seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Joan O’Hara, Actress of Stage, Film & Television

Joan O’Hara, Irish stage, film and television actress, is born in Rosses Point, County Sligo, on October 10, 1930. She is one of Ireland’s most popular actresses and is, at the time of her death, recognisable to television viewers as Eunice Dunstan, a gossip in Fair City on RTÉ One.

O’Hara is born and raised in Rosses Point, the daughter of Major John Charles O’Hara, an officer in the British Corps of Royal Engineers and his wife, Mai (née Kirwan). One of her sisters, Mary (born 1935), is a soprano/harpist. Her brother Dermot (born 1934) now lives with his family in Canada. She attends the same Ursuline convent school as fellow actress and friend Pauline Flanagan.

O’Hara lives most of her life in Monkstown, County Dublin, with a stay in London, with her husband, the poet and architect Francis J. Barry. The couple has four children: Siubhan, Jane, Guy, and Sebastian, an author/playwright, whose works include The Steward of Christendom, and the Booker-shortlisted novels A Long Long Way and The Secret Scripture. She is also a year-round sea-swimmer.

O’Hara is a member of the renowned Abbey Players and performs in many plays in the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, including those by Seán O’Casey, Lady Gregory and W.B. Yeats. She appears as Maurya in the 1988 film The Dawning. She appears in a number of other films, including Ron Howard‘s Far and Away, Da, Footfalls, Home is the Hero and just before her death, How About You. In this her final film, she stars with Vanessa Redgrave and her friend Brenda Fricker. The strength of her performance and bravery in carrying it out is acknowledged by the cast and crew in a standing ovation.

More recently, O’Hara is best known for appearing in the popular Irish television soap opera Fair City, broadcast on RTÉ One. She joins the soap in 1994, portraying the character Eunice Dunstan until her death in 2007. Thus she is described as both one of Ireland’s most popular actresses and as one of the finest actors of her generation on her death. She admires in particular Samuel Beckett, Federico García Lorca and Ingmar Bergman. While she takes a no-nonsense approach to her craft, famously giving the advice that when in doubt, one should relate to the fireplace, she is educated at the Abbey School of Acting and has a deep appreciation and knowledge of theoretical approaches to acting and is an admirer of the European and American avant-garde. As actor Alan Stanford said after her death, “She had the most amazing energy. She was in the truest sense one of the last of the greats.”

Joan O’Hara Barry (she keeps her maiden name as her stage name) dies in Dublin on July 23, 2007 of complications from heart disease, aged 76. Her death is announced on RTÉ News the following day.


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Birth of Poet Michael Hartnett

Michael Hartnett, Irish poet who writes in both English and Irish, is born in Croom Hospital in Croom, County Limerick, on September 18, 1941. He is one of the most significant voices in late 20th-century Irish writing and has been called “Munster‘s de facto poet laureate.”

Although Hartnett’s parents’ name is Harnett, he is registered in error as Hartnett on his birth certificate. In later life he declines to change this as his legal name is closer to the Irish Ó hAirtnéide. He grows up in the Maiden Street area of Newcastle West, County Limerick, spending much of his time with his grandmother, Bridget Halpin, who resides in the townland of Camas, in the countryside nearby. He claims that his grandmother is one of the last native speakers to live in County Limerick, though she is originally from northern County Kerry. Although she speaks to him mainly in English, he listens to her conversing with her friends in Irish, and as such, he is quite unaware of the imbalances between English and Irish. When he begins school, he is made aware of the tensions between both languages, and is surprised to discover that Irish is considered an endangered language, taught as a contrived, rule-laden code, with little of the literary attraction which it holds for him. He is educated in the local national and secondary schools in Newcastle West. He emigrates to England the day after he finishes his secondary education and goes to work as a tea boy on a building site in London.

Hartnett has started writing by this time and his work comes to be known of the poet John Jordan, who is professor of English at University College Dublin. Jordan invites him to attend the university for a year. While back in Dublin, he co-edits the literary magazine Arena with James Liddy. He also works as curator of James Joyce‘s tower at Sandycove for a time. He returns briefly to London, where he meets Rosemary Grantley on May 16, 1965, and they are married on April 4, 1966. His first book, Anatomy of a Cliché, is published by Poetry Ireland in 1968 to critical acclaim and he returns to live permanently in Dublin that same year.

Hartnett works as a night telephonist at the telephone exchange on Exchequer Street. He now enters a productive relationship with New Writers Press, run by Michael Smith and Trevor Joyce. They publish his next three books. The first of these is a translation from the Irish, The Old Hag of Beare (1969), followed by Selected Poems (1970) and Tao (1972). This last book is a version of the Chinese Tao Te Ching. His Gypsy Ballads (1973), a translation of the Romancero Gitano of Federico García Lorca, is published by the Goldsmith Press.

In 1974 Hartnett decides to leave Dublin and return to his rural roots, as well as deepen his relationship with the Irish language. He goes to live in Templeglantine, five miles from Newcastle West, and works for a time as a lecturer in creative writing at Thomond College of Education, Limerick.

In his 1975 book, A Farewell to English, Hartnett declares his intention to write only in Irish in the future, describing English as “the perfect language to sell pigs in.” A number of volumes in Irish follow including Adharca Broic (1978), An Phurgóid (1983) and Do Nuala: Foighne Chrainn (1984). A biography on this period of his life entitled A Rebel Act Michael Hartnett’s Farewell To English by Pat Walsh is published in 2012 by Mercier Press.

In 1984 Hartnett returns to Dublin to live in the suburb of Inchicore. The following year marks his return to English with the publication of Inchicore Haiku, a book that deals with the turbulent events in his personal life over the previous few years. This is followed by a number of books in English including A Necklace of Wrens (1987), Poems to Younger Women (1989) and The Killing of Dreams (1992).

Hartnett also continues working in Irish, and produces a sequence of important volumes of translation of classic works into English. These include Ó Bruadair, Selected Poems of Dáibhí Ó Bruadair (1985) and Ó Rathaille The Poems of Aodhaghán Ó Rathaille (1999). His Collected Poems appear in two volumes in 1984 and 1987 and New and Selected Poems in 1995.

Hartnett dies from Alcoholic Liver Syndrome on October 13, 1999. A new Collected Poems appears in 2001.

Every April a literary and arts festival is held in Newcastle West in honour of Hartnett. Events are organised throughout the town and a memorial lecture is given by a distinguished guest. Former speakers include Nuala O’Faolain, Paul Durcan, David Whyte and Fintan O’Toole. The annual Michael Hartnett Poetry Award of € 4,000 also forms part of the festival. Funded by the Limerick City and County Council Arts Office and the Arts Council of Ireland, it is intended to support and encourage poets in the furtherance of their writing endeavours. Previous winners include Sinéad Morrissey and Peter Sirr.

During the 2011 Éigse, Paul Durcan unveils a bronze life-sized statue of Hartnett sculpted by Rory Breslin, in the Square, Newcastle West. Hartnett’s son Niall speaks at the unveiling ceremony.


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Birth of Frank McGuinness, Playwright & Poet

Frank McGuinness, award-winning Irish playwright and poet, is born in Buncrana, a town located on the Inishowen peninsula of County Donegal on July 29, 1953. As well as his own works, which include The Factory Girls, Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme, Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me and Dolly West’s Kitchen, he is recognised for a “strong record of adapting literary classics, having translated the plays of Jean Racine, Sophocles, Henrik Ibsen, Federico García Lorca, and August Strindberg to critical acclaim.”

McGuinness is educated locally and at University College Dublin, where he studies Pure English and medieval studies to postgraduate level.

He first comes to prominence with his play The Factory Girls, but establishes his reputation with his play about World War I, Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme, which is staged in Dublin‘s Abbey Theatre and internationally. The play makes a name for him when it is performed at Hampstead Theatre, drawing comments about McGuinness’s Irish Catholic background. It wins numerous awards including the London Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright for McGuinness and the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize. He has also written new versions of classic dramas, including works by Henrik Ibsen, Anton Chekhov, and Euripides, adapting the literal translations of others. In addition, he writes the screenplay for the film Dancing at Lughnasa, adapting the stage play by fellow Ulsterman Brian Friel.

McGuinness’s first poetry anthology, Booterstown, is published in 1994. Several of his poems have been recorded by Marianne Faithfull, including Electra, After the Ceasefire and The Wedding.

McGuinness previously lectured in Linguistics and Drama at the University of Ulster, Medieval Studies at University College, Dublin and English at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. Then he is a writer-in-residence lecturing at University College Dublin before being appointed Professor of Creative Writing in the School of English, Drama and Film there in 2007.