seamus dubhghaill

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


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Death of John Cowley, Actor & Animal Welfare Activist

John Ultan Cowley, actor and animal welfare activist, dies on February 13, 1998, in Navan, County Meath. He is best known for his role as pater familias, Tom Riordan, in the long-running RTÉ Television drama series, The Riordans.

Cowley is born September 8, 1923 in Ardbraccan, Navan, County Meath, the third child of Patrick Cowley, a small farmer, and his wife Margaret. Educated at the local national school, he leaves at the age of thirteen to work on the family farm. He also works with a horse and cart drawing stones from a local quarry. He is an enthusiastic amateur actor and learns his trade in the fit-ups of the forties and fifties. Moving to England, he gets parts in television shows such as Z-Cars and No Hiding Place. During the 1950s and 60s, he is also very active in theatre, and has a long association with the Globe theatre company in Dún Laoghaire, which he joins in 1956. He also plays in the Abbey, Gate and Olympia theatres, travels Europe in 1960–61 with John Millington Synge‘s The Playboy of the Western World, and stars in the early Hugh Leonard play I Loved You Last Summer.

Cowley is best known for his portrayal of the bluff countryman Tom Riordan in RTÉ’s rural drama, The Riordans. First airing on January 4, 1965, it runs until May 28, 1979. One of RTÉ’s most successful programmes, it has a huge audience and a considerable social impact through its treatment of controversial topics such as divorce, contraception, and mixed marriages. When it ends in 1979 Cowley is bitterly disappointed and accuses RTÉ of throwing him on the scrap heap. After this he continues to work in theatre and has occasional appearances on screen, including a part in Jim Sheridan‘s The Field (1991) and the British espionage television series, The Avengers.

Cowley also writes poetry and a play, A Fool and His Money. His other hobbies include a passion for history (particularly the 1798 period), hurling, Gaelic football, boxing, and swimming. A patron and a founder member of the Irish Council Against Blood Sports in 1967, he is a leading opponent of hare coursing, popularising the cause through an appearance on The Late Late Show in 1967.

In 1953 Cowley marries Annie D’Alton, an actor who later appears with him in The Riordans, two years after the death of her first husband, the dramatist Louis D’Alton. They have one son.

Cowley dies in Navan on February 13, 1998. His wife precedes him in death in March 1983.


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Death of Marie-Louise O’Murphy, Mistress of Louis XV

Marie-Louise O’Murphy, one of the lesser mistresses of King Louis XV of France and possibly the model for the famous painting by François Boucher, dies in Paris on December 11, 1814.

O’Murphy is born in Rouen, France on October 21, 1737 as the youngest of twelve children of Daniel Morfi and Marguerite Iquy, a family of Irish origin. Her parents have well-known criminal histories. Her father was involved in a case of espionage and blackmail while her mother was accused of prostitution and theft. She and her sisters are also known for being involved in prostitution.

Contemporary and modern historiography believe O’Murphy is the very young model who posed for the Jeune Fille allongée (Reclining Girl), of François Boucher, a painting famous for its undisguised eroticism, dating from 1752. Two versions of this painting have survived, both conserved in Germany, one in the Alte Pinakothek at Munich and the other in the Wallraf-Richartz Museum at Cologne.

The term petite maîtresse (little mistress) is given to Louis XV’s mistresses that are not formally presented at court, and unlike the official mistress (maîtresse-en-titre) do not have an apartment in Palace of Versailles. Generally recruited by the King’s valets in Paris surroundings, if their affair lasts more than a single night, they are placed in a group of houses in the district of Parc-aux-Cerfs in Versailles, or close to other royal residences. O’Murphy resides there for two years, from 1753 to 1755.

After a miscarriage in mid-1753 which almost kills her, O’Murphy gives birth to Louis XV’s illegitimate daughter, Agathe-Louise de Saint-Antoine de Saint-André, born in Paris on June 20, 1754. The King, who does not want to recognize the offspring born from petites maîtresses and brief affairs, orders that the newborn must be immediately placed in care of a wet nurse. Subsequently, Agathe-Louise is sent to the Couvent de la Présentation, where she is raised.

After serving as a mistress to the King for almost two years, O’Murphy makes a mistake that is common for many courtesans, that of trying to replace the official mistress. She unwisely tries to unseat the longtime royal favorite, Madame de Pompadour. This ill-judged move quickly results in her downfall at court. In November 1755 she is expelled at night from her home at Parc-aux-Cerfs, repudiated by the King, and sent far away from Versailles.

O’Murphy hastily marries Jacques Pelet de Beaufranchet, Seigneur d’Ayat on November 25, 1755. Soon after she becomes pregnant. Her first child, a daughter named Louise Charlotte Antoinette Françoise Pelet de Beaufranchet, is born on October 30, 1756 (she dies at the age of two). Thirteen months later, on November 5, 1757, her husband is killed in action at the Battle of Rossbach. Seventeen days after his death she gives birth a second child, a son, Louis Charles Antoine de Beaufranchet, the later Comte de Beaufranchet and General under the Republic.

On February 19, 1759, O’Murphy marries François Nicolas Le Normant, Comte de Flaghac and Receiver General of Finance in Riom, a divorcee with three children. From this marriage, she gives birth to a daughter, Marguerite Victoire Le Normant de Flaghac on January 5, 1768, who, according to one theory, could be another illegitimate daughter of Louis XV. François Le Normant dies on April 24, 1783.

During the Reign of Terror O’Murphy is imprisoned as a “suspect,” under the name of O’Murphy, at Sainte-Pélagie Prison and later at the English Benedictine convent in Paris. After her release she marries Louis Philippe Dumont, a moderate MP for Calvados in the National Convention and twenty-eight years her junior, on June 19, 1795. This union quickly fails, and after almost three years, they divorce on March 16, 1798. She never marries again.

Marie-Louise O’Murphy dies in Paris on December 11, 1814 aged 77, at the home of her daughter Marguerite Le Normant.


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Death of Actor T.P. McKenna

thomas-patrick-mckennaCharacter actor Thomas Patrick McKenna, known professionally as T.P. McKenna and for his stage, film, and television work, dies at Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead, London on February 13, 2011 following a long illness.

McKenna is born in Mullagh, County Cavan on September 7, 1929. A prolific theater actor throughout his career, he makes his stage debut in Summer and Smoke by Tennessee Williams at the Pike Theatre in Dublin in 1954.

McKenna makes his film debut in the IRANazi drama The Night Fighters (1960) and from this uncredited beginning he moves up to tenth billing in The Siege of Sidney Street (1960). His next major movie is Girl with Green Eyes (1964), by which time he has also started a successful television career, making his TV debut in Espionage (1963) and over the next few years appears in several more TV shows. His versatility enables him to play three characters in The Avengers (1961). He is also featured in such well-regarded shows as Adam Adamant Lives! (1966), Dixon of Dock Green (1955) and The Saint (1962).

Meanwhile, McKenna’s film career develops along literary lines, and he is featured in Brendan Behan‘s The Quare Fellow (1962), the Sean O’Casey biopic Young Cassidy (1965) and James Joyce‘s Ulysses (1967). He takes smaller parts in such epics as The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968) and Anne of the Thousand Days (1969).

British films such as Perfect Friday (1970) and Villain (1971) allowed McKenna to showcase his suave, urbane persona before trying something different in the controversial Straw Dogs (1971). He appears alongside a young Anthony Hopkins in All Creatures Great and Small (1975) before starring with John Gielgud for the second time, this time in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1977). Over the next few years his co-stars are as diverse as Leonard Rossiter (Britannia Hospital (1982)), Timothy Dalton (The Doctor and the Devils (1985)), Ben Kingsley (Pascali’s Island (1988)) and Dolph Lundgren (Red Scorpion (1988)). Not all of these films are successes, but he always gives good value for the money and develops themes of his, such as an interest in Irish issues, in The Outsider (1980). His last released film is Valmont (1989), which is unfortunately completely overshadowed by Dangerous Liaisons (1988), which is based on the same novel.

Over the years McKenna makes numerous guest appearances in TV series such as Minder (1979), Casualty (1986), Lovejoy (1986), Inspector Morse (1987), Heartbeat (1992) and Ballykissangel (1996). He is also prominent in TV movies and series, featuring in Charles DickensMasterpiece Theatre: Bleak House (1985), Stendhal‘s Scarlet and Black (1993) and an adaptation of Henry JamesThe American (1998).

McKenna dies on February 13, 2011 at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, London, at the age of 81 following a long period of illness. He is buried alongside his wife at Teampall Cheallaigh Cemetery in his native County Cavan.

Following his death, tributes are paid by President of Ireland Mary McAleese, Prince Charles, and Ireland’s Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport Mary Hanafin, who says that McKenna was “one of a great generation whose talents on the screen and stage both at home and abroad gave us all great pride in his accomplishments.” In County Cavan, he is commemorated by the T. P. McKenna Drama Scholarships (VEC) and the T. P. McKenna Perpetual Trophy presented as part of the Millrace Annual Drama Festival.