seamus dubhghaill

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


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Death of Christy Brown, Writer & Painter

christy-brownChristy Brown, Irish writer and painter who has cerebral palsy and is able to write or type only with the toes of one foot, dies on September 7, 1981 in Parbrook, Somerset, England. His most recognized work is his autobiography, My Left Foot (1954).

Brown is born into a working-class Irish family at the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin on June 5, 1932. He is one of 22 siblings of parents Bridget Fagan and Patrick Brown. After his birth, doctors discover that he has severe cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder which leaves him almost entirely spastic in his limbs. Though urged to commit him to a hospital, his parents are unswayed and subsequently determined to raise him at home with their other children. During his adolescence, social worker Katriona Delahunt becomes aware of his story and begins to visit the Brown family regularly. She brings him books and painting materials as, over the years, he has shown a keen interest in the arts and literature. He has also demonstrated extremely impressive physical dexterity since, soon after discovering several household books, he had learned to both write and draw himself with his left leg, the only limb over which he has unequivocal control.

Brown quickly matures into a serious artist. Although he famously receives almost no formal schooling during his youth, he does attend St. Brendan’s School-Clinic in Sandymount intermittently. At St. Brendan’s he comes in contact with Dr. Robert Collis, a noted author. Collis discovers that Brown is also a natural novelist and, later, helps use his own connections to publish My Left Foot, by then a long-gestating autobiographical account of Brown’s struggle with everyday life amidst the vibrant culture of Dublin.

When My Left Foot becomes a literary sensation, one of the many people who write letters to Brown is married American woman Beth Moore. Brown and Moore become regular correspondents and, in 1960, he holidays in North America and stays with Moore at her home in Connecticut. When they meet again in 1965 they began an affair. Brown journeys to Connecticut once more to finish his magnum opus, which he had been developing for years. He finally does so in 1967 with help from Moore, who introduces and administers a strict working regimen, mostly by denying him alcohol until a day’s work is completed. The book, Down All the Days, is published in 1970. It is an ambitious project drawn largely from a playful expansion of My Left Foot. It becomes an international best-seller, translated into fourteen languages. The Irish Times reviewer Bernard Share claims the work is “the most important Irish novel since Ulysses.”

Down All the Days is followed by a series of other novels, including A Shadow on Summer (1972), Wild Grow the Lilies (1976) and A Promising Career (published posthumously in 1982). He also publishes three poetry collections: Come Softly to My Wake, Background Music and Of Snails and Skylarks. All the poems are included in The Collected Poems of Christy Brown.

Brown’s fame continues to spread internationally and he becomes a prominent celebrity. Upon his return to Ireland, he is able to use proceeds from the sales of his books to design and move into a specially constructed home outside Dublin with his sister’s family. Though he and Beth had planned to marry and live together at the new home, and though Moore had informed her husband of these plans, it is around this time that he begins an affair with Englishwoman Mary Carr, whom he meets at a party in London. He then terminates his affair with Moore and marries Carr at the Registry Office, Dublin, in 1972. They move to Stoney Lane, Rathcoole, County Dublin, to Ballyheigue, County Kerry and then to Somerset. He continues to paint, write novels, poetry and plays. His 1974 novel, A Shadow on Summer, is based on his relationship with Moore, whom he still considers a friend.

Brown’s health deteriorates after marrying Carr. He becomes mainly a recluse in his last years, which is thought to be a direct result of Carr’s influence and perhaps abusive nature. He dies at the age of 49 on September 7, 1981 after choking during a lamb chop dinner. His body is found to have significant bruising, which leads many to believe that Carr had physically abused him. Further suspicions arise after Georgina Hambleton’s biography, The Life That Inspired My Left Foot, reveals a supposedly more accurate and unhealthy version of their relationship. The book portrays Carr as an abusive alcoholic and habitually unfaithful. He is buried in the Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.

A film adaptation of My Left Foot directed by Jim Sheridan is produced in 1989 from a screenplay by Shane Connaughton. Daniel Day-Lewis stars as Brown and Brenda Fricker as his mother. Both win Academy Awards for their performances. The film also receives Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

The Anglo-Irish rock band The Pogues pay tribute to Christy Brown with a song titled “Down All the Days.” It is the seventh track on their 1989 recording Peace and Love. Similarly, U2 releases a song titled “Down All the Days” with the 20th anniversary edition of Achtung Baby. The Men They Couldn’t Hang also writes a song “Down All the Days” which appears on their Silver Town album also released in 1989.


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Birth of Actor Ray McAnally

Ray McAnally, Irish actor and winner of four BAFTA awards in the late 1980s, is born on March 30, 1926, in Buncrana, a seaside town located on the Inishowen peninsula of County Donegal.

The son of a bank manager, McAnally is educated at Saint Eunan’s College in Letterkenny where he writes, produces and stages a musical called “Madame Screwball” at the age of sixteen. He enters St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth at the age of 18 but leaves after a short time having decided that the priesthood is not his vocation. He joins the Abbey Theatre in 1947 where he meets and marries actress Ronnie Masterson.

The couple later forms Old Quay Productions and present an assortment of classic plays in the 1960s and 1970s. McAnally makes his theatre debut in 1962 with A Nice Bunch of Cheap Flowers and gives a well-received performance as George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, opposite Constance Cummings, at the Piccadilly Theatre.

On television he is a familiar face, often in glossy thriller series like television series The Avengers, Man in a Suitcase, and Strange Report. In 1968 he takes the title role in Spindoe, a series charting the return to power of an English gangster, Alec Spindoe, after a five-year prison term. This is a spin-off from another series, The Fellows (1967) in which McAnally had appeared in several episodes as the Spindoe character. He could render English accents very convincingly.

McAnally regularly acts in the Abbey Theatre and at Irish festivals, but in the last decade of life he achieves award-winning notice on TV and films. His impressive performance as Cardinal Altamirano in the film The Mission (1986) earns him Evening Standard and BAFTA awards. He earns a second BAFTA award for his role in the BBC’s A Perfect Spy (1987). In 1988 he wins the BAFTA for Best Actor for his performance in A Very British Coup, a role that also brings him a Jacob’s Award. In the last year of his life he portrays the father of Christy Brown, played by Daniel Day-Lewis, in the Academy Award-winning film, My Left Foot (1989).

McAnally dies suddenly of a heart attack on June 15, 1989, at the age of 63, at his home in County Wicklow which he shares with Irish actress Britta Smith. He remains married to actress Ronnie Masterson until his death, although they reside in different homes. He receives a posthumous BAFTA award for his last film in 1990.

At the time of his death, McAnally is due to play “Bull McCabe” in Jim Sheridan‘s film The Field. The part eventually goes to Richard Harris who receives an Academy Award nomination for his performance. McAnally had also been cast in the lead role of First and Last, a drama about a man who walked from Land’s End to John o’ Groats. Filming is almost a third of the way done when he dies, but the whole play has to be re-filmed, with Joss Ackland taking the role instead.


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Birth of Christy Brown, Author of “My Left Foot”

christy-brownChristy Brown, writer and painter who has cerebral palsy and is able to write or type only with the toes of one foot, is born into a working-class Irish family at the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin on June 5, 1932. His most recognized work is his autobiography, My Left Foot, which is later made into a 1989 Academy Award-winning film of the same name, starring Daniel-Day Lewis as Brown.

After his birth, doctors discovered that he has severe cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder which leaves him almost entirely spastic in his limbs. Though urged to commit him to a hospital, Brown’s parents are unswayed and subsequently determined to raise him at home with their other children. During Brown’s adolescence, social worker Katriona Delahunt becomes aware of his story and begins to visit the Brown family regularly. She brings Christy books and painting materials as, over the years, he has shown a keen interest in the arts and literature. He has also demonstrated extremely impressive physical dexterity since, soon after discovering several household books, Christy learns to both write and draw himself using his left leg, the only limb over which he had unequivocal control.

Brown quickly matures into a serious artist. Although Brown famously receives almost no formal schooling during his youth, he does attend St. Brendan’s School-Clinic in Sandymount intermittently. At St. Brendan’s he comes in contact with Dr. Robert Collis, a noted author. Collis discovers that Brown is also a natural novelist and later uses his own connections to publish My Left Foot, by then a long-gestating autobiographical account of Brown’s struggle with everyday life amidst the vibrant culture of Dublin.

In 1965, after My Left Foot has become a literary sensation, Brown meets and begins corresponding with Beth Moore, a married American woman, and they begin an affair. She helps push Brown to complete his book Down All the Days, which is published in 1970 and includes a dedication to Moore.

During this time, Brown’s fame continues to spread internationally and he becomes a prominent celebrity. Upon his return to Ireland, he is able to use proceeds from the sales of his books to design and move into a specially constructed home outside Dublin with his sister’s family. It is around this time that Brown begins an affair with Englishwoman Mary Carr, whom he marries in 1972 at the Registry Office in Dublin. He continues to paint, write novels, poetry, and plays. His 1974 novel, A Shadow on Summer, is based on his relationship with Moore, whom he still considers a friend.

Brown’s health deteriorates after marrying Carr. He becomes a recluse in his final years, which is thought to be a direct result of Carr’s influence and perhaps abusive nature. Brown dies in Parbrook, Somerset, England on September 7, 1981, at the age of 49 after choking during a lamb chop dinner. His body is found to have significant bruising, which lead many to believe that Carr has physically abused him. Further suspicions arise after Georgina Hambleton’s biography, The Life That Inspired My Left Foot, reveals a supposedly more accurate and unhealthy version of their relationship. The book portrays Carr as an abusive alcoholic and habitually unfaithful. Brown is buried in Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery.


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First Burial at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin

glasnevin-towerThe first burial takes place at Glasnevin Cemetery in Glasnevin, Dublin, on February 22, 1832.

Prior to the establishment of Glasnevin Cemetery, Irish Catholics have no cemeteries of their own in which to bury their dead. The repressive Penal Laws of the eighteenth century place heavy restrictions on the public performance of Catholic services, forcing Catholics to conduct a limited version of their own funeral services in Protestant churchyards or graveyards. This situation continues until an incident at a funeral held at St. Kevin’s Churchyard in 1823 provokes public outcry when a Protestant sexton reprimands a Catholic priest for proceeding to perform a limited version of a funeral mass. The outcry prompts Daniel O’Connell, champion of Catholic rights, to launch a campaign and prepare a legal opinion proving that there is actually no law forbidding praying for a dead Catholic in a graveyard. O’Connell pushes for the opening of a burial ground in which both Irish Catholics and Protestants can give their dead a dignified burial.

Glasnevin Cemetery is consecrated and opened to the public for the first time on February 21, 1832. The first burial, that of eleven-year-old Michael Carey from Francis Street in Dublin, takes place on the following day in a section of the cemetery known as Curran’s Square. The cemetery is initially known as Prospect Cemetery, a name chosen from the townland of Prospect, which surrounds the cemetery lands.

Originally covering nine acres of ground, the area of the cemetery has now grown to approximately 124 acres and is the final resting place of some 1.5 million people. The cemetery consists of two parts. The main part, with its trademark high walls and watchtowers, is located on one side of the road from Finglas to the city centre, while the other part, called St. Paul’s, is located across the road and beyond a green space, between two railway lines.SONY DSC

Glasnevin is one of the few cemeteries that allows stillborn babies to be buried in consecrated ground and contains an area called the Angels Plot for that purpose. In 1982, a crematorium is constructed within the cemetery grounds by Glasnevin Trust and has since been used for people of various religious denominations who wish to be cremated.

Glasnevin contains historically notable monuments and the graves of many of Ireland’s most prominent national figures. These include the graves of Daniel O’Connell, Charles Stewart Parnell, Michael Collins (pictured at right), Éamon de Valera, Arthur Griffith, Maud Gonne, Kevin Barry, Roger Casement, Constance Markievicz, Pádraig Ó Domhnaill, Seán MacBride, Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, Frank Duff, Brendan Behan, Christy Brown, and Luke Kelly of the Dubliners.

Glasnevin Cemetery remains under the care of the Dublin Cemeteries Committee and the development, expansion, and refurbishment of the cemetery is an ongoing task.

The Catholic Mass is celebrated by members of the parish clergy every Sunday at 9:45 AM. An annual blessing of the graves takes place each summer as it has since the founding of the cemetery in 1832.