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


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Death of Stage & Film Actor Peter Seamus O’Toole

Peter Seamus O’Toole, British stage and film actor of Irish descent, dies on December 14, 2013 at Wellington Hospital in St. John’s Wood, London, at the age of 81.

O’Toole is born on August 2, 1932, in Leeds, Yorkshire, England. Some sources give his birthplace as Connemara, County Galway. Records from the General Register Office in Leeds confirm that O’Toole is born in the north England town in 1932. He is educated at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. He is a reporter for the Yorkshire Evening Post in his teens and makes his amateur stage debut at Leeds Civic Theatre. After serving two years in the Royal Navy, he acts with the Bristol Old Vic Company from 1955 to 1958 and makes his London debut as Peter Shirley in George Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara (1956). He appears with the Shakespeare Memorial Company at Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England, in 1960 in highly praised performances as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and as Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew, and he plays the lead in Hamlet for the inaugural production of the Royal National Theatre in London in 1963. A prominent film star by this point in his career, he continues to appear on stages throughout the world to great acclaim. He is named associate director of the Old Vic in 1980.

O’Toole makes his motion picture debut in Kidnapped in 1960 and two years later becomes an international star for his portrayal of T.E. Lawrence in David Lean’s epic Lawrence of Arabia (1962). In 1964 he plays Henry II of England in Becket, and he has the title role in Lord Jim (1965). He appears as Henry II again in The Lion in Winter (1968), a film notable for the witty verbal sparring matches between O’Toole and costar Katharine Hepburn. The Ruling Class (1972), a controversial black comedy that has become a cult classic, casts O’Toole as a schizophrenic English earl with a messiah complex.

Personal problems contribute to a decline in his popularity during the 1970s, but he makes a strong comeback in the early 1980s with three well-received efforts. He portrays a duplicitous and domineering movie director in The Stunt Man (1980), and his performance as the Roman commander Lucius Flavius Silva in the acclaimed television miniseries Masada (1981) is hailed as one of the finest of his career. His most popular vehicle during this period is My Favorite Year (1982), an affectionate satire on the early days of television, in which he plays Alan Swann, a faded Errol Flynn-type swashbuckling screen star with a penchant for tippling and troublemaking.

O’Toole subsequently maintains his status with fine performances in such films as the Oscar-winning The Last Emperor (1987), the cult favourite Wings of Fame (1989), and Fairy Tale: A True Story (1997), in which he portrays Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notable screen roles in the 21st century included King Priam in the historical epic Troy (2004), an aging romantic in Venus (2006), the voice of a haughty food critic in the animated Ratatouille (2007), and a priest in the historical drama For Greater Glory (2012). In addition, in 2008 he portrays Pope Paul III in the TV series The Tudors.

In 1992 O’Toole publishes a lively memoir, Loitering with Intent: The Child. A second volume, Loitering with Intent: The Apprentice, appears in 1996. He is nominated for an Academy Award eight times — for Lawrence of Arabia, Becket, The Lion in Winter, Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), The Ruling Class, The Stunt Man, My Favorite Year, and Venus — but never wins. In 2003 he is awarded an honorary Oscar. He receives an Emmy Award for his performance as Bishop Pierre Cauchon in the television miniseries Joan of Arc (1999).

O’Toole dies on December 14, 2013 at Wellington Hospital in St. John’s Wood, London, at the age of 81. His funeral is held at Golders Green Crematorium in London on December 21, 2013, where his body is cremated in a wicker coffin. His ashes are planned to be taken to Connemara, Ireland. They are kept at the residence of the President of Ireland, Áras an Uachtaráin, by President Michael D. Higgins, an old friend of O’Toole. His family has stated their intention to fulfill his wishes and take his ashes to the west of Ireland.


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Birth of English Playwright John Arden

John Arden, English playwright, is born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England, on October 26, 1930. 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 is the son of the manager of a glass factory. He is educated at Sedbergh School in Cumbria, King’s College, Cambridge and the Edinburgh College of Art, where he studies architecture. He first gains critical attention for the radio play The Life of Man in 1956 shortly after finishing his studies.

Arden is initially associated with the English Stage Company at the Royal Court Theatre in London. His 1959 play, Serjeant Musgrave’s Dance, in which four army deserters arrive in a northern mining town to exact retribution for an act of colonial violence, is considered to be his best. His work is influenced by Bertolt Brecht and epic theatre as in Left-Handed Liberty (1965, on the anniversary of Magna Carta). Other plays include Live Like Pigs, The Workhouse Donkey, and Armstrong’s Last Goodnight, the last of which is performed at the 1963 Chichester Festival by the Royal National Theatre after it was rejected by the Royal Court.

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.

In 1961, Arden is a founder member of the anti-nuclear Committee of 100, and he also chairs the pacifist weekly Peace News. In Ireland, he is for a while a member of Official Sinn Féin. He is an advocate of civil liberties, and opposes anti-terror legislation, as demonstrated in his 2007 radio play The Scam.

Arden is elected to Aosdána in 2011 before dying in Galway, County Galway on March 28, 2012. He is waked in a wicker casket.

(Pictured: Photograph of John Arden in 1966, credit to Sam Falk/The New York Times)


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Birth of Sebastian Barry, Novelist, Playwright & Poet

Sebastian Barry, novelist, playwright and poet, is born in Dublin on July 5, 1955. He is noted for his lyrical literary writing style and is considered one of Ireland’s finest writers. He is named Laureate for Irish Fiction, 2019–2021.

Barry’s mother is acclaimed actress Joan O’Hara. He is educated at Catholic University School and Trinity College, Dublin, where he reads English and Latin. His literary career begins in poetry before he begins writing plays and novels.

Barry starts his literary career with the novel Macker’s Garden in 1982. This is followed by several books of poetry and a further novel, The Engine of Owl-Light (1987), before his career as a playwright begins with his first play produced in the Abbey Theatre, Boss Grady’s Boys (1988).

Barry’s maternal great-grandfather, James Dunne, provides the inspiration for the main character in his most internationally known play, The Steward of Christendom, which wins the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize, the Lloyd’s Private Banking Playwright of the Year Award and other awards. The main character in the play, Thomas Dunne, is the chief superintendent of the Dublin Metropolitan Police from 1913 to 1922. He oversees the area surrounding Dublin Castle until the Irish Free State takeover on January 16, 1922. One of his grandfathers belonged to the British Army Corps of Royal Engineers while the other is a painter, a Nationalist, and a devotee of Éamon de Valera.

Both The Steward of Christendom and the novel The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty, are about the dislocations, physical and otherwise, of loyalist Irish people during the political upheavals of the early 20th century. The title character of the latter work is a young man forced to leave Ireland by his former friends in the aftermath of the Irish War of Independence.

Barry has been twice shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for his novels A Long Long Way (2005) and The Secret Scripture (2008), the latter of which wins the 2008 Costa Book of the Year and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. His fifth novel, On Canaan’s Side (2011), is longlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize and wins the 2012 Walter Scott Prize. In January 2017, he is awarded the Costa Book of the Year prize for Days Without End (2016), becoming the first novelist to win the prestigious prize twice. The novel also wins The Walter Scott Prize and The Independent Booksellers’ Prize, and is longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017.

Barry’s play Andersen’s English is inspired by children’s writer Hans Christian Andersen coming to stay with Charles Dickens and his family in the Kent marshes. Directed by Max Stafford-Clark and produced by the Out of Joint Theatre Company and Hampstead Theatre, the play tours in the United Kingdom from February 11 to May 8, 2010. Our Lady of Sligo is directed in 1998 by Stafford-Clark at the Royal National Theatre co−produced by Out of Joint.

In 2001, Barry establishes his personal and professional archive at the Harry Ransom Center. More than sixty boxes of papers document his diverse writing career and range of creative output which includes drawings, poetry, short stories, novels, essays, and scripts.

Barry has been awarded honorary degrees from NUI Galway, the Open University and the University of East Anglia. His academic posts include Honorary Fellow in Writing at the University of Iowa (1984), Heimbold Visiting Professor at Villanova University (2006) and Writer Fellow at Trinity College, Dublin (1995–1996).

Barry lives in County Wicklow with his wife, actor and screenwriter Alison Deegan.


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Birth of Peter O’Toole, Stage & Film Actor

peter-o-toole

Peter Seamus O’Toole, British stage and film actor of Irish descent, is born on August 2, 1932, in Leeds, Yorkshire, England. Some sources give his birthplace as Connemara, County Galway. Records from the General Registry Office in Leeds confirm that O’Toole is born in the north England town in 1932.

O’Toole grows up in Leeds and is educated at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. He is a reporter for the Yorkshire Evening Post in his teens and makes his amateur stage debut at Leeds Civic Theatre. After serving two years in the Royal Navy, he acts with the Bristol Old Vic Company from 1955 to 1958 and makes his London debut as Peter Shirley in George Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara (1956). He appears with the Shakespeare Memorial Company at Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England, in 1960 in highly praised performances as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and as Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew, and he plays the lead in Hamlet for the inaugural production of the Royal National Theatre in London in 1963. A prominent film star by this point in his career, he continues to appear on stages throughout the world to great acclaim. He is named associate director of the Old Vic in 1980.

O’Toole makes his motion picture debut in Kidnapped in 1960 and two years later becomes an international star for his portrayal of T.E. Lawrence in David Lean’s epic Lawrence of Arabia (1962). In 1964 he plays Henry II of England in Becket, and he has the title role in Lord Jim (1965). He appears as Henry II again in The Lion in Winter (1968), a film notable for the witty verbal sparring matches between O’Toole and costar Katharine Hepburn. The Ruling Class (1972), a controversial black comedy that has become a cult classic, casts O’Toole as a schizophrenic English earl with a messiah complex.

Personal problems contribute to a decline in his popularity during the 1970s, but he makes a strong comeback in the early 1980s with three well-received efforts. He portrays a duplicitous and domineering movie director in The Stunt Man (1980), and his performance as the Roman commander Lucius Flavius Silva in the acclaimed television miniseries Masada (1981) is hailed as one of the finest of his career. His most popular vehicle during this period is My Favorite Year (1982), an affectionate satire on the early days of television, in which he plays Alan Swann, a faded Errol Flynn-type swashbuckling screen star with a penchant for tippling and troublemaking.

O’Toole subsequently maintains his status with fine performances in such films as the Oscar-winning The Last Emperor (1987), the cult favourite Wings of Fame (1989), and Fairy Tale: A True Story (1997), in which he portrays Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Notable screen roles in the 21st century included King Priam in the historical epic Troy (2004), an aging romantic in Venus (2006), the voice of a haughty food critic in the animated Ratatouille (2007), and a priest in the historical drama For Greater Glory (2012). In addition, in 2008 he portrays Pope Paul III in the TV series The Tudors.

In 1992 O’Toole publishes a lively memoir, Loitering with Intent: The Child. A second volume, Loitering with Intent: The Apprentice, appears in 1996. He is nominated for an Academy Award eight times — for Lawrence of Arabia, Becket, The Lion in Winter, Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), The Ruling Class, The Stunt Man, My Favorite Year, and Venus — but never wins. In 2003 he is awarded an honorary Oscar. He receives an Emmy Award for his performance as Bishop Pierre Cauchon in the television miniseries Joan of Arc (1999).

O’Toole dies on December 14, 2013 at Wellington Hospital in St. John’s Wood, London, at the age of 81. His funeral is held at Golders Green Crematorium in London on December 21, 2013, where his body is cremated in a wicker coffin. His ashes are planned to be taken to Connemara, Ireland. They are being kept at the residence of the President of Ireland, Áras an Uachtaráin, by President Michael D. Higgins, an old friend of O’Toole. His family has stated their intention to fulfill his wishes and take his ashes to the west of Ireland.


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Birth of Fiona Shaw, Actress & Director

fiona-shawFiona Mary Shaw, accomplished classical actress and theatre and opera director, is born in Farranree, County Cork on July 10, 1958. She is best known for her role as Petunia Dursley in the Harry Potter films and her role portraying Marnie Stonebrook in the HBO series True Blood.

Shaw attends secondary school at Scoil Mhuire in Cork. She receives her degree at University College Cork. She trains at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London and is part of a ‘new wave’ of actors to emerge from the Academy. She receives much acclaim as Julia in the Royal National Theatre production of Richard Sheridan‘s The Rivals (1983).

Shaw’s theatrical roles include Celia in As You Like It (1984), Madame de Volanges in Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1985), Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew (1987), Lady Franjul in The New Inn (1987), Young Woman in Machinal (1993), for which she wins the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress, Winnie in Happy Days (2007), and the title roles in Electra (1988), The Good Person of Sechuan (1989), Hedda Gabler (1991), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1998) and Medea (2000). She performs T. S. Eliot‘s poem The Waste Land as a one-person show at the Liberty Theatre in New York City to great acclaim in 1996, winning the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding One-Person Show for her performance.

Shaw plays Miss Morrison in the 1984 The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes episode “The Adventure of the Crooked Man” and Catherine Greenshaw in Agatha Christie’s Marple episode “Greenshaw’s Folly” in 2013.

Shaw notably plays the male lead in Richard II, directed by Deborah Warner in 1995. She has collaborated with Warner on a number of occasions, on both stage and screen. She has also worked in film and television, including My Left Foot (1989), Mountains of the Moon (1990), Three Men and a Little Lady (1990), Super Mario Bros. (1993), Undercover Blues (1993), Persuasion (1995), Jane Eyre (1996), The Butcher Boy (1997), The Avengers (1998), Gormenghast (2000), and five of the Harry Potter films in which she plays Harry Potter‘s aunt Petunia Dursley. She has a brief but key role in Brian DePalma‘s The Black Dahlia (2006).

In 2009, Shaw collaborates with Deborah Warner again, taking the lead role in Tony Kushner‘s translation of Bertolt Brecht‘s Mother Courage and Her Children. In a 2002 article for The Daily Telegraph, Rupert Christiansen describes their professional relationship as “surely one of the most richly creative partnerships in theatrical history.” Other collaborations between the two women include productions of Brecht’s The Good Woman of Szechuan and Henrik Ibsen‘s Hedda Gabler, the latter adapted for television.

Shaw appears in The Waste Land at Wilton’s Music Hall in January 2010 and in a Royal National Theatre revival of London Assurance in March 2010. In November 2010, She stars in Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin alongside Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan. The play is also staged in New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2011.

Shaw appears in season four of American TV show True Blood. Her character, Marnie Stonebrook, has been described as an underachieving palm reader who is spiritually possessed by an actual witch. Her character leads a coven of necromancer witches who threaten the status quo in Bon Temps, erasing most of Eric Northman‘s memories and leaving him almost helpless when he tries to kill her and break up their coven.

In 2012, Shaw appears in the Royal National Theatre revival of Scenes from an Execution by Howard Barker.

The world’s largest solo theatre festival, United Solo Theatre Festival, recognizes her performance in The Testament of Mary on Broadway with the 2013 United Solo Special Award.

In 2018 Shaw begins portraying Carolyn Martens, head of the MI6 Russian Desk, in BBC America‘s Killing Eve, for which she wins the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Television Series. Later the same year, she plays a senior MI6 officer in Mrs. Wilson.


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Birth of Gabriel Byrne, Actor, Director & Producer

gabriel-james-byrneGabriel James Byrne, internationally acclaimed actor, film director, film producer, writer, cultural ambassador and audiobook narrator, is born in Dublin on May 12, 1950.

Byrne is the first of six children. His father is a cooper and his mother a hospital worker. He is raised Catholic and educated by the Irish Christian Brothers. He spends five years of his childhood in a seminary training to be a Catholic priest. He later says, “I spent five years in the seminary and I suppose it was assumed that you had a vocation. I have realized subsequently that I didn’t have one at all. I don’t believe in God. But I did believe at the time in this notion that you were being called.” He attends University College Dublin (UCD), where he studies archeology and linguistics, and becomes proficient in the Irish language. He plays football in Dublin with the Stella Maris Football Club.

Byrne works in archeology after he leaves UCD but maintains his love of his language, writing Draíocht (Magic), the first drama in Irish on Ireland’s national Irish television station, TG4, in 1996.

He discovers his acting ability as a young adult. Before that he works at several occupations which include being an archaeologist, a cook, a bullfighter, and a Spanish schoolteacher. He begins acting when he is 29 years old. He begins on stage at the Focus Theatre and the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, later joining the Royal Court Theatre and the Royal National Theatre in London.

Byrne comes to prominence on the final season of the Irish television show The Riordans, later starring in the spin-off series, Bracken. He makes his film début in 1981 as Lord Uther Pendragon in John Boorman‘s King Arthur epic, Excalibur.

Byrne does not visit the United States until he is 37 years old. In 1988, he married actress Ellen Barkin with whom he has two children. The couple separates amicably in 1993 and divorce in 1999.

In November 2004, Byrne is appointed a UNICEF Ireland Ambassador. In 2007 he is presented with the first of the newly created Volta awards at the 5th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival for his lifetime achievement in acting. He also receives the Honorary Patronage of the University Philosophical Society, of Trinity College Dublin on February 20, 2007. He is awarded an honorary degree in late 2007 by the National University of Ireland, Galway, in recognition of his “outstanding contribution to Irish and international film.”

Byrne is featured as therapist Dr. Paul Weston in the critically acclaimed HBO series In Treatment (2008). In his return to theater in 2008, Byrne appears as King Arthur in Alan Lerner and Frederick Loewe‘s Camelot with the New York Philharmonic which is featured in a PBS broadcast in the Live From Lincoln Center series in May of 2008.

Byrne currently resides in Manhattan, New York.

(From IMDb Mini Biography by Bernie Corrigan)


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Birth of Bob Crowley, Theatre Designer & Director

Bob Crowley, scenic and costume theatre designer and theatre director, is born in Cork, County Cork on June 10, 1952. He is the brother of director John Crowley.

Crowley trains at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in Bristol, England. He designs over twenty productions for the Royal National Theatre in London including Ghetto, The Madness of George III, Carousel and The History Boys. He also designs numerous productions for the Royal Shakespeare Company including The Plantagenets, for which he wins a Laurence Olivier Award for Best Set Design, and Les Liaisons Dangereuses, which later has a successful run in London, followed by a transfer to Broadway. Opera productions include the critically acclaimed production of The Magic Flute directed by Nicholas Hytner, with whom Crowley frequently collaborates, for the English National Opera and La traviata for the Royal Opera House.

Crowley has received multiple Tony Award nominations, and has won seven times, for designing the Broadway productions of Carousel (1994), Aida (2000), The History Boys (2006), Mary Poppins (2007), The Coast of Utopia (2007), Once (2012) and An American in Paris (2015). He receives three other Tony Award nominations in 2015, two for his costumes on The Audience and An American in Paris and one for his scenic designs for Skylight. He is a recipient of the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Set Design and a three-time recipient of the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Set Design.

Crowley designs set and costume for Mary Poppins, which plays in both the West End theatre and on Broadway. He designs and directs the Phil Collins musical Tarzan. He is the set and costume designer for Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s Love Never Dies, and the costume designer of the 2008-2009 version of The Little Mermaid.