seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Liam Redmond, Stage, Film & Television Character Actor

Liam Redmond, Irish character actor known for his stage, film and television roles, is born in Limerick, County Limerick, on July 27, 1913.

Redmond is one of four children born to cabinet-maker Thomas and Eileen Redmond. Educated at the Christian Brothers schools in Dublin, he later attends University College Dublin and initially reads medicine before moving into drama.

While Director of the Dramatic Society Redmond meets and marries the society’s secretary, Barbara MacDonagh, sister of Donagh MacDonagh and daughter of 1916 Easter Rising leader Thomas MacDonagh and Muriel Gifford. They have four children.

Redmond is invited to join the Abbey Theatre in 1935 as a producer by William Butler Yeats, the Irish poet. Yeats writes his play Death of Cú Chulainn for Redmond to star as Cú Chulainn, hero of one of Ireland’s foundational myths.

Redmond makes his acting debut at the Abbey Theatre in 1935 in Seán O’Casey‘s The Silver Tassie. His first stage appearance is in 1939 in New York City in The White Steed. After returning to Britain at the outbreak of World War II he is a regular on the London stage. He is one of the founders of the Writers’, Artists’, Actors’ and Musicians’ Association (WAAMA), a precursor of the Irish Actors’ Equity Association. His insistence that “part-time professionals” – usually civil servants who act on the side – should be paid a higher rate than professional actors for both rehearsal time and performance, effectively wiping out this class, raising the wages and fees of working actors.

Redmond stars in Broadway, among other plays starring in Paul Vincent Carroll‘s The White Steed in 1939, playing Canon McCooey in The Wayward Saint in 1955, winning the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism for his performance, and starring in 1968 in Joe Orton‘s Loot and Brian Friel‘s The Loves of Cass Maguire.

Redmond works in television and film throughout the 1950s to the 1980s and is regularly seen in television series such as The Avengers, Daniel Boone, The Saint and Z-Cars. He is often called upon as a character actor in various military, religious and judicial roles in films such as I See a Dark Stranger (1946), Captain Boycott (1947), High Treason (1951), The Cruel Sea (1953), The Playboy of the Western World (1962), Kid Galahad (1962), The Luck of Ginger Coffey (1964), Tobruk (1967), The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966) and Barry Lyndon (1975). His performance as the kindly occult expert in the cult horror film Night of the Demon (1957) is a favourite of fans of the film.

Redmond retires to Dublin and dies at age 76, after a long period of ill health, on October 28, 1989. His wife Barbara predeceases him in 1987.


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Birth of Mervyn Wall, Novelist & Playwright

Mervyn Wall, novelist and playwright who writes under the pseudonym of Eugene Welply, is born in Dublin on August 23, 1908. He attends Belvedere College and works as a civil servant from 1934-48. He is a member of the Irish Academy of Letters.

Wall is probably the last survivor of the remarkably gifted generation which emerged from University College Dublin (UCD) in the 1930s. It includes Brian O’Nolan, Donagh MacDonagh, Cyril Cusack, Liam Redmond, Denis Devlin, Niall Sheridan, and the shortlived poet Charles Donnelly who dies in the Spanish Civil War. Brian O’Nolan/Flann O’Brien’s novel At Swim-Two-Birds contains portraits of many of these people, under fictitious names, and evokes the whole ambience of intellectual student life in Dublin at the time.

Like other literary civil servants of the period, Wall often takes a satirical view of bureaucracy. Unlike Brian O’Nolan, however, he can play the bureaucrats at their own game and by most accounts he is a highly efficient public servant in his own right. His late novel Hermitage (1982) has some sharp sidelights on the world of Green Tape.

Wall makes his mark mainly as a novelist, but he begins as a playwright and has at least two works performed in the Abbey Theatre. His first real success comes in 1946 with The Unfortunate Fursey, in which he creates a mythical monk who is tormented by the Devil. The picaresque humour and fantasy of the story are enjoyed by the public as essentially good-natured farce, but it is possible that he also intends it as oblique satire on the Irish clergy in general, at a time when any open criticism of them might invite trouble. Fergus Linehan later turns it into a successful musical.

The first Fursey book has successors, and all of them are published in a single volume in 1985, entitled The Complete Fursey. During the 1950s Wall writes two “serious” novels of social criticism, Leaves for the Burning and No Trophies Raise, in which his satirical sense takes a more direct route. They are praised at the time by respected critics and are still well worth rereading.

Apart from his writing, Wall has a distinguished career in Radio Éireann, where he and his colleagues, the novelist Francis MacManus and the poet Roibeard O Farachain, make up a literary and administrative trio nicknamed “Frank, Incense and Mer” by a staff wit. He later becomes secretary of the Arts Council, a sometimes difficult job which he handles with tact and fairness.

Wall is himself a witty, observant, sometimes catty man in a generation famous for its wit. He and his wife Fanny, who is known as a leading music critic, are for decades an almost indispensable duo in Dublin cultural and social life, although Wall, in spite of his various public roles, is at heart a home loving and industrious man who never seeks publicity.

Wall dies on May 19, 1997, just eight months after his wife, in St. Michael’s Hospital, Dún Laoghaire, after a short illness.

If and when a fullscale cultural history of Ireland in the 1940s and 1950s comes to be written, Wall’s place in it should be assured. As a successful, long term civil servant, he learned how to work the system in favour of literature and the arts in an age when patronage of them was thin on the ground.


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Birth of Donagh MacDonagh, Playwright & Writer

donagh-macdonaghDonagh MacDonagh, Irish writer, judge, presenter, broadcaster, and playwright, is born in Dublin on November 22, 1912. He is the son of Irish nationalist and poet Thomas MacDonagh.

MacDonagh is still a young child when his father is executed in 1916 for his part in the Easter Rising. Tragedy strikes again when his mother dies of a heart attack a year afterwards while swimming at Skerries to Lambay Island, County Dublin on July 9, 1917. He and his sister are then cared for by their maternal aunts, in particular Catherine Wilson.

His parents’ families then engage in a series of child custody lawsuits as the MacDonaghs are Roman Catholic and the Giffords are Protestant. In the climate of Ne Temere, the MacDonaghs are successful.

He and his sister Barbara, who later marries actor Liam Redmond, live briefly with their paternal aunt Eleanor Bingham in County Clare before being put into the custody of strangers until their late teens when they are taken in by Jack MacDonagh.

MacDonagh is educated at Belvedere College and University College Dublin (UCD) with contemporaries Cyril Cusack, Denis Devlin, Charles Donnelly, Brian O’Nolan, Niall Sheridan and Mervyn Wall. In 1935 he is called to the Bar and practises on the Western Circuit. In 1941 he is appointed a District Justice in County Mayo. To date, he remains the youngest person appointed as a judge in Ireland. He is Justice for the Dublin Metropolitan Courts at the time of his death.

MacDonagh publishes three volumes of poetry: Veterans and Other Poems (1941), The Hungry Grass (1947) and A Warning to Conquerors (1968). He also edits the Oxford Book of Irish Verse (1958) with Lennox Robinson. He also writes poetic dramas and ballad operas. One play, Happy As Larry, is translated into a number of languages. He has three other plays produced: God’s Gentry (1951), Lady Spider (1959) and Step in the Hollow, a piece of situation comedy nonsense.

MacDonagh also writes short stories. He publishes Twenty Poems with Niall Sheridan, stages the first Irish production of “Murder in the Cathedral” with Liam Redmond, later his brother-in-law, and is a popular broadcaster on Radio Éireann.

MacDonagh is married twice, to Maura Smyth and, following her death after she drowns in a bath whilst having an epileptic seizure, to her sister, Nuala Smyth. He has four children, Iseult and Breifne by Maura and Niall and Barbara by Nuala.

Donagh MacDonagh dies in Dublin on January 1, 1968 and is buried at Deans Grange Cemetery.