Knowles’s father is the lexicographer James Knowles, cousin of Richard Brinsley Sheridan. The family moves to London in 1793, and at the age of fourteen he publishes a ballad entitled The Welsh Harper, which, set to music, is very popular. His talents secure him the friendship of William Hazlitt, who introduces him to Charles Lamb and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. He serves for some time in the Wiltshire and afterwards in the Tower Hamlets militia, leaving the service to become a pupil of Dr. Robert Willan. He obtains the degree of M.D., and is appointed vaccinator to the Jennerian Society.
Although Dr. Willan offers him a share in his practice, Knowles decides to give up medicine for the stage, making his first appearance as an actor probably at Bath, and plays Hamlet at the Crow Street Theatre, Dublin. At Wexford he marries, in October 1809, Maria Charteris, an actress from the Edinburgh Theatre. In 1810, he writes Leo, a successful play in which Edmund Kean appears. Another play, Brian Boroihme, written for the Belfast Theatre in the next year, attracts crowds. Nevertheless, his earnings are so small that he is obliged to become assistant to his father at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution. In 1817 he moves from Belfast to Glasgow, where, besides keeping a flourishing school, he continues to write for the stage.
Knowles first important success is Caius Gracchus, produced at the Belfast Theatre in 1815. His Virginius, written for William Charles Macready, is first performed in 1820 at Covent Garden. In William Tell (1825), he writes for Macready one of his favourite parts. His best-known play, The Hunchback, is produced at Covent Garden in 1832, and he wins praise acting in the work as Master Walter. The Wife is brought out at the same theatre in 1833. The Daughter, better known as The Wrecker’s Daughter, in 1836, and The Love Chase in 1837. His 1839 play Love is praised by Mary Shelley for its “inspiring situations founded on sentiment and passion.” His second wife is the actress Emma Knowles.
In his later years Knowles forsakes the stage for the pulpit and, as a Baptist preacher, attracts large audiences at Exeter Hall and elsewhere. He publishes two polemical works: the Rock of Rome and the Idol Demolished by Its Own Priests in both of which he combats the special doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. He is for some years in the receipt of an annual pension of £200, bestowed by Sir Robert Peel in 1849. In old age he befriends the young Edmund Gosse, whom he introduces to Shakespeare. He makes a happy appearance in Gosse’s Father and Son.
A full list of the works of Knowles and of the various notices of him can be found in The Life of James Sheridan Knowles (1872), privately printed by his son, Richard Brinsley Knowles (1820–1882), who is well known as a journalist. It is translated into German.
Nic Shiubhlaigh is born into a nationalist and Irish-speaking family. Her father, Matthew, comes from County Carlow and is a printer and publisher who becomes proprietor of the Gaelic Press. Her mother, Mary, is a dressmaker from Dublin. She grows up in 56 High Street in the Dublin Liberties.
Nic Shiubhlaigh joins the Gaelic League about 1898 and comes into contact with Arthur Griffith and William Rooney. She joins the cultural and revolutionary women’s group Inghinidhe na hÉireann in 1900. With the help of drama enthusiasts William and Frank Fay, she starts acting with the drama group of Inghinidhe na hÉireann. In 1901, the drama group takes part in a feis with two plays, Tobar Draoidheachta by Patrick S. Dinneen and Red Hugh by Alice Milligan. George Russell and W.B. Yeats, who are in attendance at the performance, are moved by the dedication of the amateur players. Russell, who had already offered the Fays his mythic play Deirdre, persuades Yeats to offer them his patriotic play, Cathleen ni Houlihan.
In 1902, Nic Shiubhlaigh joins W. G. Fay’s Irish National Dramatic Company, along with others such as Maire Quinn, Brian Callender, Charles Caulfield, James H. Cousins, P. J. Kelly, Dudley Digges and Frederick Ryan. Their first production of the two one-act plays, Cathleen ni Houlihan, with Maud Gonne in the lead role, and Deirdre, is on April 2, 1902. The company, which has no funds to speak of, acquires a couple of bare rooms at 34 Lower Camden Street, which with the help of friends from Irish-revival societies, they turn into a tiny theatre. They rehearse at the Coffee Palace and also use the Molesworth Hall for productions. In March 1903, with other members of her family, she appears in the first production of Yeats’ morality play, The Hour-Glass, in which she plays the part of the Angel.
In 1903, the playwrights and most of the actors and staff from these productions go on to form the Irish National Theatre Society, which has its registered offices in the Camden Street theatre. Nic Shiubhlaigh is a founder member and on the management committee of the society. Yeats is president, while Russell, Maud Gonne and Douglas Hyde are vice-presidents. William Fay is stage manager. The society founds the Abbey Theatre.
Nic Shiubhlaigh acts in the Abbey Theatre from the time of its founding. On its opening night on December 27, 1904, she plays the name part in Cathleen ni Houlihan. Her portrait is painted by John Butler Yeats for the occasion and hangs in the vestibule. She is the principal actress of the company after Máire Quinn’s departure to the United States, and when she leaves, the burden of the chief women’s rôles falls upon Sara Allgood.
In September 1905, the Abbey administrator and financial backer, an English theatre impresario called Annie Horniman, in hopes of improving the artistic quality of the productions at the Abbey, offers to guarantee salaries (a sum of £500 per year) for the actors and for Willie Fay as producer. To her mind, this will allow the actors and Fay to dispense with their day jobs and concentrate wholly upon their acting. The more nationally-minded members of the staff disagree. Nic Shiubhlaigh writes, “It was pointed out that the old Irish National Theatre Society had been founded in 1902 on the understanding that its independence as a national movement was to be secured only through the efforts of its members. It would be contrary to these ideals to accept a subsidy from an independent source.” For them it would mean a choice between a national theatre and an artistic theatre. At a meeting of the society, supported by Yeats, Gregory and Synge, the motion to accept Miss Horniman’s proposition is passed by a majority of shareholdings rather than a majority of votes. Nic Shiubhlaigh along with others resign, but they agree to remain until the end of the year, as part of an upcoming tour of England.
Nic Shiubhlaigh remains with the Abbey until December 1905, when along with Honor Lavelle (also known as Helen Laird), Emma Vernon, Máire Garvey, Frank Walker, Seumas O’Sullivan, Padraic Colum and George Roberts, she leaves. She joins the Theatre of Ireland, which she helps to found. This is formed in June 1906 with aims similar to the Irish National Theatre Society. She returns to the Abbey in 1910.
At the time of the 1916 Easter Rising, Nic Shiubhlaigh is living in Glasthule, a suburb of Dublin. She cycles into the city and, along with other members of Cumann na mBan, makes her way to Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, whose garrison under the command of Thomas MacDonagh guards the city against the troops of Portobello Barracks, and acts as an information and supplies hub for other garrisons around the city. She commands the women of the garrison. They remain there until the surrender, cooking and rendering first aid to the garrison, and bringing despatches through the city.
Nic Shiubhlaigh had retired from professional acting in 1912, and seldom works in professional theatre again. In 1929, she marries former IRA Director of Organisation, Major General Eamon “Bob” Price, and they move to Laytown, County Meath.
Nic Shiubhlaigh’s last stage appearance, alongside her sister Gypsy, is in a production of Gaol Gate at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin, on November 21, 1948, staged to mark the 150th anniversary of the death of Theobald Wolfe Tone.
Nic Shiubhlaigh dies on September 9, 1958, in the Drogheda cottage hospital.
Her book, The Splendid Years, written with the help of her nephew Edward Kenny, recalls the years of the national revival and the Easter Rising.
Donleavy grows up in the Bronx. His father is a firefighter, and his mother comes from a wealthy background. He has a sister, Mary Rita, and a younger brother. He declares himself to be an atheist at the age of fourteen. He receives his education at various schools in the United States, then serves in the United States Navy during World War II. After the war ends, he moves to Ireland and becomes an Irish citizen. In 1946 he begins studying bacteriology at Trinity College Dublin, but leaves in 1949 before taking a degree.
Donleavy’s first published work is a short story entitled A Party on Saturday Afternoon, which appears in the Dublin literary periodical Envoy, A Review of Literature and Art in 1950. He gains critical acclaim with his first novel, The Ginger Man (1955), which is one of the Modern Library 100 best novels. The novel, of which his friend and fellow writer Brendan Behan is the first person to read the completed manuscript, is banned in Ireland and the United States by reason of obscenity. The lead character, Sebastian Dangerfield, is in part based on Trinity College companion Gainor Crist, an American Navy veteran also studying at Trinity College on the G.I. Bill, whom Donleavy once describes in an interview as a “saint,” though of a Rabelaisian kind.
In 1946, Donleavy marries Valerie Heron. The couple has two children: Philip (born in 1951) and Karen (born in 1955). They divorce in 1969 and he remarries in 1970 to Mary Wilson Price. That union ends in divorce in 1989. In 2011, it is reported that he had not fathered his two children with Price. A DNA test in the early 1990s confirms that Rebecca is the daughter of brewing scion Kieran Guinness, and Rory is the son of Kieran’s older brother Finn, whom Price marries after her divorce from Donleavy. “My interest is only to look after the welfare of the child,” Donleavy tells The Times, “and after a certain stage, you can’t worry about their parentage.”
Donleavy lives at Levington Park, a country house on 200 acres directly on Lough Owel, near Mullingar, County Westmeath, from 1972. Throughout much of his life, he is known as Mike by close friends, though the origins of this nickname are unclear.
Donleavy dies in Mullingar at the age of 91 on September 11, 2017.
Wilde is born in March 1815 at Kilkeevin, near Castlerea, County Roscommon, the youngest of the three sons and two daughters of a prominent local medical practitioner, Thomas Wills Wilde, and his wife, Amelia Flynne. His family are members of the Church of Ireland, and he is descended from a Dutchman, Colonel de Wilde, who came to Ireland with King William of Orange‘s invading army in 1690, and numerous Anglo-Irish ancestors. He receives his initial education at the Elphin Diocesan School in Elphin, County Roscommon. In 1832, he is bound as an apprentice to Abraham Colles, the pre-eminent Irish surgeon of the day, at Dr. Steevens’ Hospital in Dublin. He is also taught by the surgeons James Cusack and Sir Philip Crampton and the physician Sir Henry Marsh. He also studies at the private and highly respected school of anatomy, medicine, and surgery in Park Street (later Lincoln Place), Dublin. In 1837, he earns his medical degree from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. In the same year, he embarks on an eight-month-cruise to the Holy Land with a recovering patient, visiting various cities and islands throughout the Mediterranean. Porpoises are flung on board the ship, Crusader, and Wilde dissects them. Taking notes, he eventually composes a two-volume book on the nursing habits of the creatures. Among the places he visits on this tour is Egypt. In a tomb he finds the mummified remains of a dwarf and salvages the torso to bring back to Ireland. He also collects embalmed ibises.
Wilde runs his own hospital, St. Mark’s Ophthalmic Hospital for Diseases of the Eye and Ear, in Dublin and is appointed to serve as Oculist-in-ordinary to Queen Victoria. At one point, he performs surgery on the father of another famous Irish dramatist, George Bernard Shaw.
Wilde is awarded a knighthood in a ceremony at Dublin Castle on January 28, 1864, more for his involvement with the Irish census than for his medical contributions, although he had been appointed medical commissioner to the Irish census in 1841. In 1845, he becomes editor of the Dublin Journal of Medical & Chemical Science, to which he contributes many articles.
Wilde marries the poet Jane Francesca Agnes Elgee on November 12, 1851, who writes and publishes under the pen name of Speranza. The couple has two sons, William (Willie) and Oscar, and a daughter, Isola Francesca, who dies in childhood.
In addition to his children with his wife, Wilde is the father of three children born out of wedlock before his marriage: Henry Wilson, born in 1838, and Emily and Mary Wilde, born in 1847 and 1849, respectively, of different parentage to Henry. He acknowledges paternity of his illegitimate children and provides for their education, but they are reared by his relatives rather than with his wife and legitimate children. Emily and Mary both die in 1871 following a Halloween party at which their dresses accidentally catch fire.
From 1855 until his death in 1876, Wilde lives at 1 Merrion Square, now the headquarters of American College Dublin. The building is named Oscar Wilde House after William Wilde’s son, who also lives at the address from 1855 until 1878. There is a plaque at 1 Merrion Square dedicated to him.
Wilde’s reputation suffers when Mary Travers, a long-term patient of his and the daughter of a colleague, claims that he had seduced her two years earlier. She writes a pamphlet crudely parodying Wilde and Lady Wilde as Dr. and Mrs. Quilp, and portraying Dr. Quilp as the rapist of a female patient anaesthetised under chloroform. She distributes the pamphlets outside the building where Wilde is about to give a public lecture. Lady Wilde complains to Mary’s father, Robert Travers, which results in Mary bringing a libel case against her. Mary Travers wins her case but is awarded a mere farthing in damages by the jury. Legal costs of £2,000 are awarded against Lady Wilde. The case is the talk of all Dublin, and Wilde’s refusal to enter the witness box during the trial is widely held against him as ungentlemanly behaviour.
From this time onwards, Wilde begins to withdraw from Dublin to the west of Ireland, where he had started in 1864 to build what becomes Moytura, his house overlooking Lough Corrib in Connemara, County Galway. His health deteriorates in 1875. He dies, likely of cancer, at the age of 61 on April 19, 1876. He is buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin.
(Pictured: Sketch of William Wilde by J.H. Maguire, 1847)
Hales is born John Hales, eldest child of five sons and four daughters of Robert Hales, a farmer, and Margaret (née Fitzgerald) Hales. He is educated at Ballinadee national school and Warner’s Lane school, Bandon. After leaving school he goes to work on his father’s farm. He plays hurling with Valley Rovers GAA club and is the Munster champion in the 56-lb. weight-throwing competition. From an early age he follows in his father’s footsteps and becomes involved in the republican movement.
Hales joins the Irish Volunteers in 1915 and becomes captain of the Ballinadee company in 1916. Arrested under the Defence of the Realm Act after the 1916 Easter Rising, he is imprisoned in Frongoch internment camp in Wales. After his release, in April 1917 he becomes executive of the short-lived Liberty League promoted by Count George Plunkett. When the League merges with Sinn Féin, he helps reorganise the Volunteers. With his brothers, Tom, William, and Donal, he continues his father’s fight on behalf of evicted tenants and becomes involved with the anti-British Bandon People’s Food Committee and the anti-landlord Unpurchased Tenants’ Association. He helps in the Sinn Féin takeover of The Southern Star newspaper and is a member of the new board of directors. In 1919 he becomes battalion commander of the first (Bandon) battalion 3rd Cork Brigade of the Irish Republican Army, the name by which the Irish Volunteers increasingly became known. He leads the attack on TimoleagueRoyal Irish Constabulary (RIC) barracks in February 1920, and the ambush of an Essex Regiment patrol at Brinny in August 1920. The military patrol at Brinny manages to surprise the ambushers and Lieutenant Tim Fitzgerald of Bandon is the first Volunteer to be killed in action in west Cork. Hales then commands the assault on two truckloads of British troops at Newcestown Cross in which a British officer is killed and several soldiers are wounded.
Hales is appointed section commander of the west Cork flying column in 1920 and takes part in the major action at Crossbarry on March 19, 1921. In retaliation for the burning of the Hales home in March 1921, he leads a contingent of Volunteers and burns Castle Bernard, the residence of the Earl of Bandon. The occupant, Lord Bandon, is held hostage until General Strickland, the British OC in Cork, guarantees he will not execute Volunteers in Cork prison. The British authorities yield and there is an end to the policy of executing prisoners of war in the Cork area.
On December 7, 1922, Hales is killed by anti-Treaty IRA men as he leaves the Dáil. Another TD, Pádraic Ó Máille, is also shot and badly wounded in the incident. His killing is in reprisal for the Free State’s execution of anti-treaty prisoners. In revenge for Hales’ killing, four republican leaders, Joe McKelvey, Rory O’Connor, Liam Mellows and Richard Barrett, are executed the following day, December 8, 1922.
Hales is given a military funeral to the family burial place at St. Patrick’s cemetery, Bandon.
According to information passed on to playwrightUlick O’Connor, an anti-Treaty IRA volunteer named Owen Donnelly of Glasnevin is responsible for the killing of Hales. Seán Caffrey, an anti-treaty intelligence officer told O’Connor that Donnelly had not been ordered to kill Hales specifically but was following the general order issued by Liam Lynch to shoot all deputies and senators they could who had voted for the Public Safety Act (September 28, 1922) which established military courts with the power to impose the death penalty.
A commemorative statue of Hayes is unveiled at Bank Place in Bandon in 1930.
John Arden, English playwright, dies on March 28, 2012, in Galway, County Galway. At the time of his death, he is lauded as “one of the most significant British playwrights of the late 1950s and early 60s.”
Arden’s 1978 radio play Pearl is considered in a Guardian survey to be one of the best plays in that medium. He also writes several novels, including Silence Among the Weapons, which is shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1982, and Books of Bale, about the Protestant apologist John Bale. He is a member of the Royal Society of Literature.
With his wife and co-writer Margaretta D’Arcy, Arden pickets the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) premiere of his Arthurian play The Island of the Mighty, because they believe the production to be pro-imperialist. They write several plays together which are highly critical of British presence in Ireland, where he and D’Arcy live from 1971 onward.
Synge attends St. Andrew’s College, Dublin and in 1915 enters Trinity College Dublin (TCD). He is elected a Foundation Scholar his first year, which is unusual as it is normally won by more advanced students. While an undergraduate at TCD, he spots a non-trivial error in Analytical Dynamics of Particles and Rigid Bodies, a textbook by E. T. Whittaker, who had recently taught there, and notifies Whittaker of the error. In 1919 he is awarded a BA in Mathematics and Experimental Physics, and also a gold medal for outstanding merit. In 1922 he is awarded an MA, and in 1926 a Sc.D., the latter upon submission of his published papers up to then.
In 1918, Synge marries Elizabeth Eleanor Mabel Allen. She is also a student at TCD, first of mathematics, then of history, but family finances forced her to leave without graduating. Their daughters Margaret (Pegeen), Cathleen and Isabel are born in 1921, 1923 and 1930 respectively. The middle girl grows up to become the distinguished Canadian mathematician Cathleen Synge Morawetz.
Synge is appointed to the position of lecturer at Trinity College, and then accepts a position at the University of Toronto in 1920, where he is an assistant professor of mathematics until 1925. There he attends lectures by Ludwik Silberstein on the theory of relativity, stimulating him to contribute “A system of space-time co-ordinates,” a letter in Nature in 1921.
Synge is one of the first physicists to seriously study the interior of a black hole, and his early work is cited by both Martin David Kruskal and George Szekeres in their independent discoveries of the true structure of the Schwarzschild black hole. Synge’s later derivation of the Szekeres-Kruskal metric solution, which is motivated by a desire to avoid “using ‘bad’ coordinates to obtain ‘good’ coordinates,” has been generally under-appreciated in the literature, but is adopted by Chandrasekhar in his black hole monograph.
In pure mathematics, Synge is perhaps best known for Synge’s theorem, which concerns the topology of closed orientable Riemannian manifold of positive sectional curvature. When such a space is even-dimensional and orientable, the theorem says it must be simply connected. In odd dimensions, it instead says that such a space is necessarily orientable.
Synge also creates the game of Vish in which players compete to find circularity (vicious circles) in dictionary definitions.
Synge retires in 1972. He receives many honours for his works. He is elected as a fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1943. He is elected as a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and in 1943 is the first recipient of the society’s Henry Marshall Tory Medal, as one of the first mathematicians working in Canada to be internationally recognised for his research in mathematics. In 1954 he is elected an honorary fellow of Trinity College Dublin. He is president of the Royal Irish Academy from 1961 until 1964. The Royal Society of Canada establishes the John L. Synge Award in his honour in 1986.
Synge dies on March 30, 1995, in Dublin, exactly one week after his ninety-eighth birthday.
Molloy is the fifth in a family of five boys and three girls. Two other children die at birth. He is educated at Milltown national school and St. Jarlath’s College, Tuam, County Galway, from 1927 to 1931. His father dies when he is six years old and his uncle, Sonny Tucker, becomes an important influence, encouraging his life-long habit of extensive reading. In 1931 he goes to St. Columba’s Seminary at Dalgan Park, Shrule, County Mayo, but discontinues his studies for the priesthood when he contracts tuberculosis. He undergoes several operations, has to use crutches for three years, and is left with a permanent limp. While under the care of the sanatorium in Newcastle, County Wicklow, in the late 1930s, he is encouraged by a friend to attend a performance of two plays by George Bernard Shaw, Candida and Village Wooing, at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin. He becomes a regular playgoer and is inspired to begin a career as a dramatist.
Having lived in the family home at Milltown until 1955, he takes up residence at a nearby farmhouse on the marriage of his brother Christy. Despite his handicap, he works the small farm for the rest of his life to supplement the irregular income from his plays. He never marries and is attended by his housekeeper, Agnes Johnston. He is a familiar sight as he travels around his local area on the high bicycle he had fitted with one fixed pedal. The purpose of these journeys is to collect folklore, which provides a rich body of material for his plays and which he gathers into a prose volume, though this remains unpublished and privately held.
Molloy has nine of his thirteen plays produced at the Abbey Theatre, from Old Road in 1943 to Petticoat Loose in 1979. His plays reveal him as a folklorist in the line of John Millington Synge and draw on the same mixture of Christian and pagan beliefs, but with a more sympathetic understanding of his characters’ Catholicism. There is also the same strong vein of grotesque physical humour. His accomplished one-act play The Paddy Pedlar (1953) is based on a folk tale about a man carrying the body of his dead mother around in a sack, and takes its bearings from an extraordinary amalgam of beliefs about the afterlife.
Molloy’s history plays re-create a world that shows the oppressions of colonialism on a subject race who respond with a wild anarchy mixed with subdued acceptance. His plays with a contemporary setting most often take emigration as their theme and are prophetic of later work by John B. Keane and Brian Friel. He writes in a heightened folk idiom, which only rarely loses touch with natural speech. Old Road wins an Abbey Prize and is staged in 1943 with Cyril Cusack as the young farm labourer trying to decide whether to emigrate to England or to stay in Ireland. Joseph Holloway gives a touching account of the shy author taking his curtain at this first production, who, though his lips move, is unable to say anything. The Visiting House follows in 1946, and dramatises a night of singing, dancing, and storytelling, peopled by a richly diverse cast of characters.
Molloy’s first masterpiece, The King of Friday’s Men, is launched in 1948. It takes the uncompromising theme of the droit du seigneur exercised by an eighteenth-century Anglo-Irish landlord on the most beautiful young women on his estate. His latest prey seeks to evade her fate by enticing the aged faction fighter, Bartley Dowd, to fight the landlord on her behalf. The play recreates that eighteenth-century world with colour, immediacy, and a strong sense of how the colonial system envelops all of the characters save the marginalised Bartley, who in the first production is played by the actor and author Walter Macken.
Molloy’s even greater The Wood of the Whispering follows in 1953 at the Queen’s Theatre, where the Abbey company is now playing. It is his most probing treatment of the effects of emigration, an issue of which Molloy, living in Galway, is only too aware. It is the most Beckettian of Irish plays, with its old tramp, Sanbatch Daly, and a host of older characters who are not so much eccentric as damaged in some profound way. At the play’s close Sanbatch feigns madness to gain entry to the asylum, though he is not in truth far from genuine madness. The various younger couples agree to stay and marry in Ireland rather than go their separate ways back to England. This idea of cultural renewal also underscores the importance Molloy places on the staging of his plays by amateur drama companies.
From the 1960s onwards Molloy’s plays are less readily accepted by the Abbey Theatre and a Dublin audience, but they still find a ready reception in his native place. In later works, such as Daughter from Over the Water (1963), the older characters retain their exuberance, but the younger ones seem beyond his reach. His last play, The Bachelor’s Daughter, is given its first performance by the Tuam Theatre Guild on March 3, 1985. The revival by Galway’s Druid Theatre of The Wood of the Whispering in 1983, which Molloy lives to see, is a revelation, and a reminder to the wider theatrical and academic world of the continuing importance of this playwright, not just as the ‘missing link’ between Synge and Keane but as an original in his own right.
In later years Molloy is a member of Aosdána. He dies of aortic aneurysms at Galway Hospital on May 27, 1994. He remains a committed Catholic all his life and his tombstone reads: “Woe to those who call evil good and who call good evil” (Isaiah, 5: 20).
(From: “Molloy, Michael Joseph” by Anthony Roche, Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie, October 2009)
Bardwell is born to Irish parents William Hone and Mary Collise and moves to Ireland at the age of two. Her father’s family are of the Anglo-IrishHone family. She has a difficult childhood growing up in Leixlip, County Kildare. She is educated at Alexandra College and briefly studies in Switzerland. She works in a variety of jobs in Ireland and later Scotland, where, in 1948, she meets poet Michael Bardwell. The couple has two children and later separate.
Bardwell becomes a part of the literary scene of Soho in London, where she socialises with fellow writers, including Anthony Cronin, Francis Bacon, Patrick Kavanagh and Anthony Burgess. In the 1950s, she meets Fintan McLachlan, with whom she has three children, including the composer, John McLachlan. The family moves back to Dublin, where she works as a reviewer for Hibernia magazine and as a poetry editor.
From 1970 onward, Bardwell’s work is published regularly, starting with her first volume of poetry, The Mad Cyclist, which is later followed by her first novel, Girl on a Bicycle. She writes a number of plays and short stories, such as Outpatients, and her works are produced for RTÉ and the BBC. In 1984, she writes a musical play, No Regrets, based on the life of Édith Piaf. It opens at the Gaiety Theatre starring Anne Bushnell, and later tours across Ireland.
Bardwell’s work is heavily influenced by her difficult upbringing and her experiences in London and Dublin. In her memoir, A Restless Life, she describes her life as “a crescendo of madness.” She is considered an important poet by her contemporaries, who include Patrick Kavanagh, John Jordan, Paul Durcan, Macdara Woods and Michael Hartnett. On the publication of her fourth collection of poetry, The White Beach, Eilean Ni Chuilleanain states “it is good to see her work of the decades collected – it has inspired many Irish poets, male and female, and should be much more widely known,” adding that her work is “witty, full of sharp intimate honesty, full of truth and surprises.”
In 1975, Bardwell co-founds the long running literary magazine Cyphers with Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin and Macdara Woods, and acts as a co-editor until 2012. She is the recipient of the Marten Toonder Award in 1993, and the Dede Korkut Short Story Award from Turkish PEN in 2010.
In later life, Bardwell moves to Annamakarraig in County Monaghan and later to Cloonagh in County Sligo, where in 1993 she co-founds the Scríobh Literary Festival. She is a member of the Irish artists’ association Aosdána and acts as one of Patrick Kavanagh’s literary executors.
Bardwell dies at the age of 94 in Sligo, County Sligo, on June 28, 2016.
Anna Margaret Ross (née McKittrick), Irish writer known by her pen nameAmanda McKittrick Ros, dies on February 2, 1939, at Larne, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. She publishes her first novel, Irene Iddesleigh, at her own expense in 1897. She writes poetry and a number of novels. Her works are not read widely, and her eccentric, over-written, “purple” circumlocutory writing is alleged by some critics to be some of the worst prose and poetry ever written.
Ros is born in Drumaness, County Down, on December 8, 1860, the fourth child of Eliza Black and Edward Amlave McKittrick, Principal of Drumaness High School. She is christened Anna Margaret at Third Ballynahinch Presbyterian Church on January 27, 1861. In the 1880s she attends Marlborough Teacher Training College in Dublin, is appointed Monitor at Millbrook National School, Larne, County Antrim, finishes her training at Marlborough and then becomes a qualified teacher at the same school.
During Ros’s first visit to Larne, she meets Andrew Ross, a widower of 35, who is station master there. She marries him at Joymount Presbyterian Church, Carrickfergus, County Antrim, on August 30, 1887.
Ros writes under the pen name Amanda McKittrick Ros, possibly in an attempt to suggest a connection to the noble de Ros family of County Down. She is strongly influenced by the novelist Marie Corelli. She writes, “My chief object of writing is and always has been, to write if possible in a strain all my own. This I find is why my writings are so much sought after.” She imagines “the million and one who thirst for aught that drops from my pen,” and predicts that she will “be talked about at the end of a thousand years.”
Ros’s “admirers” include Aldous Huxley, Siegfried Sassoon, C. S. Lewis and Mark Twain. The publication of her novel Irene Iddesleigh is financed by her husband in 1897 as a gift to her on their tenth wedding anniversary. Twain considers the novel “one of the greatest unintentionally humorous novels of all time.” A reader sends a copy of the novel to humorist Barry Pain, who in an 1898 review calls it “a thing that happens once in a million years,” and sarcastically terms it “the book of the century.” He reports that he is initially entertained, but soon “shrank before it in tears and terror.” Ros retorts in her preface to Delina Delaney by branding Pain a “clay crab of corruption,” suggesting that he is so hostile only because he is secretly in love with her. But Ros claims to make enough money from her second novel, Delina Delaney, to build a house, which she names Iddesleigh.
In Ros’s last novel, Helen Huddleson, all the characters are named after various fruits: Lord Raspberry, Cherry Raspberry, Sir Peter Plum, Christopher Currant, the Earl of Grape, Madame Pear. Of Pear, Ros writes, “she had a swell staff of sweet-faced helpers swathed in stratagem, whose members and garments glowed with the lust of the loose, sparkled with the tears of the tortured, shone with the sunlight of bribery, dangled with the diamonds of distrust, slashed with sapphires of scandals…”
Ros believes that her critics lack sufficient intellect to appreciate her talent and is convinced that they conspire against her for revealing the corruption of society’s ruling classes, thereby disturbing “the bowels of millions.”
Andrew Ross dies in 1917, and Ros marries Thomas Rodgers, a County Down farmer, in 1922.
Belfast Public Libraries have a large collection of manuscripts, typescripts and first editions of Ros’s work. Manuscript copies include Irene Iddesleigh, Sir Benjamin Bunn and Six Months in Hell. Typescript versions of all the above are held together with Rector Rose, St. Scandal Bags and The Murdered Heiress among others. The collection of first editions covers all her major works including volumes of her poetry, Fumes of Formation and Poems of Puncture, together with lesser-known pieces such as Kaiser Bill and Donald Dudley: The Bastard Critic. The collection includes hundreds of letters addressed to Ros, many with her own comments in the margins. Also included are typed copies of her letters to newspapers, correspondence with her admiring publisher T. S. Mercer, an album of newspaper cuttings and photographs, and a script for a BBC broadcast from July 1943.
A few enthusiasts have kept Ros’s legend alive. A biography, O Rare Amanda!, is published in 1954. A collection of her most memorable passages is published in 1988 under the title Thine in Storm and Calm. In 2007 her life and works are fêted at a Belfast literary festival.
Denis Johnston, the Irish playwright, writes a radio play entitled Amanda McKittrick Ros which is broadcast on BBC Home Service radio on July 27, 1943 and subsequently. The play is published in The Dramatic Works of Denis Johnston vol. 3. He acquires a collection of papers from Ros including the unfinished typescript of Helen Huddleson. These can now be seen as part of the Denis Johnston collection in the library of the Ulster University at Coleraine, Northern Ireland.