies on April 22, 1996 in her Cliffside home in Ardmore at the age of 91. She is buried beside the Church of Ireland church, near the centre of the village.


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Birth of Seamus Deane, Poet, Novelist, Critic & Historian

Seamus Francis Deane, Irish poet, novelist, critic, and intellectual historian, is born in Derry, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland on February 9, 1940. He is noted for his debut novel, Reading in the Dark, which wins several literary awards and is nominated for the Booker Prize in 1996.

Deane is the fourth child of Frank Deane and Winifred (Doherty), and is brought up as part of a Catholic nationalist family. He attends St. Columb’s College in his hometown, where he befriends fellow student Seamus Heaney. He then attends Queen’s University Belfast (BA and MA) and Pembroke College, Cambridge (PhD). Although he too becomes noted for his poetry, he chooses to go into academia instead. He workws as a teacher in Derry, with Martin McGuinness being one of his students. McGuinness later recalls how Deane was “gentle, kind and never raised his voice at all, an ideal teacher who was very highly thought of.”

After graduating from Cambridge, Deane teaches at the Reed College in Portland, Oregon during the 1960s and the University of California, Berkeley during the 1970s. Over the next two decades, he teaches American college juniors part-time at the School of Irish Studies in the Ballsbridge section of Dublin. He is a professor of Modern English and American Literature at University College Dublin (UCD) until 1992. He subsequently relocates to the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, as the Donald and Marilyn Keough Chair of Irish Studies, from which he retires as professor emeritus.

Deane is a member of the Royal Irish Academy and a founding director of the Field Day Theatre Company, together with Heaney, Tom Paulin, and David Hammond.

Deane is the co-editor of Field Day Review, an annual journal of Irish studies. He also serves as general editor of the Penguin Classic James Joyce series and of Critical Conditions, a series in Irish Studies which is jointly published by the University of Notre Dame Press and Cork University Press. He co-founds the book series Field Day Files, which contains key works by David Lloyd, Joe Cleary, Marjorie Howes, and Kerby A. Miller.

The first collection of Deane’s poetry, Gradual Wars, is published in 1972 and receives the AE Memorial Award for Literature. His first novel, Reading in the Dark, is published in 1996 and is partly autobiographical. It wins the 1996 Guardian Fiction Prize and the 1996 South Bank Show Award for Literature, is a New York Times Notable Book, wins The Irish Times International Fiction Prize and the Irish Literature Prize in 1997, besides being shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1996. The novel is translated into more than twenty languages. He is also the general editor of the monumental Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, which is 4,000 pages long and whose first volumes are released in 1990. It is later criticised for excluding the voices and experiences of Irish women. He responds to this by stating, “To my astonishment and dismay, I have found that I myself have been subject to the same kind of critique to which I have subjected colonialism … I find that I exemplify some of the faults and erasures which I analyse and characterize in the earlier period.”

Deane’s first marriage is to Marion Treacy. Together, they have four children. He is in a civil partnership with Emer Nolan until his death. They have one child together.

Following a short illness, Deane dies at the age of 81 on May 12, 2021 at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin.


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Death of Dame Jean Iris Murdoch, Novelist & Philosopher

Dame Jean Iris Murdoch DBE, Irish and British novelist and philosopher, dies in Oxford, England, on February 8, 1999. She is best known for her novels about good and evil, sexual relationships, morality, and the power of the unconscious. In 2008, The Times ranks her twelfth on a list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945.”

Murdoch is born on July 15, 1919 in Phibsborough, Dublin, the daughter of Irene Alice (née Richardson) and Wills John Hughes Murdoch. Her father, a civil servant, comes from a mainly Presbyterian sheep farming family from Hillhall, County Down. In 1915, he enlists as a soldier in King Edward’s Horse and serves in France during World War I before being commissioned as a second lieutenant. Her mother trains as a singer before Iris is born, and is from a middle-class Church of Ireland family in Dublin. Her parents first meet in Dublin when her father is on leave and are married in 1918. Iris is the couple’s only child. When she is a few weeks old the family moves to London, where her father had joined the Ministry of Health as a second-class clerk.  She is a second cousin of the Irish mathematician Brian Murdoch.

Murdoch is brought up in Chiswick and educated in progressive independent schools, entering the Froebel Demonstration School in 1925 and attending Badminton School in Bristol as a boarder from 1932 to 1938. In 1938 she goes up to Somerville College, Oxford, with the intention of studying English, but switches to “Greats“, a course of study combining classics, ancient history, and philosophy. At Oxford she studies philosophy with Donald M. MacKinnon and attends Eduard Fraenkel‘s seminars on Agamemnon. She is awarded a first class honours degree in 1942. After leaving Oxford she goes to work in London for HM Treasury. In June 1944 she leaves the Treasury and goes to work for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). At first she is stationed in London at the agency’s European Regional Office. In 1945 she is transferred first to Brussels, then to Innsbruck, and finally to Graz, Austria, where she works in a refugee camp. She leaves the UNRRA in 1946.

From 1947 to 1948 Murdoch studies philosophy as a postgraduate at Newnham College, Cambridge. She meets Ludwig Wittgenstein at Cambridge but does not hear him lecture, as he had left his Trinity College professorship before she arrives. In 1948 she becomes a fellow of St. Anne’s College, Oxford, where she teaches philosophy until 1963. From 1963 to 1967 she teaches one day a week in the General Studies department at the Royal College of Art.

In 1956 Murdoch marries John Bayley, a literary critic, novelist, and from 1974 to 1992 Warton Professor of English at Oxford University, whom she had met in Oxford in 1954. The unusual romantic partnership lasts more than forty years until Murdoch’s death. Bayley thinks that sex is “inescapably ridiculous.” She in contrast has “multiple affairs with both men and women which, on discomposing occasions, Bayley witnesses for himself.”

Murdoch’s first novel, Under the Net, is published in 1954 and is selected in 1998 as one of Modern Library’s 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. She had previously published essays on philosophy, and the first monograph about Jean-Paul Sartre published in English. She goes on to produce 25 more novels and additional works of philosophy, as well as poetry and drama.

Murdoch’s 1978 novel The Sea, the Sea wins the Booker Prize. Her other books include The Bell (1958), A Severed Head (1961), The Red and the Green (1965), The Nice and the Good (1968), The Black Prince (1973), Henry and Cato (1976), The Philosopher’s Pupil (1983), The Good Apprentice (1985), The Book and the Brotherhood (1987), The Message to the Planet (1989), and The Green Knight (1993).

In 1976 she is named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire and in 1987 is made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for services to literature. She is awarded honorary degrees by the University of Bath (D.Litt, 1983), University of Cambridge (1993) and Kingston University (1994), among others. She is elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1982.

Murdoch’s last novel, Jackson’s Dilemma, is published in 1995. She is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1997 and dies on February 8, 1999 in Oxford. There is a bench dedicated to her in the grounds of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, where she enjoyed walking.


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Birth of Dermot Healy, Novelist, Playwright, Poet & Short Story Writer

Dermot Healy, Irish novelist, playwright, poet and short story writer, is born in Finnea, County Westmeath, on November 9, 1947. A member of Aosdána, he is also part of its governing body, the Toscaireacht. He is described variously as a “master,” a “Celtic Hemingway” and as “Ireland’s finest living novelist.”

Healy is the son of a Guard. As a child the family moves to Cavan, where he attends the local secondary school. In his late teens he moves to London and works in a succession of jobs, including barman, security man and as a labourer. He later returns to Ireland, settling in Ballyconnell, County Sligo, a small settlement on the Atlantic coast.

Often overlooked due to his relatively low public profile, Healy’s work is admired by his Irish literary predecessors, peers and successors alike, many of whom idolise him. Among the writers to have spoken highly of him are Seamus Heaney, Eugene McCabe, Roddy Doyle, Patrick McCabe and Anne Enright.

Healy’s work is influenced by an eclectic range of writers from around the world, including Anna Akhmatova, John Arden, Isaac Babel, Matsuo Bashō, Samuel Beckett, Jorge Luis Borges, Angela Carter, J. M. Coetzee, Emily Dickinson, Maria Edgeworth, T. S. Eliot, Hermann Hesse, Nâzım Hikmet, Aidan Higgins, Miroslav Holub, Eugène Ionesco, Franz Kafka, Mary Lavin, Federico García Lorca, Guy de Maupassant, Edgar Allan Poe, Sylvia Plath, Ezra Pound, William Shakespeare and Robert Louis Stevenson. Healy writes in a shed and is fascinated by etymology. However, on being a writer, he is quoted as saying, “I know writing is what I do but I still don’t see myself as one.”

Healy is longlisted for the Booker Prize with his novel A Goats Song. He wins the Hennessy Literary Award (1974 and 1976), the Tom-Gallon Trust Award (1983), and the Encore Award (1995). In 2011, he is shortlisted for the Poetry Now Award for his 2010 poetry collection, A Fool’s Errand. Long Time, No See is nominated for the International Dublin Literary Award, the world’s most valuable literary award for a single work in the English language, by libraries in Russia and Norway.

Healy dies at his home in Ballyconnell on June 29, 2014, while awaiting an ambulance after suddenly being taken ill. He is laid to rest at Carrigans Cemetery following funeral mass by Fr. Michael Donnelly at St. Patrick’s Church in Maugherow.


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Birth of English Playwright John Arden

John Arden, English playwright, is born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England, on October 26, 1930. At the time of his death he is lauded as “one of the most significant British playwrights of the late 1950s and early 60s.”

Arden is the son of the manager of a glass factory. He is educated at Sedbergh School in Cumbria, King’s College, Cambridge and the Edinburgh College of Art, where he studies architecture. He first gains critical attention for the radio play The Life of Man in 1956 shortly after finishing his studies.

Arden is initially associated with the English Stage Company at the Royal Court Theatre in London. His 1959 play, Serjeant Musgrave’s Dance, in which four army deserters arrive in a northern mining town to exact retribution for an act of colonial violence, is considered to be his best. His work is influenced by Bertolt Brecht and epic theatre as in Left-Handed Liberty (1965, on the anniversary of Magna Carta). Other plays include Live Like Pigs, The Workhouse Donkey, and Armstrong’s Last Goodnight, the last of which is performed at the 1963 Chichester Festival by the Royal National Theatre after it was rejected by the Royal Court.

Arden’s 1978 radio play Pearl is considered in a Guardian survey to be one of the best plays in that medium. He also writes several novels, including Silence Among the Weapons, which is shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1982, and Books of Bale, about the Protestant apologist John Bale. He is a member of the Royal Society of Literature.

With his wife and co-writer Margaretta D’Arcy, Arden pickets the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) premiere of his Arthurian play The Island of the Mighty, because they believe the production to be pro-imperialist. They write several plays together which are highly critical of British presence in Ireland, where he and D’Arcy live from 1971 onward.

In 1961, Arden is a founder member of the anti-nuclear Committee of 100, and he also chairs the pacifist weekly Peace News. In Ireland, he is for a while a member of Official Sinn Féin. He is an advocate of civil liberties, and opposes anti-terror legislation, as demonstrated in his 2007 radio play The Scam.

Arden is elected to Aosdána in 2011 before dying in Galway, County Galway on March 28, 2012. He is waked in a wicker casket.

(Pictured: Photograph of John Arden in 1966, credit to Sam Falk/The New York Times)


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Birth of Joan O’Hara, Actress of Stage, Film & Television

Joan O’Hara, Irish stage, film and television actress, is born in Rosses Point, County Sligo, on October 10, 1930. She is one of Ireland’s most popular actresses and is, at the time of her death, recognisable to television viewers as Eunice Dunstan, a gossip in Fair City on RTÉ One.

O’Hara is born and raised in Rosses Point, the daughter of Major John Charles O’Hara, an officer in the British Corps of Royal Engineers and his wife, Mai (née Kirwan). One of her sisters, Mary (born 1935), is a soprano/harpist. Her brother Dermot (born 1934) now lives with his family in Canada. She attends the same Ursuline convent school as fellow actress and friend Pauline Flanagan.

O’Hara lives most of her life in Monkstown, County Dublin, with a stay in London, with her husband, the poet and architect Francis J. Barry. The couple has four children: Siubhan, Jane, Guy, and Sebastian, an author/playwright, whose works include The Steward of Christendom, and the Booker-shortlisted novels A Long Long Way and The Secret Scripture. She is also a year-round sea-swimmer.

O’Hara is a member of the renowned Abbey Players and performs in many plays in the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, including those by Seán O’Casey, Lady Gregory and W.B. Yeats. She appears as Maurya in the 1988 film The Dawning. She appears in a number of other films, including Ron Howard‘s Far and Away, Da, Footfalls, Home is the Hero and just before her death, How About You. In this her final film, she stars with Vanessa Redgrave and her friend Brenda Fricker. The strength of her performance and bravery in carrying it out is acknowledged by the cast and crew in a standing ovation.

More recently, O’Hara is best known for appearing in the popular Irish television soap opera Fair City, broadcast on RTÉ One. She joins the soap in 1994, portraying the character Eunice Dunstan until her death in 2007. Thus she is described as both one of Ireland’s most popular actresses and as one of the finest actors of her generation on her death. She admires in particular Samuel Beckett, Federico García Lorca and Ingmar Bergman. While she takes a no-nonsense approach to her craft, famously giving the advice that when in doubt, one should relate to the fireplace, she is educated at the Abbey School of Acting and has a deep appreciation and knowledge of theoretical approaches to acting and is an admirer of the European and American avant-garde. As actor Alan Stanford said after her death, “She had the most amazing energy. She was in the truest sense one of the last of the greats.”

Joan O’Hara Barry (she keeps her maiden name as her stage name) dies in Dublin on July 23, 2007 of complications from heart disease, aged 76. Her death is announced on RTÉ News the following day.