seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Denis Johnston, Writer & Playwright

Irish writer William Denis Johnston is born in Ballsbridge, Dublin on June 18, 1901. He primarily writes plays, but also works of literary criticism, a book-length biographical essay of Jonathan Swift, a memoir and an eccentric work on cosmology and philosophy.

Johnston is a protégé of William Butler Yeats and George Bernard Shaw, and has a stormy friendship with Seán O’Casey. He is a pioneer of television and war reporting. He works as a lawyer in the 1920s and 1930s before joining the BBC as a writer and producer, first in radio and then in the fledgling television service. His broadcast dramatic work include both original plays and adaptation of the work of many different writers.

Johnston’s first play, The Old Lady Says “No!”, helps establish the worldwide reputation of the Dublin Gate Theatre. His second, The Moon in the Yellow River, has been performed around the globe in numerous productions featuring such actors as Jack Hawkins, Claude Rains and Errol Flynn, although not all in the same production. He plays a role in the 1935 film version of John Millington Synge‘s Riders to the Sea.

During World War II Johnston serves as a BBC war correspondent, reporting from El Alamein to Buchenwald. For this he is awarded an OBE, a Mentioned in Despatches and the Yugoslav Partisans Medal. He then becomes Director of Programmes for the television service.

Johnston later moves to the United States and teaches at Mount Holyoke College, Smith College and other universities. He keeps extensive diaries throughout his life, now deposited in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin. These, together with his many articles and essays, give a distinctive picture of his times and the people he knows. Another archive of his work is held at the library of Ulster University at Coleraine. He receives honorary degrees from the Ulster University and Mount Holyoke College and is a member of Aosdána.

The Denis Johnston Playwriting Prize is awarded annually by Smith College Department of Theatre for the best play, screen play or musical written by an undergraduate at Smith, Mount Holyoke, Amherst College, Hampshire College and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Johnston’s war memoir Nine Rivers from Jordan reaches The New York Times Bestseller List and is cited in the World Book Encyclopedia‘s 1950s article on World War II under “Books to Read”, along with Churchill, Eisenhower et al. Joseph Ronsley cites an unnamed former CBS Vietnam correspondent who calls the book the “Bible”, carrying it with him constantly, “reading it over and over in the field during his tour of duty.”

Denis Johnston dies on August 8, 1984 in Ballybrack, Dublin. His daughter Jennifer Johnston is a respected novelist and playwright.


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Birth of Artist William Conor

Artist William Conor is born on May 6, 1881 in the Old Lodge Road area of north Belfast, the son of a wrought-iron worker.

Celebrated for his warm and sympathetic portrayals of working-class life in Ulster, Conor studies at the Government School of Design in Belfast in the 1890s. His artistic talents are recognized at the early age of ten when a teacher of music, Louis Mantell, notices the merit of his chalk drawings and arranges for him to attend the College of Art.

Conor initially works as a commercial artist, before being commissioned during World War I by the British government to produce official records of soldiers and munitions workers.

Conor moves to London in 1920 and there meets and socialises with such artists as Sir John Lavery and Augustus John. He exhibits at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1921 and in Dublin at the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) from 1918–1967, showing nearly 200 works.

Conor is one of the first Academicians when the Belfast Art Society becomes the Ulster Academy of Arts in 1930. He becomes an Associate RHA in 1938 and a full member in 1946. Exhibitions at the Victor Waddington Galleries are held in 1944 and 1948. In 1952 he is awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) and in 1957 he is elected President of the Royal Ulster Academy, an office he holds until 1964.

More than 50 works of his in crayon and watercolour are in the permanent collections of the Ulster Museum.

(Pictured: Bronze statue of William Conor at Conor’s Corner, Shankill Road, Belfast)


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Death of Open Champion Fred Daly

fred-dalyFrederick J. Daly, Northern Irish professional golfer best known for winning The Open Championship in 1947 at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake, dies on November 18, 1990.

Born in Portrush, County Antrim, Daly is the only Irishman from either side of the border to have won The Open until Pádraig Harrington wins it in 2007 and the only Northern Irish major winner until Graeme McDowell wins the U.S. Open in 2010. Daly wins the Open in 1947 while professional to the Balmoral Club in Belfast. He wins with a score of 293, a single stroke ahead of runners-up Reg Horne and amateur Frank Stranahan.

During his acceptance speech at Royal Liverpool, Daly says he is very honoured to receive the Claret Jug and take it back to Northern Ireland. He goes on to say that the trophy has never been to Ireland and that he is hoping that the change of air will help it. There is much applause and laughter at his humorous comments.

In addition, he adds the News of the World Match Play tournament which is the main British Match Play Championship, becoming the first since James Braid (1905) to win both the Open and the Match Play title in the same year.

Daly is the only Ulsterman to win the Irish Open until 2016, when Rory McIlroy wins at The K Club. Daly wins in 1946 at Portmarnock, and plays on four Ryder Cup teams, in 1947, 1949, 1951, and 1953. Daly is awarded the MBE in the 1984 New Year Honours “for services to golf.”

Fred Daly, age 79, dies in Belfast on November 18, 1990, of a heart attack.