seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Gerry Robinson, Businessman & Television Presenter

Sir Gerrard Jude “Gerry” Robinson, Irish-born British business executive and television presenter, is born in Dunfanaghy, County Donegal on October 23, 1948. He is the former non-executive Chairman of Allied Domecq and the ex-Chairman/chief executive of Granada.

The ninth of ten children born to Anthony and Elizabeth Robinson, Robinson moves with his family to England in his early teens. He briefly trains to become a Catholic priest at St. Mary’s Missionary College of the Holy Ghost Fathers at Castlehead, Grange-over-Sands, Lancashire. He begins a career in accounting in 1965 as a clerk with the Matchbox toy company. While with the firm, he progresses through various accounting roles to become Chief Management Accountant in 1974. During that time he also qualifies as an Associate Chartered Management Accountant.

In 1974, Robinson leaves Matchbox to work for Lex Vehicle Leasing as a management accountant. He rises through the company and is ultimately appointed finance director. In 1980, he joins the UK franchise of Coca-Cola, owned at the time by Grand Metropolitan. In 1983 he is appointed managing director of Grand Metropolitan’s international services division. In 1987 he leads the successful £163m management buyout of the loss-making contract services and catering division of Compass Group, known as Compass Caterers. He joins Granada as CEO in 1991 and ousts Granada’s chairman, David Plowright, in 1992, which leads John Cleese to call Robinson “an upstart caterer.”

Robinson steers the company through various mergers, and hostile takeovers including London Weekend Television (1993) and Forte Group (1996). In 1999 he is the subject of a biography, Lord of the Dance, written by business journalist William Kay, and published by Orion Business Books. In 2005 he makes an unsuccessful attempt to oust Doug Flynn as CEO of Rentokil Initial and install himself as Executive chairman for a 5% stake in the company, then valued at £56M.

Robinson’s first foray into broadcasting is a revival of the BBC‘s Troubleshooter series, originally fronted by Sir John Harvey-Jones in the early 1990s. Titled I’ll Show Them Who’s Boss and co-produced by the Open University, in 2004 he goes into struggling businesses to try to turn them round by advice and mentoring.

In January 2007 following a similar format, he presents a three-part series, Can Gerry Robinson Fix the NHS? as he attempts to reduce waiting lists at Rotherham General Hospital. He returns a year later for a sequel, Can Gerry Robinson Fix the NHS? One Year On. In December 2009, he presents a programme in a similar format entitled Can Gerry Robinson Fix Dementia Care Homes?.

In June 2009 Robinson presents a special edition of The Money Programme entitled Gerry Robinson’s Car Crash investigating the history and future of the British motor industry. He regularly appears on British TV as a celebrity businessman. In July 2009 he starts a TV series called Gerry’s Big Decision, in which he reviews struggling companies and decides whether it is worth investing his own money to save them. From January 14 through February 18, 2011 he presents BBC Two show Can’t Take It with You, which helps people to write their wills.

Robinson also serves as chairman of the Arts Council England for six years from 1998, in which capacity he is one of the many victims of a spoof by British comedian Ali G. He has divorced and remarried and has four children. He lives in Raphoe, County Donegal and has established a botanical garden with a narrow-gauge railway – the Difflin Lake Railway – which is open to the public. He was knighted in the 2004 New Year Honours list.


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Birth of Gabriel Byrne, Actor, Director & Producer

gabriel-james-byrneGabriel James Byrne, internationally acclaimed actor, film director, film producer, writer, cultural ambassador and audiobook narrator, is born in Dublin on May 12, 1950.

Byrne is the first of six children. His father is a cooper and his mother a hospital worker. He is raised Catholic and educated by the Irish Christian Brothers. He spends five years of his childhood in a seminary training to be a Catholic priest. He later says, “I spent five years in the seminary and I suppose it was assumed that you had a vocation. I have realized subsequently that I didn’t have one at all. I don’t believe in God. But I did believe at the time in this notion that you were being called.” He attends University College Dublin (UCD), where he studies archeology and linguistics, and becomes proficient in the Irish language. He plays football in Dublin with the Stella Maris Football Club.

Byrne works in archeology after he leaves UCD but maintains his love of his language, writing Draíocht (Magic), the first drama in Irish on Ireland’s national Irish television station, TG4, in 1996.

He discovers his acting ability as a young adult. Before that he works at several occupations which include being an archaeologist, a cook, a bullfighter, and a Spanish schoolteacher. He begins acting when he is 29 years old. He begins on stage at the Focus Theatre and the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, later joining the Royal Court Theatre and the Royal National Theatre in London.

Byrne comes to prominence on the final season of the Irish television show The Riordans, later starring in the spin-off series, Bracken. He makes his film début in 1981 as Lord Uther Pendragon in John Boorman‘s King Arthur epic, Excalibur.

Byrne does not visit the United States until he is 37 years old. In 1988, he married actress Ellen Barkin with whom he has two children. The couple separates amicably in 1993 and divorce in 1999.

In November 2004, Byrne is appointed a UNICEF Ireland Ambassador. In 2007 he is presented with the first of the newly created Volta awards at the 5th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival for his lifetime achievement in acting. He also receives the Honorary Patronage of the University Philosophical Society, of Trinity College Dublin on February 20, 2007. He is awarded an honorary degree in late 2007 by the National University of Ireland, Galway, in recognition of his “outstanding contribution to Irish and international film.”

Byrne is featured as therapist Dr. Paul Weston in the critically acclaimed HBO series In Treatment (2008). In his return to theater in 2008, Byrne appears as King Arthur in Alan Lerner and Frederick Loewe‘s Camelot with the New York Philharmonic which is featured in a PBS broadcast in the Live From Lincoln Center series in May of 2008.

Byrne currently resides in Manhattan, New York.

(From IMDb Mini Biography by Bernie Corrigan)


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Birth of Irish-Australian Novelist Thomas Michael Keneally

thomas-michael-keneallyThomas Michael Keneally, Irish-Australian novelist, playwright, and author of non-fiction, is born in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, on October 7, 1935.

The son of Edmund Thomas and Elsie Margaret (Coyle) Keneally, he grows up in Kempsey and is educated at St. Patrick’s College, Strathfield where, subsequently, a writing prize has been named after him. Keneally enters St. Patrick’s Seminary, Manly to train as a Catholic priest. Although he is ordained as a deacon while at the seminary, he leaves without being ordained into the priesthood. He works as a Sydney schoolteacher before his success as a novelist and is a lecturer at the University of New England from 1968–1970.

Keneally is known as “Mick” until 1964 but, upon the advice of his publisher to use his real first name, begins using the name Thomas when he starts publishing. He is most famous for writing Man Booker Prize winner Schindler’s Ark (1982) which is later republished as Schindler’s List, and is later adapted to Steven Spielberg‘s Schindler’s List, which wins the Academy Award for Best Picture. Many of Keneally’s novels are reworkings of historical material, although modern in their psychology and style.

Keneally also acts in a handful of films. He has a small role in The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, based on his novel, and plays Father Marshall in the award-winning Fred Schepisi film The Devil’s Playground (1976).

Keneally is a strong advocate of an Australian republic, meaning the abolition of the Australian monarchy, and publishes a book, Our Republic, on the subject in 1993. Several of his Republican essays appear on the web site of the Australian Republican Movement.

Keneally is a keen supporter of rugby league football, in particular the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles club of the National Rugby League. In 2004 he gives the sixth annual Tom Brock Lecture and makes an appearance in the 2007 rugby league drama film The Final Winter.

In March 2009, the Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, gives an autographed copy of Keneally’s biography Lincoln to President Barack Obama as a state gift. Recently Keneally has been a featured writer in the critically acclaimed Australian drama Our Sunburnt Country.