seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Justin McCarthy, Historian, Novelist & Politician

Justin McCarthy, Irish nationalist and Liberal historian, novelist and politician, is born in Cork, County Cork on November 22, 1830. He is a Member of Parliament (MP) from 1879 to 1900, taking his seat in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

McCarthy is educated in Cork. He begins his career as a journalist at the age of 18 in Cork. From 1853 to 1859 he is in Liverpool, on the staff of the Northern Daily Times. In March 1855, he marries Charlotte Ailman. In 1860 he moves to London, as parliamentary reporter to the Morning Star, of which he becomes editor in 1864. He gives up his post in 1868 and, following a lecturing tour in the United States, joins the staff of The Daily News as leader-writer in 1870. In this capacity he becomes one of the most useful and respected upholders of the liberal politics of the time. He lectures again in America in 1870–71 and in 1886–87.

McCarthy is first elected to Parliament at a by-election on April 4, 1879, when he is returned unopposed as a Home Rule League MP for Longford. He is re-elected unopposed as a Parnellite Home Ruler in 1880, and when the two-seat Longford constituency is split into two divisions under the Redistribution of Seats Act 1885, he is elected as an Irish Parliamentary Party member for the new single-seat North Longford constituency. His sole opponent, James Mackay Wilson of the Irish Conservative Party, wins only 6% of the votes.

At the 1886 United Kingdom general election, McCarthy is returned unopposed in North Longford, but also stands in Londonderry City, where he is declared the loser to the Irish Unionist Alliance candidate by the narrow margin of 1778 votes to 1781. However, the result is later overturned on petition and McCarthy opts to sit for Londonderry City. During the divorce controversy surrounding Charles Stewart Parnell in November 1890, the British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone expresses a warning, given to McCarthy as intermediary, that if Parnell retains leadership of the Irish Parliamentary Party, it will mean the loss of the next election, the end of their alliance and Home Rule. When the annual party leadership election meeting is called later that month, the threat is somehow not conveyed to the members, who re-elect Parnell leader of the Party.

After a further historical meeting of the Irish Party MPs in early December, Parnell refuses to retire and the Party divides. McCarthy becomes chairman of the Anti-Parnellite group, the Irish National Federation, for a year in 1891–92. His nationalism is of a temperate and orderly kind, and though his personal distinction singles him out for the chairmanship during the party dissensions of this period, he is in no active sense the political leader.

At the 1892 United Kingdom general election, McCarthy again stands both in North Longford and in Londonderry City. In each seat there is a two-way contest between the Anti-Parnellite McCarthy and a Unionist candidate, but the narrow Unionist victory in Londonderry is not overturned, and McCarthy sits for North Longford, where he wins over 93% of the votes. He is returned unopposed for North Longford in 1895 United Kingdom general election and stands down from Parliament at the 1900 United Kingdom general election.

It is claimed that McCarthy’s true vocation is literature. His earliest publications are novels, some of which, such as A Fair Saxon (1873), Dear Lady Disdain (1875), Miss Misanthrope (1878), and Donna Quixote (1879), attain considerable popularity. His most important work is his History of Our Own Times, which treats of the period between Queen Victoria‘s accession and her Diamond Jubilee. He begins a History of the Four Georges (1884–1901) and the latter half is written by his son, Justin Huntly McCarthy.

Justin McCarthy dies at the age of 81 in Folkestone, Kent, England on April 24, 1912.

(Pictured: Portrait style photograph of Irish politician Justin McCarthy, taken in 1891 by Herbert Rose Barraud)


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Birth of Novelist Pamela Hinkson

Pamela Hinkson, novelist, is born on November 19, 1900, in Ealing, London, England, the only daughter among five children of Katharine Tynan Hinkson, novelist and poet, and Henry Albert Hinkson, a novelist, barrister, and classical scholar.

Married in 1893, Hinkson’s parents initially settle in England, where he studies law and is called to the Inner Temple in 1902. After suffering the loss of their first two sons in infancy, they have two more sons in addition to their daughter, Pamela. During this time her mother earns the main family income, and it is likely that she determines their return to Ireland in 1911. The Hinksons initially settle in Dalkey, County Dublin, before moving to a house called Clarebeg in Shankill. When Henry Hinkson is appointed resident magistrate for south Mayo (Castlebar) in October 1914, the family moves to Claremorris, County Mayo.

Hinkson is educated privately in England and on the Continent, and in Ireland attends a local convent day-school. She is exposed to her mother’s literary milieu which includes prominent writers of the Irish revival, including George William Russell, James Stephens, and Padraic Colum. Her mother’s memoir, The Years of the Shadow (1919), recalls Pamela’s developing talent for writing poetry and her predilection for war themes, as evidenced by The Blind Soldier, one of her first published poems. By the time she turns her hand to short stories, her earnings from writing enable her to buy the latest fashions.

Two key events that consumed Hinkson’s life and later spark her creativity are World War I and the Easter Rising. H. G. Wells describes in the foreword to his war novel Mr. Britling Sees It Through (1916) a conversation he had with her when she was 12, recalling how she had boldly set him straight on the “Irish question.” Her parents send her away to boarding school in County Wicklow in the hope that she will be distracted from her gloomy preoccupations, which are accentuated by the absence of her brothers, serving in the British Army. After the war she is deeply concerned by the redundancy experienced by demobilised and often maimed soldiers and contributes to the welfare work of the Irish servicemen’s Shamrock Club in London. These issues inform two early novels, The Victors (1925) and Harvest (1926), both written in the guise of an ex-serviceman under the pseudonym “Peter Deane.” By masking her identity, she avoids the possibility of her works being discredited because of her gender and lack of first-hand experience of war. Subsequently she writes under her own name for thirty years.

In contrast to her close relationship with her mother, Hinkson deeply dislikes her father. With the exception of her beloved brother Giles A. Hinckson, a correspondent for The Times in Buenos Aires and Santiago, she never meets a man who matches her high ideals. Though briefly engaged to be married, she is ultimately disillusioned by all men, dismissing them as she had her father. After his death early in 1919, she and her mother are left in financial difficulties, and have to resort to friends and boarding houses for accommodation. Without the financial means to embark on a university degree, she remains at her mother’s side. Though she continues to write, she leads a somewhat stifled life. From 1922 onwards they spend several years on the Continent.

Hinkson’s first novel, The End of All Dreams (1923), addresses the decline of the “big house” amid the revolutionary upheavals of recent Irish history, a theme to which she returns in later works, such as The Deeply Rooted (1935) and her last book, The Lonely Bride (1951). During the 1920s she writes much girls’ school fiction, while her novel Wind from the West (1930) is informed by a period spent in France, where she works as a governess. Her transcription of the memoirs of Lady Fingall (Elizabeth Burke-Plunkett), published under the title Seventy Years Young (1937), illustrates the decline of the Anglo-Irish ascendancy. Informed by war and the Irish troubles, her novels characteristically are solemn, and reflect her ambivalent relationship with Ireland. Inspired by the Irish landscape, but never an ardent supporter of Irish independence, she maintains an abiding attachment to England.

The death of Hinkson’s mother in 1931 is a devastating blow that triggers her most forceful and first truly successful novel, The Ladies’ Road (1932). Documenting the lives of the Irish and English ascendancies before, during, and after World War I, this novel, without being explicitly autobiographical, contains many motifs that resonate with her own life story. When published in the United States in 1946 it proves a massive success, selling 100,000 copies in the Penguin Books edition, a rare feat for a World War I novel appearing immediately after World War II. Other notable works are The Light on Ireland (1935) and her sketches of Irish life, Irish Gold (1939), written while she lodges with friends near Lough Derg, County Tipperary.

Hinkson’s visit to India in the late 1930s as a guest of the viceroy, which she recounts in Indian Harvest (1941), results in her appointment to the Ministry of Information in London (1939–45). She lectures on India in the United States during World War II, and also lectures to British troops and local audiences in Germany (1946–47), broadcasts on radio, and contributes to The Observer, The Spectator, New Statesman, The Manchester Guardian, and Time and Tide. Her novel Golden Rose (1944), written in London during The Blitz, romanticises the British colonial presence in India. Forthright in the expression of her numerous strongly held opinions, she argues ardently and controversially for women’s rights, animal welfare, and retention of Northern Ireland in the UK. Devout in her Catholicism, she is none the less critical of certain Catholic precepts.

Hinkson returns to Ireland in 1959 where she suffers poor health for twenty years until her death in Dublin on May 26, 1982.

(From: “Hinkson, Pamela” by Jessica March, Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie)


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Birth of Emma Donoghue, Playwright, Historian, Novelist & Screenwriter

Emma Donoghue, an Irish-Canadian playwright, literary historian, novelist, and screenwriter, is born in Dublin on October 24, 1969. Her 2010 novel Room is a finalist for the Man Booker Prize and an international best-seller. Her 1995 novel Hood wins the Stonewall Book Award and Slammerkin (2000) wins the Ferro-Grumley Award for Lesbian Fiction. She is a 2011 recipient of the Alex Awards. Room is adapted by Donoghue into a film of the same name. For this, she is nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Donoghue is the youngest of eight children, the daughter of Frances (née Rutledge) and academic and literary critic Denis Donoghue. She has a first-class honours Bachelor of Arts degree from University College Dublin (UCD) in English and French as well as a PhD in English from Girton College, Cambridge. While at Cambridge she lives in a women’s co-operative, an experience which inspires her short story “The Welcome.” Her thesis is on friendship between men and women in 18th-century fiction.

At Cambridge, she meets her future wife, Christine Roulston, a Canadian who is now professor of French and Women’s Studies at the University of Western Ontario. They move permanently to Canada in 1998 and Donoghue becomes a Canadian citizen in 2004. She lives in London, Ontario, with Roulston and their two children.

Donoghue has spoken of the importance of the writing of Emily Dickinson, of Jeanette Winterson‘s novel The Passion and Alan Garner‘s Red Shift in the development of her work. She says that she aims to be “industrious and unpretentious” about the process of writing, and that her working life has changed since having children.

Donoghue’s novels include Stir Fry (1994), a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in 1994, Slammerkin (2000), a finalist in the 2001 Irish Times Irish Literature Prize for Fiction and winner of the 2002 Ferro-Grumley Award for Lesbian Fiction, Landing (2007), The Sealed Letter (2008), joint winner of the 2009 Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction, Room (2010), winner of the Irish Book Award 2010, Frog Music (2014), The Wonder (2016), shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, Akin (2019), The Pull of the Stars (2020), longlisted for the Giller Prize in 2020, and Haven (2022).


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Birth of Thomas Kilroy, Playwright & Novelist

Thomas F. Kilroy, Irish playwright and novelist, is born on September 23, 1934, in Green Street, Callan, County Kilkenny. He is a difficult writer to categorize, having written plays ranging from the conventional The Death and Resurrection of Mr. Roche to more technically innovative and avant-garde works such as Talbot’s Box and The Secret Fall of Constance Wilde. Nevertheless, common thematic concerns run throughout many of his plays, including the issue of personal and cultural—specifically, Irish versus English—identity and the mythologizing of the past. Best known as a playwright, he is also the author of the Booker Prize-shortlisted novel The Big Chapel (1971).

Kilroy is the son of Thomas and Mary (née Devine) Kilroy. He attends St. Kieran’s College and plays hurling for the school team, captaining the senior team in 1952. He studies at University College Dublin, where his first play, The Death and Resurrection of Mr. Roche, is produced to great success at the Olympia Theatre. In his early career he is play editor at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. In the 1980s, he sits on the board of Field Day Theatre Company, founded by Brian Friel and Stephen Rea in 1980, and is Director of its touring company.

In 1978, Kilroy is appointed Professor of English at University College Galway, a post from which he resigns in 1989 to concentrate on writing.

In 2008, Kilroy receives the Irish PEN Award, given to honour an Irish-born writer who has made an outstanding contribution to Irish literature.

While some of Kilroy’s plays hit a lighter note than others, the common thread in most of them is his attempt to address some of the social upheavals that have occurred in Ireland in the past and present. This has been a concern of his since he was in his twenties and wrote in the 1959 essay “Groundwork for an Irish Theatre” that his contemporaries were “inclined to shirk the painful, sometimes tragic problems of a modern Ireland which is undergoing considerable social and ideological stress.” Although he has not been one of Ireland’s most prolific playwrights, his plays may certainly be considered important contributions to the modern stage.

Kilroy now lives in County Mayo and is a member of the Irish Academy of Letters, the Royal Society of Literature, and Aosdána.

The Thomas Kilroy Collection, his personal archive, is deposited at the James Hardiman Library at the National University of Ireland Galway (NUI Galway). Kilroy addresses the launch event in March 2011, which is attended by, amongst others, Brian Friel and the future President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins.


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Birth of William Wall, Novelist, Poet & Short Story Writer

William “Bill” Wall, Irish novelist, poet and short story writer, is born in Cork, County Cork, on July 6, 1955.

Wall is raised in the coastal village of Whitegate, County Cork. He receives his secondary education at the Midleton CBS Secondary School in Midleton. He progresses to University College Cork where he graduates in Philosophy and English. He teaches English and drama at Presentation Brothers College, Cork, where he inspires Cillian Murphy to enter acting.

In 1997, Wall wins the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award. He publishes his first collection of poetry that same year. His first novel, Alice Falling, a dark study of power and abuse in modern-day Ireland, appears in 2000. He is the author of four novels, two collections of poetry and one of short stories.

In 2005, This Is The Country appears. A broad attack on politics in “Celtic Tiger” Ireland, as well as a rite of passage novel, it is longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards. It can be read as a satirical allegory on corruption, the link between capitalism and liberal democracy exemplified in the ‘entrepreneurial’ activities of minor drug dealers and gangsters, and reflected in the architecture of business-parks and sink estates. This political writing takes the form of “an insightful and robust social conscience”, in the words of academic John Kenny. Kenny also focuses on what he sees as Wall’s “baneful take on the Irish family, his fundamentally anti-idyllic mood” which has “not entirely endeared Wall to the more misty-eyed among his readers at home or abroad.” The political is also in evidence in his second collection of poetry Fahrenheit Says Nothing To Me. He is not a member of Aosdána, the Irish organisation for writers and artists. In 2006, his first collection of short fiction, No Paradiso, appears. In 2017, he becomes the first European to win the Drue Heinz Literature Prize.

His provocative political blog, The Ice Moon, has increasingly featured harsh criticism of the Irish government over their handling of the economy, as well as reviews of mainly left-wing books and movies. Many of his posts are satirical. He occasionally writes for literary journals, writes for Irish Left Review, and reviews for The Irish Times. His work has been translated into several languages. He has also appeared on the Irish-language channel TG4, such as in the programme Cogar.

He is one of the Irish delegates at the European Writers Conference in Istanbul in 2010.

Described by writer Kate Atkinson as “lyrical and cruel and bold and with metaphors to die for,” critics have focused on Wall’s mastery of language, his gift for “linguistic compression,” his “poet’s gift for apposite, wry observation, dialogue and character,” his “unflinching frankness” and his “laser-like … dissection of human frailties,” which is counterbalanced by “the depth of feeling that Wall invests in his work.” A review of his first novel in The New Yorker declares “Wall, who is also a poet, writes prose so charged—at once lyrical and syncopated—that it’s as if Cavafy had decided to write about a violent Irish household.” In a recent review, his long poem “Job in Heathrow,” anthologised in The Forward Book of Poetry 2010 but originally published in The SHOp, is described as “a chilling airport dystopia.” Poet Fred Johnston suggests that Wall’s poetry sets out to “list the shelves of disillusion under which a thinking man can be buried.” For Philip Coleman, “Ghost Estate is a deeply political book, but it also articulates a profound interest in and engagement with questions of aesthetics and poetics.”

Wall is a longtime sufferer of adult-onset Still’s disease (AOSD) and describes his efforts to circumvent the disabling effects of the disease using speech-to-text applications as “a battle between me and the software.”


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Birth of Emily Lawless, Irish Novelist & Poet

The Honourable Emily Lawless, Irish novelist and poet, is born at Lyons Demesne below Lyons Hill, Ardclough, County Kildare, on June 17, 1845. According to Betty Webb Brewer, writing in 1983 for the journal of the Irish American Cultural Institute, Éire/Ireland, “An unflagging unionist, she recognised the rich literary potential in the native tradition and wrote novels with peasant heroes and heroines, Lawless depicted with equal sympathy the Anglo-Irish landholders.”

Lawless’s grandfather is Valentine Lawless, 2nd Baron Cloncurry, a member of the Society of United Irishmen and son of a convert from Catholicism to the Church of Ireland. Her father is Edward Lawless, 3rd Baron Cloncurry, thus giving her the title of “The Honourable.” In contrast, her brother Edward Lawless is a landowner with strong Unionist opinions, a policy of not employing Roman Catholics in any position in his household, and chairman of the Property Defence Association set up in 1880 to oppose the Irish National Land League and “uphold the rights of property against organised combination to defraud.” The prominent Anglo-Irish unionist and later nationalist, Home Rule politician Horace Plunkett is a cousin. Lord Castletown, Bernard FitzPatrick, 2nd Baron Castletown is also a cousin. It is widely believed that she is a lesbian and that Lady Sarah Spencer, dedicatee of A Garden Diary (1901) is her lover.

Lawless spends part of her childhood with the Kirwans of Castle Hackett, County Galway, her mother’s family, and draws on West of Ireland themes for many of her works. She occasionally writes under the pen name “Edith Lytton.”

Lawless writes nineteen works of fiction, biography, history, nature studies and poetry, many of which are widely read at the time. She is most famous today for her Wild Geese poems (1902).

Some critics identify a theme of noble landlord and noble peasant in her fourth book, Hurrish, a Land War story set in The Burren of County Clare which is read by William Ewart Gladstone and said to have influenced his policy. It deals with the theme of Irish hostility to English law. In the course of the book a landlord is assassinated, and Hurrish’s mother, Bridget, refuses to identify the murderer, a dull-witted brutal neighbour. The book is criticised by Irish-Ireland journals for its “grossly exaggerated violence,” its embarrassing dialect, staid characters.

Her reputation is damaged by William Butler Yeats who accuses her in a critique of having “an imperfect sympathy with the Celtic nature” and for adopting “theory invented by political journalists and forensic historians.” Despite this, Yeats includes her novels With Essex in Ireland (1890) and Maelcho (1894) in his list of the best Irish novels.

Lawless dies at Gomshall, a village in the borough of Guildford in Surrey, England, on October 19, 1913. Her papers are preserved in Marsh’s Library in Dublin.


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Death of Gerald Griffin, Novelist, Poet & Playwright

Gerald Griffin (Irish: Gearóid Ó Gríofa), Irish novelist, poet and playwright, dies of typhus fever on June 12, 1840. His novel The Collegians is the basis of Dion Boucicault‘s play The Colleen Bawn, or The Brides of Garryowen. Feeling he is “wasting his time” writing fiction, he joins the Congregation of Christian Brothers, a Catholic religious congregation founded by Edmund Ignatius Rice, to teach the children of the poor.

Griffin is born in Limerick, County Limerick, on December 12, 1803, the youngest son of thirteen children of a substantial Catholic farming family. Patrick Griffin, his father, also makes a living through brewing, and he participates as one of Henry Grattan‘s Irish Volunteers (18th century). His mother comes from the ancient O’Brien dynasty, and first introduces him to English literature. When he is aged seven, the family moves to Fairy Lawn, a house near Loghill, County Clare, which sits on a hill above the bank of the Shannon Estuary, about twenty-seven miles from Limerick. Here he has an idyllic childhood and receives a classical education.

In 1820 the family at Fairy Lawn is broken up. The parents with several of the children emigrate to the United States and settle in Pennsylvania. Griffin, with one brother and two sisters, is left behind under the care of his elder brother William, a practicing physician in Adare, County Limerick. He meets John Banim in Limerick. Inspired by the successful production of Banim’s play Damon and Pythias (1821), Griffin, at nineteen years of age, moves to London in 1823. After an unsuccessful attempt at becoming a playwright, he endures years of poverty in London, managing only to scrape by through writing reviews for periodicals and newspapers. At the end of two years he obtains steady employment in the publishing house as reader and reviser of manuscripts, and in a short time becomes frequent contributor to some of the leading periodicals and magazines. His early pieces in The Literary Gazette vividly describe the rural setting of his childhood, recount Irish folklore, translate the Celtic Irish language for the English readers, and, as Robert Lee Wolff observes, “waxed richly sardonic about Irishmen who tried to be more English than the English.”

Griffin’s Holland-Tide or Munster Popular Tales is published by Simpkin & Marshall in 1827. Holland-Tide is a collection of seven short stories, all of which are told in the house of a hospitable Munster farmer during All Hallows’ Eve in Munster. Holland-Tide establishes his reputation and he returns to Ireland, where he writes Tales of the Munster Festivals in Pallaskenry to which his brother William has moved.

Experience leads Griffin to modify his expectations in relation to literary work, and, with a view to the legal profession, he enters the University of London as a law student, but in a short time removes to Dublin for the study of ancient Irish history, preparatory to his work The Invasion, which is published in 1832. This work has a good sale and is highly praised by scholars, but never becomes popular.

With the exception of a tour through Scotland and a short trip on the European continent, Griffin lives with his brother, keeping up to some extent his literary labours. By 1833, he is increasingly concerned that he is wasting his time, and begins to devote himself to teaching the poor children of the neighborhood. In 1838, hes all of his unpublished manuscripts and joins the Congregation of Christian Brothers, a Catholic religious order which has as its special aim the education of children of the poor. Writing to an old friend he says he feels a great deal happier in the practice of this daily routine than he ever did while roving about the great city, absorbed in the modest project of rivaling Shakespeare and throwing Scott in the shade. In June 1839, he is transferred from Dublin to Cork, where he dies of typhus fever at the age of thirty-six on June 12, 1840.

Griffin’s play Gisippus is produced posthumously at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on February 23, 1842 by William Macready, and it runs to a second edition in print.

One of Griffin’s most famous works is The Collegians, a novel based on a trial that he had reported on, involving the murder of a young Irish Catholic girl (Ellen Hanley) by a Protestant Anglo-Irish man (John Scanlon). The novel is later adapted for the stage as The Colleen Bawn by Dion Boucicault.

Griffin has a street named after him in Limerick and another in Cork. Loughill/Ballyhahill GAA club in west Limerick plays under the name of Gerald Griffins.

(Pictured: “Portrait of Gerald Griffin (1803-1840), Poet and Novelist,” painting by Richard Rothwell (1800-1868), National Gallery of Ireland)


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Death of Suzanne R. Day, Feminist, Novelist & Playwright

Suzanne Rouviere Day, Irish feminist, novelist and playwright, dies in London on May 26, 1964. She founds the Munster Women’s Franchise League, is one of Cork‘s first women poor law guardians and serves a support role in both World Wars.

Day is born in Cork, County Cork, on April 24, 1876 to Robert and Rebecca Day. Her father runs a saddler and ironmonger business and is a well known antiquarian and photographer.

In 1910 Day forms the local Irish Women’s Franchise League branch in Cork as an activist group for women’s suffrage. The following year she leaves that group and founds the non-militant Munster Women’s Franchise League. Her new interest in politics leads to her winning the election of poor law guardians the same year. Her later writings reveal that she sees the Cork workhouses as an expensive self-perpetuating evil run by amateurs. This leads to her first novel, The Amazing Philanthropists (1916). From 1913 to 1917 she writes three plays for the Abbey Theatre in collaboration with Geraldine Cummins, Broken Faith (1913), The Way of the World (1914), and Fox and Geese (1917), which is the most successful of the three.

The Battle of Verdun lasts most of 1916 and during that time Day is amongst a group from the Society of Friends who cares for the wounded. She is in France for fifteen months and uses the experience to create her 1918 book Round about Bar-le-Duc. Where the Mistral Blows is published in 1933 and describes her time in Provence in France.

Day works as a member of the fire service in London during World War II. She lives in Cork, France and London. At the time of her death she is living at 47 Argyle Road, Kensington, London. She dies in the Cromer and District Hospital on May 26, 1964.

The work of Suzanne Rouviere Day and Geraldine Cummins has been described as a mixture of paganism and melodrama and has been suggested as a precursor to John B. Keane.

(Pictured: Suzanne R. Day in the cast of the 1901 production of The Mikado, Cork, County Cork)


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Birth of Roddy Doyle, Novelist, Dramatist & Screenwriter

Roddy Doyle, novelist, dramatist and screenwriter known for his unvarnished depiction of the working class in Ireland, is born in Dublin on May 8, 1958. His distinctively Irish settings, style, mood, and phrasing make him a favourite fiction writer in his own country as well as overseas.

Doyle grows up in a middle-class family in Kilbarrack. His mother, Ita Bolger Doyle, is a first cousin of the short story writer Maeve Brennan. After majoring in English and geography at University College Dublin, he teaches those subjects for fourteen years at Greendale Community School, a Dublin grade school. During the summer break of his third year of teaching, he begins writing seriously. In the early 1980s he writes a heavily political satire, Your Granny’s a Hunger Striker, but it is never published.

Doyle publishes the first editions of his comedy The Commitments (1987; film 1991) through his own company, King Farouk, until a London-based publisher takes over. The work is the first installment of his internationally acclaimed The Barrytown Trilogy novels, which also include The Snapper (1990; film 1993), and The Van (1991; film 1996). The series centres on the ups and downs of the never-say-die Rabbitte family, who temper the bleakness of life in an Irish slum with familial love and understanding.

Doyle’s fourth novel, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha (1993), wins the 1993 Booker Prize. Set in the 1960s in a fictional working-class area of northern Dublin, the book examines the cruelty inflicted upon children by other children. The protagonist, 10-year-old Paddy Clarke, fears his classmates’ ostracism, especially after the breakup of his parents’ marriage. In 1994 he writes the BBC miniseries Family, which generates heated controversy throughout conservative Ireland. The program sheds harsh light on a family’s struggle with domestic violence and alcoholism and portrays the bleaker side of life in a housing project, the same venue he had used in the more comedic Barrytown novels. The Woman Who Walked into Doors (1996) and its sequel, Paula Spencer (2006), concern the ramifications of domestic abuse and alcoholism.

A Star Called Henry (1999) centres on an Irish Republican Army (IRA) soldier named Henry Smart and his adventures during the Easter Rising. Smart’s further adventures are detailed in Oh, Play That Thing (2004), which follows him as he journeys through the United States, and The Dead Republic (2010), which chronicles his return to Ireland. In Smile (2017) a lonely middle-aged man looks back on his life, especially his troubled childhood. His next novel, Love (2020), follows two old friends as they spend a night drinking and looking back at their lives. The Deportees and Other Stories (2007), Bullfighting (2011), and Life Without Children (2021) are short-story collections. He also writes a number of books for children, including Wilderness (2007) and A Greyhound of a Girl (2011).

In 1987 Doyle marries Belinda Moller, granddaughter of former Irish President Erskine Childers. They have three children – Rory, Jack and Kate.

In the television series Father Ted, the character Father Dougal Maguire‘s unusual sudden use of (mild) profanities, such as saying “I wouldn’t know, Ted, you big bollocks!,” is blamed on his having “been reading those Roddy Doyle books again.”


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Death of Molly Keane, Novelist & Playwright

Molly Keane, Irish novelist and playwright who writes as M. J. Farrell, dies on April 22, 1996 in Ardmore, County Waterford.

Keane is born Mary Nesta Skrine on July 20, 1904 in Ryston Cottage, Newbridge, County Kildare. Her mother is a poet who writes under the pseudonym Moira O’Neill. Her father is a fanatic for horses and hunting. She grows up at Ballyrankin House on the banks of the River Slaney, a few miles southeast of Bunclody, County Wexford and refuses to go to boarding school in England as her siblings had done. She is educated by her mother, governesses, and at a boarding school in Bray, County Wicklow. Relationships between her and her parents are cold and she states that she had no fun in her life as a child. Her own passion for hunting and horses is born out of her need for fun and enjoyment. Reading does not feature much in her family, and, although her mother writes poetry, it is of a sentimental nature, “suitable to a woman of her class.”

Keane claims she had never set out to be a writer, but at seventeen she is bed bound due to suspected tuberculosis, and turns to writing out of sheer boredom. It is then she writes her first book, The Knight of Cheerful Countenance, which is published by Mills & Boon. She writes under the pseudonym “M. J. Farrell,” a name over a pub that she had seen on her return from hunting. She explains writing anonymously because “for a woman to read a book, let alone write one was viewed with alarm: I would have been banned from every respectable house in County Carlow.”

In her teenage years Keane spends much of her time in the Perry household in Woodruff, County Tipperary. Here she befriends the two children of the house, Sylvia and John Perry. She later collaborates with John in writing a number of plays. Among them is Spring Meeting, directed by John Gielgud in 1938, and one of the hits of the West End that year. She and Gielgud become life long friends.

It is through the Perry family that Keane meets Bobby Keane, whom she marries in 1938. He belongs to a Waterford squirearchical family, the Keane baronets. The couple goes on to have two daughters, Sally and Virginia.

Keane loves Jane Austen, and like Austen’s, her ability lay in her talent for creating characters. This, with her wit and astute sense of what lay beneath the surface of people’s actions, enables her to depict the world of the big houses of Ireland in the 1920s and 1930s. She “captured her class in all its vicious snobbery and genteel racism.” She uses her married name for her later novels, several of which (including Good Behaviour and Time After Time) have been adapted for television. Between 1928 and 1956, she writes eleven novels, and some of her earlier plays, under the pseudonym “M. J. Farrell.” She is a member of Aosdána.

Keane’s husband dies suddenly in 1946, and, following the failure of a play, she publishes nothing for twenty years. In 1981 Good Behaviour comes out under her own name. The manuscript, which had languished in a drawer for many years, is loaned to a visitor, the actress Peggy Ashcroft, who encourages Keane to publish it. The novel is warmly received and is short-listed for the Booker Prize.

Following the death of her husband, Keane moves to Ardmore, County Waterford, a place she knows well, and lives there with her two daughters. She dies on April 22, 1996 in her Cliffside home in Ardmore at the age of 91. She is buried beside the Church of Ireland church, near the centre of the village.