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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Bill Whelan Receives IMRO Lifetime Achievement Award

bill-whelanTaoiseach Bertie Ahern presents Irish composer and musician Bill Whelan with the IMRO Lifetime Achievement Award at Dublin Castle on March 2, 2001. Such big names as The Corrs, Brian Kennedy, Jean Butler, Jim Sheridan, Paul McGuinness and Moya Doherty join him to celebrate the award.

Whelan is best known for composing a piece for the interval of the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest. The result, Riverdance, is a seven-minute display of traditional Irish dancing that becomes a full-length stage production and spawns a worldwide craze for Irish dancing and Celtic music and also wins him a Grammy Award. It is released as a single in the United Kingdom in 1994, credited to “Bill Whelan and Anúna featuring the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.” It reaches number 9 and stays in the charts for 16 weeks. The album of the same title reaches number 31 in the album charts in 1995. He also composes a symphonic suite version of Riverdance, with its premiere performed by the Ulster Orchestra on BBC Radio 3 in August 2014.

Whelan is a native of Limerick and is educated at Crescent College, University College Dublin and the King’s Inns. While he is best known for his Riverdance composition, he has been involved in many ground-breaking projects in Ireland since the 1970s. As a producer he has worked with U2 (on their War album), Van Morrison, Kate Bush, The Dubliners, Planxty, Andy Irvine & Davy Spillane, Patrick Street, Stockton’s Wing and fellow Limerickman Richard Harris.

In theatre, Whelan receives a Laurence Olivier Award nomination for his adaption of Gilbert and Sullivan‘s H.M.S. Pinafore. He writes original music for fifteen of William Butler Yeats‘s plays for Dublin‘s Abbey Theatre and his film credits include, Dancing at Lughnasa (starring Meryl Streep), Some Mother’s Son, Lamb (starring Liam Neeson) and the award-winning At The Cinema Palace.


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Birth of Singer & Songwriter Gavin Friday

Gavin Friday, born Fionán Martin Hanvey, Irish singer and songwriter, composer, actor and painter, is born in Dublin on October 8, 1959.

Friday grows up in Ballygall, a neighbourhood located on Dublin’s Northside between Finglas and Glasnevin where he went to school. When he is fourteen years old and living on Cedarwood Road, he meets Bono and Guggi at a party to which he has not been invited. Bono says, “We caught him trying to steal something of the house. Classic teenage stuff… but we became friends.”

Friday is a founding member of the post-punk group Virgin Prunes and has recorded several solo albums and soundtracks. In 1986, after the demise of The Virgin Prunes, he devotes himself to painting for a while, sharing a studio with Bono, Guggi and Charlie Whisker. This results in the exhibition Four Artists – Many Wednesdays (1988) at Dublin’s Hendricks Gallery. Friday, Guggi and Whisker show paintings, while Bono opts to exhibit photos taken in Ethiopia. Friday’s part of the show is entitled I didn’t come up the Liffey in a bubble, an expression often used by his father.

His main collaborator between 1987 and 2005 is multi-instrumentalist, Maurice Seezer. They sign to Island Records in 1988 and release three albums together, before parting with the company in 1996. After that Friday and Seezer compose the score for the Jim Sheridan films The Boxer and In America which is nominated for Best Original Film Score in the 2004 Ivor Novello Awards.

Friday has maintained a close friendship with U2‘s Bono since childhood, and they collaborate on the soundtrack for the Jim Sheridan’s film In the Name of the Father, including the title track, “Billy Boola” and “You Made Me the Thief of Your Heart”, which is sung by Sinéad O’Connor and nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. In 2003 they write “Time Enough for Tears,” the original theme tune for Sheridan’s film In America, as sung by Andrea Corr. The song is nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.

In 2005 Friday and Seezer collaborate with Quincy Jones on incidental music for the 50 Cent biopic Get Rich or Die Tryin’. In 2001 they score the film Disco Pigs by Kirsten Sheridan and two years later they also collaborated with Bono on Peter & the Wolf in aid of the Irish Hospice Foundation.

Taking time out from work on his fourth solo album with Herb Macken, Friday teams up with English composer Gavin Bryars, the Royal Shakespeare Company and Opera North for a new interpretation of William Shakespeare‘s Sonnets touring as part of the 2007 Complete Works Festival. Friday and Macken compose the music for the Patrick McCabe play, The Revenant, which opens as part of the 2007 Galway International Arts Festival.

In 2009 Friday and Macken work on Bryars’ fourth studio album. On April 6, 2010 Rubyworks Records announces the signing of Gavin Friday and that a new album is on its way. The new CD is titled catholic and is released in Ireland on Good Friday, April 22, 2011.


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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 Jim Sheridan, Playwright, Director & Producer

jim-sheridanJim Sheridan, Irish playwright, screenwriter, film director, and film producer, is born in Dublin on February 6, 1949. In the few years from 1989 to 1993, Sheridan makes three acclaimed films set in Ireland (My Left Foot, The Field, and In the Name of the Father) that between them receive a remarkable 13 Academy Award nominations. Sheridan has personally received six Academy Award nominations. In addition to the above-mentioned films, he is also known for the films The Boxer and In America.

Sheridan is born to Anna and Peter Sheridan Snr and raised in the inner city of Dublin. He is the brother of playwright Peter Sheridan. The family runs a lodging house, while Anna Sheridan works at a hotel and Peter Sheridan Snr is a railway clerk with CIÉ. Sheridan’s early education is at a Christian Brothers school. In 1969 he attends University College Dublin to study English and History. He becomes involved in student theater there, where he meets Neil Jordan, who also is later to become an important Irish film director. After graduating from UCD in 1972, Sheridan and his brother begin writing and staging plays, and together found the Project Theatre Company.

In 1981, Sheridan emigrates to Canada, but eventually settles in the Hell’s Kitchen section of New York City. He enrolls in New York University‘s Tisch School of the Arts and becomes the artistic director of the Irish Arts Center.

Sheridan returns to Ireland in the late 1980s. In 1989, he directs My Left Foot, which becomes a critical and commercial success and wins Daniel Day-Lewis and Brenda Fricker Academy Awards. He follows that with The Field starring Richard Harris in 1990, then with In the Name of the Father in 1993, a fictionalized re-telling of the case of the Guildford Four. The film wins the Golden Bear at the 44th Berlin International Film Festival.

In 1996 he co-writes Some Mother’s Son with Terry George. The Boxer, with Daniel Day-Lewis, is nominated for a Golden Globe Award for best film drama in 1997. In 2003, he releases the semi-autobiographical In America, which tells the story of a family of Irish immigrants trying to succeed in New York. The film receives positive reviews and earns Samantha Morton and Djimon Hounsou Academy Award nominations. In 2005 he releases Get Rich or Die Tryin’, a film starring rap star 50 Cent. He is connected with the upcoming film adaptation of Artemis Fowl and is rumoured to have written the screenplay and been asked to direct it.

Sheridan helms the 2009 film Brothers, starring Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal, which is shot in New Mexico. He also directs the thriller Dream House, which stars Daniel Craig, Naomi Watts, and Rachel Weisz.

Sheridan has a wife, Fran, and three daughters, Naomi Sheridan, Kirsten Sheridan, and Tess Sheridan, with whom he has collaborated, most notably with Naomi and Kirsten on the screenplay for In America.


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Birth of Academy Award Winning Actress Brenda Fricker

(Newscom TagID: mrpphotos209322) [Photo via Newscom]

Brenda Fricker, Irish actress of theatre, film, and television, is born in Dublin on February 17, 1945. In 1989, she becomes the first Irish actress to win an Oscar, earning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for My Left Foot.

In her teens, Fricker aspires to follow her parents’ footsteps into journalism. Before becoming an actress, she is assistant to the art editor of The Irish Times, with hopes to become a reporter. At age 19, she becomes an actress “by chance,” as her feature film career begins with a small uncredited part in the 1964 film Of Human Bondage, based on the 1915 novel by W. Somerset Maugham. She also appears in Tolka Row, Ireland’s first ever soap opera.

One of Fricker’s first TV roles is as staff nurse Maloney in Coronation Street, debuting on January 10, 1977. Fricker comes to wider public attention in the United Kingdom in another nursing role, as Megan Roach in the BBC One television drama series Casualty, appearing in 65 episodes. After making cameo appearances in three additional episodes, Fricker’s final appearance as Megan is in August 2010, when her character takes a lethal cocktail of drugs to end her life.

Fricker finds international acclaim after she wins the 1989 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Christy Brown‘s mother in My Left Foot, becoming the first Irish actress to win an Oscar. The film is a triumph for Irish film making. Daniel Day-Lewis wins best actor for his portrayal of the disabled Brown while director Jim Sheridan receives numerous Best Director nominations at various film festivals.

She rejoins  Sheridan to make the 1990 film The Field, starring alongside Richard Harris as Maggie McCabe. She continues her television work during this period, starring in the Australian-produced short series Brides of Christ (1991). She then co-stars in the 1992 TV miniseries Seekers alongside Josette Simon and produced by Sarah Lawson.

Buoyed by her Oscar win, Fricker goes on to appear in several high profile Hollywood films, most notably in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. The following year she portrays May Mackenzie in So I Married an Axe Murderer, and next portrayed Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character’s motherly caretaker Maggie in Angels in the Outfield. One of her last Hollywood film roles comes with A Time to Kill, as Ethel Twitty, loyal secretary to Matthew McConaughey‘s Jake Brigance. She then focuses almost exclusively on film and television work in Canada and the British Isles.

In July 2014, Fricker tentatively retires from acting. Previously married to director Barry Davies, Fricker currently lives in the Liberties in Dublin.