seamus dubhghaill

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


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First Production by the Gate Theatre Company

gate-theatreThe Gate Theatre Company of Dublin produces its first play, Henrik Ibsen‘s Peer Gynt, in the Peacock Theatre on October 13, 1928.

The Gate Theatre is founded in 1928 by Hilton Edwards and Micheál Mac Liammóir. During their first season, the company presents seven plays, including Eugene O’Neill‘s The Hairy Ape and Oscar Wilde‘s Salome. Their productions are innovative and experimental and they offer Dublin audiences an introduction to the world of European and American theatre as well as classics from the modern and Irish repertoire. It is at the Gate that Orson Welles, James Mason, Geraldine Fitzgerald and Michael Gambon begin their prodigious acting careers.

The company plays for two seasons at the Peacock Theatre and then on Christmas Eve 1929, in Groome’s Hotel, a lease is signed for the 18th Century Rotunda Annex, the “Upper Concert Hall,” the Gate’s present home, with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe‘s Faust opening on February 17, 1930.

In 1931, the newly established Gate Theatre runs into financial difficulties and Edward Pakenham, 6th Earl of Longford and Christine Longford, Countess of Longford provide financial support. The Longfords work with Edwards and MacLiammóir at the Gate until 1936, then a split develops and two separate companies are formed and play at the Gate Theatre for six months each. The companies also tour for six months until the death of Lord Longford in 1961.

During this period Edwards and MacLiammóir (Gate Theatre Productions) run shows in Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre and tour productions to Europe, Egypt and North America.

From the 1980s onwards the Gate Theatre, under the directorship of Michael Colgan, cements its international relationship, touring plays around the world for audiences from Beijing to New York. The theatre establishes unique relationships with leading contemporary playwrights including Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter and Brian Friel. The first ever Beckett Festival is produced, presenting all 19 of the stage plays over a three week period. The first ever festival of Pinter’s plays follows, along with many premieres and productions of Friel’s work including the acclaimed production of Faith Healer with Ralph Fiennes which wins a Tony Award on Broadway.

With the generous support of funders, the fabric of the building is restored and renovated under the guidance of Ronnie Tallon and Scott, Tallon Walker Architects. This includes the provision of a new wing, which incorporates a studio space, The Gate Studio, for rehearsals and workshops, offering practitioners an opportunity to develop and nurture creativity.

On April 3, 2017, Selina Cartmell becomes Director of the Gate Theatre. As a freelance artist, she has directed a diverse range of work from Greek tragedy and Shakespeare, to international work and contemporary Irish drama. In 2004, she establishes Dublin-based Siren Productions, a multi-award-winning company conceived to innovate the classics and create relevant and dynamic new work, integrating theatre, dance, visual arts, architecture, film and music. Her productions have been nominated for thirty five theatre awards, winning ten, including three for best director.


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Birth of Valentine Greatrakes, Faith Healer

valentine-greatrakesValentine Greatrakes, Irish faith healer also known as “Greatorex” or “The Stroker,” is born on February 14, 1628, at Affane, County Waterford. He toured England in 1666, claiming to cure people by the laying on of hands.

Greatrakes is the son of William Greatrakes and Mary, daughter of Sir Edward Harris, Chief Justice of Munster, who are English Protestants settlers. He goes to the free-school at Lismore until he is 13 years of age and is designed for the college of Dublin. However, when the Irish Rebellion of 1641 breaks out he and his mother flee into England, where he is received by his great uncle, Edmund Harris. After Harris dies, his mother places him with John Daniel Getsius, a German minister, of Stoke Gabriel, in Devonshire.

After five or six years in England, Greatrakes returns to his native country, which he finds in a distracted state, and therefore spends a year in contemplation at the Castle of Cappoquin. In 1649 he is a lieutenant in Lord Broghill‘s regiment in the English Parliamentary army in Ireland, then campaigning in Munster against the Irish Royalists. In 1656, with a great part of the army being disbanded, Greatrakes retires to Affine, his native place, and is made clerk of the peace for County Cork, Register for transplantation, and a Justice of the Peace. However he loses these positions after the Restoration.

Greatrakes seems to have been very religious. His outlook is grave but simple. He says himself, that ever since the year 1662 he has felt a strange impulse or persuasion that he has the gift of curing the King’s evil. This suggestion becomes so strong, that he strokes several persons, and cures them.

Three years afterwards, an epidemical fever is raging in the country, he is again persuaded that he can also cure the fever. He makes the experiment, and he affirms to his satisfaction that he cures all who come to him. At length, in April 1665, another kind of inspiration suggests to him, that he has the gift of healing wounds and ulcers. He even finds that he cures convulsions, the dropsy, and many other distempers.

On April 6, 1665, Robert Phayre, a former Commonwealth Governor of County Cork, is living at Cahermore, in that county, when he is visited by Greatrakes, who had served in his regiment in 1649. Greatrakes cures Phayre in a few minutes of an acute ague. John Flamsteed, the famous astronomer, then aged 19, goes to Ireland in August 1665 to be touched by Greatrakes for a natural weakness of constitution, but receives no benefit. Crowds flock to him from all parts, and he performs such extraordinary cures, that he is summoned into the Bishop’s court at Lismore, and, not having a licence for practising, is forbidden to lay hands on anyone else in Ireland.

In 1665, Greatrakes is invited to England by his old commander, Lord Broghill, now Earl of Orrery, to cure Anne, Viscountess Conway of an inveterate headache. He arrives in England in early 1666 but fails to cure the Viscountess. Undaunted, he travels through the country healing the sick.

King Charles II, being informed of it, summons Greatrakes to Whitehall. While unpersuaded that Greatrakes has miraculous power, the king does not forbid him to continue his ministrations.

Every day Greatrakes goes to a place in London where many sick persons, of all ranks in society, assemble. Pains, gout, rheumatism, convulsions, and so forth are allegedly driven by his touch from one body part to another. Upon reaching the extremities, all symptoms of these ailments cease. As the treatment consists entirely of stroking, Greatrakes is called The Stroker. He ascribes certain disorders to the work of evil spirits. When persons possessed by such spirits see Greatrakes or hear his voice, the afflicted fall to the ground or into violent agitation. He then proceeds to cure them by the same method of stroking. While many are skeptical, Greatrakes does find zealous advocates for the efficacy of his healing powers.

In 1667, Greatrakes returns to Ireland and resumes farming in 1668 on £1,000 a year. Although he lives for many years, he no longer keeps up the reputation of performing the strange cures which procured him a name. But in this his case is very singular, that on the strictest enquiry no sort of blemish is ever thrown upon his character, nor does any of those curious and learned persons, who espouse his cause, draw any imputation upon themselves.

Greatrakes dies on November 28, 1682 at Affane, County Waterford. It is believed that he may be buried in Lismore Church or under the aisle of the old Affane Church near to his father.


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Birth of Irish Playwright Brian Patrick Friel

brian-patrick-frielBrian Patrick Friel, Irish playwright, short story writer, and founder of the Field Day Theatre Company, is born on January 9, 1929, at Knockmoyle, near Omagh, County Tyrone. Prior to his death, he had been considered one of the greatest living English-language dramatists, and referred to as an “Irish Chekhov” and “the universally accented voice of Ireland.” His plays have been compared favourably to those of contemporaries such as Samuel Beckett, Arthur Miller, Harold Pinter, and Tennessee Williams.

Friel is the son of Patrick “Paddy” Friel, a primary school teacher and councillor on Londonderry Corporation, the local city council in Derry. Friel’s mother, Mary McLoone, is postmistress of Glenties, County Donegal. The family moves to Derry when Friel is ten years old. There, he attends St. Columb’s College, the same school attended by Seamus Heaney, John Hume, Seamus Deane, Phil Coulter, Eamonn McCann, and Paul Brady.

Friel receives his B.A. from St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth (1945–48), and qualifies as a teacher at St. Joseph’s Training College in Belfast. He marries Anne Morrison in 1954, with whom he has four daughters and one son. Between 1950 and 1960, he works as a math teacher in the Derry primary and intermediate school system, taking leave in 1960 to pursue a career as a writer, living off his savings. In the late 1960s, the Friels move from 13 Malborough Street, Derry to Muff, County Donegal, eventually settling outside Greencastle, County Donegal.

Recognised for early works such as Philadelphia, Here I Come! and Faith Healer, Friel has 24 plays published in a more than half-century spanning career that culminates in his election to the position of Saoi of Aosdána. His plays are commonly featured on Broadway throughout this time. In 1980, Friel co-founds Field Day Theatre Company and his play Translations is the company’s first production. With Field Day, Friel collaborates with Seamus Heaney, 1995 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Heaney and Friel first become friends after Friel sends the young poet a letter following the publication of Death of a Naturalist.

Friel is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the British Royal Society of Literature, and the Irish Academy of Letters. He is appointed to Seanad Éireann in 1987 and serves until 1989. In later years, Dancing at Lughnasa reinvigorates Friel’s oeuvre, bringing him Tony Awards, including Best Play, the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play, and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play. It is also adapted into a film, starring Meryl Streep, directed by Pat O’Connor, script by Frank McGuinness.

After a long illness Friel dies at the age of 86 in the early morning of Friday, October 2, 2015 in Greencastle, County Donegal.