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


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First Production of the Irish Literary Theatre

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 75The first production of the Irish Literary Theatre, The Countess Cathleen, is performed on May 8, 1899. Like many of William Butler Yeats’ plays, it is inspired by Irish folklore. In a time of famine, demons sent by Satan come to Ireland to buy the souls of the starving people. The saintly Cathleen disposes of her vast estates and wealth in order to feed the peasants, yet the demons thwart her at every turn. At last, she sacrifices her own soul to save those of the poor.

Yeats, Lady Gregory and Edward Martyn publish a “Manifesto for Irish Literary Theatre” in 1897, in which they proclaim their intention of establishing a national theatre for Ireland. The Irish Literary Theatre is founded by Yeats, Lady Gregory, Martyn and George Moore in Dublin in 1899. It proposes to give performances in Dublin of Irish plays by Irish authors.

In 1899 Lady Gregory secures a temporary licence for a play to be given at the Antient Concert Rooms in Great Brunswick Street (now Pearse Street) in Dublin, and so enables the Irish Literary Theatre to give its first production. The play chosen is The Countess Cathleen by Yeats. It is done by a very efficient London company that includes May Whitty (Dame May Webster) and Ben Webster. The next production given is Martyn’s play The Heather Field.

In the following year the Irish Literary Theatre produces three plays at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin: Maeve by Edward Martyn, The Last Feast of Fianna by Alice Milligan and The Bending of the Bough by George Moore. The Bending of the Bough is staged during the Second Boer War which begins on October 11, 1899.

The Irish Literary Theatre project lasts until 1901, when it collapses due to lack of funding.

The use of non-Irish actors in these productions is perceived to be a failure, and a new group of Irish players is put together by the brothers William and Frank Fay, among others. These go on to form the Irish National Theatre Society, which leads to the founding of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 1904.


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Edward the Bruce Appointed High King of Ireland

grave-of-king-edward-de-bruceEdward Bruce of Scotland is crowned High King of Ireland at Dundalk on May 2, 1316. He is the younger brother of Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland. He is also sometimes known as Edward de Brus or Edward the Bruce.

Edward is the second of five sons of Robert de Brus, 6th Lord of Annandale and Marjorie, Countess of Carrick. His date of birth, believed to be around 1280, is unknown but King Robert is obviously the firstborn. He has eleven siblings, of whom nine survive childhood. One of his older sisters, Lady Christina Bruce, also plays an active role in the wars of independence against England.

By 1307 Edward fights alongside Robert throughout his struggle for the Scottish throne and accompanies him during his flight from Scotland and subsequent guerilla campaign against the English. The three younger Bruce brothers Nigel, Thomas, and Alexander are all captured and executed by the English during this period. Some time between 1309 and 1313, Edward is created Earl of Carrick, a title previously held by his maternal grandfather Niall of Carrick, his mother and his elder brother.

As the Scots become more dominant, Edward commands a number of successful sieges of English-held castles across the country. By November 1313 he commands the siege of the last remaining English outpost in Scotland, Stirling Castle. Without Robert’s knowledge, he makes a deal with the English Constable of the castle that should an English army not arrive to relieve it by June 24, 1314, the castle will surrender, so making an aggressive siege unnecessary. Robert is deeply unhappy, but has little choice but to confront the English army sent by Edward II to relieve Stirling in June 1314. The armies meet at the Battle of Bannockburn, and the result is a decisive victory for the Scots which leaves Robert in fairly unopposed control of Scotland.

Robert decides to open a second front against the English and dispatches an army of 6,000 men under the command of Edward to Ireland. The aim is to challenge English dominance of the British Isles by drawing together Scottish and Irish interests. Scottish and Irish forces are initially successful in defeating the English and on May 2, 1316 Edward is appointed High King of Ireland.

A famine in 1317 proves a setback to Edward and greatly reduces his popularity. This allowed time for an English army under John de Bermingham to be assembled. The English army meets the Scots-Irish army under King Edward Bruce at the Battle of Faughart on October 14, 1318. The Scots-Irish army is badly defeated by de Bermingham’s forces. Edward is killed, his body being quartered and sent to various towns in Ireland, and his head being delivered to King Edward II.

Edward Bruce is the last High King of Ireland.

(Pictured: Grave of King Edward De Bruce, located in Faughart Cemetery)