seamus dubhghaill

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


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Premier of RTÉ One Drama Series “Glenroe”

glenroeThe first episode of Glenroe, a television drama series broadcast on RTÉ One, airs on September 11, 1983. The series runs for eighteen years, ending in May 2001.

A spin-off from Bracken, a short-lived RTÉ drama itself spun off from The Riordans, Glenroe is broadcast, generally from September to May, each Sunday evening at 8:30 PM. It is created, and written for much of its run, by Wesley Burrowes, and later by various other directors and producers including Paul Cusack, Alan Robinson and Tommy McCardle. Glenroe is the first show to be subtitled by RTÉ, with a broadcast in 1991 starting the station’s subtitling policy.

Glenroe centers on the lives of the people living in the fictional rural village of the same name in County Wicklow. The real-life village of Kilcoole is used to film the series. The series is also filmed in studio at RTÉ and in various other locations when directors see fit.

The main protagonists are the Byrne and McDermott/Moran families, related by the marriage of Miley Byrne to Biddy McDermott, colloquially known as Biddy and Miley. Other important characters include Teasy McDaid, the proprietor of the local pub, Tim Devereux, the Roman Catholic priest, George Black, the Church of Ireland Rector of the village, Fidelma Kelly, a cousin of Biddy, Blackie Connors, George Manning and Stephen Brennan.

Glenroe is noted for its original title sequence, which features the words “Gleann Rua” in Gaelic script morphing into “Glenroe” over a series of rural images. The original title sequence is used from the 1983-1984 season to the end of the 1992-1993 season. It is replaced with a more up-to-date title sequence at the start of the 1993-1994 season.

Glenroe‘s original theme tune is a traditional Irish song called “Cuaichín Ghleann Néifinn” and is arranged by Jim Lockhart of the Celtic rock band Horslips. A newly recorded version, arranged by Máire Ní Bhraonáin of the band Clannad, is introduced at the start of the 1993-1994 season.

In 2000 it seems the series is going into inevitable decline. On January 19, 2001, despite claims four years previously that it could run for another ten years, RTÉ announces that Glenroe is to end after eighteen seasons. The final episode of the series is broadcast on May 6, 2001.

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Birth of Stage & Screen Actress Marie Kean

Compressed by jpeg-recompressMarie Kean, actress of stage and screen whose career spanned over 40 years, is born in the village of Rush, County Dublin on June 27, 1918. The Stage calls her one of Ireland’s most impressive actresses, and “an artist of considerable emotional depth and theatrical command.”

Kean grows up in Rush and is educated at Loreto College, North Great George’s Street, Dublin. She learns her craft at the Gaiety School of Acting and is part of the Abbey Theatre company until 1961.

Kean’s leading role as the kindly matriarch, Mrs. Kennedy, in the RTÉ Radio serial drama, The Kennedys of Castleross, makes her famous throughout Ireland. She stars in the programme for the duration of its 18-year run.

In 1968, Kean wins a Jacob’s Award for her performance as Winnie in RTÉ television’s production of Samuel Beckett‘s play Happy Days, a role she had previously performed on stage and which she describes later as her favourite part. Among her other television roles is that of Mrs. Conn Brickley, Bridget’s mother, in an episode of The Irish R.M. called “The Boat’s Share.”

Kean’s many stage appearances include performances in the plays of John Millington Synge, Seán O’Casey and Brian Friel. She takes the lead role of Maggie Polpin in the 1969 world première of John B. Keane‘s play Big Maggie at the Cork Opera House. In 1978 she wins the State of New York best actress award for her performance in what has become Keane’s most successful play.

Arguably her most memorable film role is as Barry’s scheming mother in Stanley Kubrick‘s Barry Lyndon. She also plays a bigoted Irish shopkeeper in David Lean‘s Ryan’s Daughter. Her final movie appearance is in John Huston‘s The Dead (1987), in which she plays the part of Mrs. Malins.

Marie Kean dies in Donnybrook, Dublin at the age of 75 on December 30, 1993. Her husband, William Mulvey, predeceases her in 1977.


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Death of Broadcaster Derek Davis

derek-davisIrish broadcaster Derek Davis dies in Dublin on May 13, 2015. On television, he co-hosts Live at 3, presents Davis at Large and Out of the Blue and wins Celebrity Bainisteoir.

Davis is born on April 26, 1948 in Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland to a Protestant father and a Roman Catholic mother. He attends St. MacNissi’s College, a Catholic boarding school in County Antrim and describes his early childhood life as ecumenical. During his childhood he acquires a love of boats which later provide the inspiration for the TV series Out of the Blue.

Davis starts as a news reporter with the American network ABC and BBC Northern Ireland before spending 11 years in the newsroom at RTÉ. In the early 1980s he becomes a newsreader for The Six-o-clock News and begins to become well-known due to his sometimes off-the-cuff comments on news stories.

Davis impersonates Big Tom on the RTÉ satirical programme Hall’s Pictorial Weekly and, as a result, is offered a part in a show-band in Cork. After a ballroom tour, he joins RTÉ proper in 1975, initially to work as a television news reporter, eventually becoming newsreader on the nine o’clock news. In the mid-1980s, he hosts his own talk show, Davis at Large. It is on this show, which is screened live, that he is attacked and hurled across the studio by a guest female body builder. In addition to this he has an interactive summer current affairs show, simply called Davis. In 1986, he begins co-hosting (with Thelma Mansfield) RTÉ 1’s afternoon programme Live at 3, a role he fills for eleven years.

Davis presents the Rose of Tralee twice in 1995 and 1996, the first of these when Gay Byrne is taken ill at short notice. He memorably thanks the providers of the air conditioning while wiping sweat from his brow. Live at 3 comes to an end in 1997. Davis returns to the screen in the late 1990s with a marine programme devoted to boats and the waters around Ireland called Out of the Blue, which runs for four series, the last of which is broadcast in 2001.

In 2000, Davis presents a radio quiz show called A Question of Food. During the summer season he takes over RTÉ Radio 1‘s mid-morning slot usually occupied by Today with Pat Kenny, and he also hosts the radio phone-in show, Liveline, when regular presenter Joe Duffy is on holiday. Later, he presents Sunday Magazine with Davis on 4 on 4fm.

In 2005, Davis hosts a show called Time on Their Hands, a travel series for older people. One of his last television appearances is on the second season of Celebrity Bainisteoir in 2009, in which he and seven other Irish celebrities manage an intermediate Gaelic football club team from their home county in an official GAA tournament. Davis’s team wins the tournament.

During the 2010s, Davis makes frequent guest appearances on TV3‘s Tonight with Vincent Browne, where he and another guest preview the following morning’s papers.

After a short illness Derek Davis dies on May 13, 2015 at the age of 67. His funeral takes place in the Victorian Chapel, Mount Jerome Cemetery & Crematorium in Harold’s Cross, Dublin.


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Birth of Hugh Leonard, Dramatist, Writer & Essayist

hugh-leonardHugh Leonard, Irish dramatist, television writer and essayist, is born in Dublin on November 9, 1926. In a career that spans 50 years, he writes nearly 30 full-length plays, 10 one-act plays, three volumes of essays, two autobiographies, three novels and numerous screenplays and teleplays, as well as writing a regular newspaper column.

After birth, Leonard is put up for adoption. Raised in Dalkey, a suburb of Dublin, by Nicholas and Margaret Keyes, he changes his name to John Keyes Byrne. For the rest of his life, despite the pen name of “Hugh Leonard” which he later adopts and becomes well known by, he invites close friends to call him “Jack.”

Leonard is educated at the Harold Boys’ National School, Dalkey, and Presentation College, Glasthule, winning a scholarship to the latter. He works as a civil servant for fourteen years. During that time he both acts in and writes plays for community theatre groups. His first play to be professionally produced is The Big Birthday, which is mounted by the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 1956. His career with the Abbey Theatre continues until 1994. After that his plays are produced regularly by Dublin’s theatres.

Leonard moves to Manchester for a while, working for Granada Television before returning to Ireland in 1970. There he settles in Dalkey.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Leonard is the first major Irish writer to establish a reputation in television, writing extensively for television including original plays, comedies, thrillers and adaptations of classic novels for British television. He is commissioned by RTÉ to write Insurrection, a 50th anniversary dramatic reconstruction of the Easter Rising of 1916. His Silent Song, adapted for the BBC from a short story by Frank O’Connor, wins the Prix Italia in 1967. He writes the script for the RTÉ adaptation of Strumpet City by James Plunkett.

Three of Leonard’s plays have been presented on Broadway: The Au Pair Man (1973), which stars Charles Durning and Julie Harris, Da (1978) and A Life (1980). Of these, Da, which originates off-off-Broadway at the Hudson Guild theatre before transferring to the Morosco Theatre, is the most successful, running for 20 months and 697 performances, then touring the United States for ten months. It earns Leonard both a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award for Best Play. It is made into a film in 1988, starring Martin Sheen and Barnard Hughes, who reprises his Tony Award-winning Broadway performance.

Leonard writes two volumes of autobiography, Home Before Night (1979) and Out After Dark (1989). Some of his essays and journalism are collected in Leonard’s Last Book (1978) and A Peculiar People and Other Foibles (1979). In 1992 the Selected Plays of Hugh Leonard is published. Until 2006 he writes a humorous weekly column, “The Curmudgeon,” for the Irish Sunday Independent newspaper. He has a passion for cats and restaurants, and an abhorrence of broadcaster Gay Byrne.

Even after retiring as a Sunday Independent columnist, Leonard displays an acerbic humour. In an interview with Brendan O’Connor, he is asked if it galls him that Gay Byrne is now writing his old column. His reply is, “It would gall me more if he was any good at it.” He is a patron of the Dublin Theatre Festival.

In 1994, Leonard appears in a televised interview with Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Féin, an Irish political party associated with the Provisional Irish Republican Army. He has long been an opponent of political violence and a critic of the IRA. However, on the show and afterwards he is criticised for being “sanctimonious and theatrical” towards Adams. At one point he refers to Sinn Féin as “dogs.”

Hugh Leonard – Odd Man In, a film on his life and work is shown on RTÉ in March 2009. Leonard’s final play, Magicality, is not performed during his lifetime. A rehearsed reading of the second act is staged at the Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre in June 2012.

Hugh Leonard dies after a long illness on February 12, 2009 in his hometown of Dalkey at the age of 82, leaving €1.5 million in his will.


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Birth of Frank Delaney, Novelist, Journalist & Broadcaster

frank-delaneyFrank Delaney, Irish novelist, journalist and broadcaster, is born in County Tipperary on October 24, 1942. He is the author of The New York Times best-seller Ireland, the non-fiction book Simple Courage: A True Story of Peril on the Sea, and many other works of fiction, non-fiction and collections.

Delaney begins working as a newsreader for the Irish state radio and television network RTÉ in 1970. In the early 1970s he becomes a news reporter for the BBC in Dublin, and covers an intense period of violence known as the Troubles. After five years of reporting on the violence, he moves to London to work in arts broadcasting. In 1978 he creates the weekly Bookshelf programme for BBC Radio 4, which covers books, writers and the business of publishing. Over the next five-and-a-half years he interviews over 1,400 authors, including Anthony Burgess, John Updike, Margaret Atwood, Christopher Isherwood and Stephen King.

On television, Delaney writes and presents for Omnibus, the BBC’s weekly arts series. He serves as the Literature Director of the Edinburgh Festival in 1980, and hosts his own talk show Frank Delaney in the early 1980s, which features many cultural and literary personalities. Afterward, he creates and presents Word of Mouth, the BBC’s radio programme about language, as well as a variety of radio and television documentaries including specials on James Joyce, Robert Graves, Ernest Hemingway in Paris, and the Shakespeare industry. He presents The Book Show on the Sky News satellite channel for many years.

Delaney’s first book, James Joyce’s Odyssey (1981), is well received and becomes a best-seller in the UK and Ireland. He writes and presents the six-part documentary series The Celts: Rich Traditions and Ancient Myths (1987) for the BBC, and writes the accompanying book. He subsequently writes five books of non-fiction (including Simple Courage), ten novels (including Ireland, Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show and Tipperary), one novella, and a number of short stories. He also edits many compilations of essays and poetry.

After moving to the United States and settling in Kent, Connecticut in 2002, Delaney writes the screenplay for an adaptation of Goodbye, Mr. Chips (2002), which stars Martin Clunes and is shown on ITV in Britain, and in the Masterpiece Theatre series in the United States. His articles are published by newspapers in United States, the UK and Ireland, including on the Op-ed pages of The New York Times. He is a frequent public speaker, and is a contributor and guest on National Public Radio (NPR) programmes.

On Bloomsday 2010, Delaney launches Re:Joyce, a series of short weekly podcasts that go page-by-page through James Joyce’s Ulysses, discussing its allusions, historical context and references.

Frank Delaney dies in Danbury Hospital in Danbury, Connecticut on February 21, 2017 after suffering a stroke the previous day.


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Birth of Nicky Byrne, Singer & Songwriter

nicky-byrneNicholas Bernard James Adam Byrne, Jr., singer, songwriter, radio presenter, dancer, television presenter and former semi-professional footballer, best known for being a member of Irish music band Westlife, is born in Dublin on October 9, 1978.

Before his music career, Byrne plays professional football, representing Republic of Ireland at several junior levels. He plays for Home Farm F.C. and St. Kevins Boys in North Dublin before becoming a professional player. He joins Leeds United F.C. as a goalkeeper in 1995, and is a squad member of the FA Youth Cup winning team of 1997. He plays for Leeds for two years, leaving when his contract expires in June 1997. He plays in a reserve game for Scarborough F.C. and in a trial game with Cambridge United F.C. before returning to join Dublin club Shelbourne F.C.. He then signs for Cobh Ramblers F.C. playing 15 games, then St. Francis F.C., all in Ireland’s League of Ireland.

On May 14, 2009, Byrne is a substitute for a Liverpool F.C. Legends XI that plays against an All Star XI in a Hillsborough Memorial match to mark the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. He represented the Republic of Ireland at U15, U16 and U18 levels.

In June 1998, Byrne attends an audition for new Irish boyband, where Boyzone manager Louis Walsh approaches him to join his new venture, Westlife. He joins Westlife along with Kian Egan, Mark Feehily, Shane Filan and Brian McFadden. With Westlife, he has had 25 top ten UK singles, fourteen of which are number one, seven number one albums and has sold in excess of over 45 million records worldwide. He also has a number one single in Ireland in 2002, alongside the Republic of Ireland national football team and Dustin the Turkey, with the Irish 2002 FIFA World Cup anthem, “Here Come The Good Times (Ireland).” He also co-writes many of Westlife’s songs.

On September 7, 2012, it is announced that Byrne will be a contestant for the tenth series of Strictly Come Dancing. He is the ninth contestant to be eliminated. He is ranked number two on Ireland’s Sexiest Man of 2014.

In early January 2016, it is rumored that RTÉ had internally chosen Byrne to represent Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest 2016. On January 13, he is confirmed to be the Irish singer for the 2016 contest in Stockholm with the song, “Sunlight.” He performs it in the second semi-final but fails to advance to the final.

Byrne’s wife Georgina is the daughter of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and they have twin sons, Rocco Bertie Byrne and Jay Nicky Byrne, and a daughter, Gia.


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Birth of Seán Keating, Romantic-Realist Painter

sean-keating-an-allegorySeán Keating, Irish romantic-realist painter who painted some iconic images of the Irish War of Independence and of the early industrialization of Ireland, is born in Limerick, County Limerick on September 28, 1889.

Keating studies drawing at the Limerick Technical School before a scholarship arranged by William Orpen allows him to go study at the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin at the age of twenty. Over the next few years, he spends two weeks or so during the late summer on the Aran Islands and his many portraits of island people depict them as rugged heroic figures.

In 1914 he wins the RDS Taylor award with a painting titled The Reconciliation. The prize includes £50.00 which allows him to go to London to work as Orpen’s studio assistant in 1915. In late 1915 or early 1916, he returns to Ireland where he documents the Irish War of Independence and the subsequent Irish Civil War. Examples include Men of the South (1921–22) which shows a group of Irish Republican Army (IRA) men ready to ambush a military vehicle and An Allegory (first exhibited in 1924), in which the two opposing sides in the Irish Civil War are seen to bury the tri-colour covered coffin amid the roots of an ancient tree. The painting includes a self-portrait of the artist.

Keating is elected an Associate of the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) in 1918, and a full member in 1923. One of the cardinal achievements of the Irish Free State in the 1920s is the building, in partnership with Siemens, of a hydro-electric power generator at Ardnacrusha, near Limerick. Between 1926 and 1927, at his own volition, he produces a considerable number of paintings related to this scheme. He exhibits several examples of the paintings in the RHA exhibitions in 1927 and 1928. Most of the paintings are now in the collection of ESB Group.

In 1936 group of prominent Limerick politicians, artists and patrons establish the first Limerick City Collection of Art from various donations and bequests. Keating is part of this artist-led initiative to form a municipal art gallery in Limerick similar to those already in Dublin and Cork. The collection is formed primarily out of donations and bequests. As a pivotal member of the committee, Keating himself donates many works to the collection which is first exhibited as a municipal collection in the Savoy Cinema, Limerick City on November 23, 1937. It is not until 1948 that an extension to the rear of Limerick Free Library and Museum becomes the home to the City Collection as the Limerick Free Art Gallery. In 1985 the Library and Museum are transferred to larger buildings.

In 1939 Keating is commissioned to paint a mural for the Irish pavilion at the New York World’s Fair. He is President of the RHA from 1950 to 1962, and shows at the annual exhibition for 61 years from 1914. Although he is an intellectual painter in the sense that he consciously sets out to explore the visual identity of the Irish nation, and his paintings show a very idealised realism, he fears that the modern movement will bring back a decline in artistic standards. Throughout his career, he exhibits nearly 300 works at the RHA and also shows at the Oireachtas.

Seán Keating dies on December 21, 1977 at the Adelaide Hospital in Dublin and is buried at Cruagh Cemetery, Rathfarnham. The 1978 RHA Exhibition features a small memorial collection of his work.

Posthumous exhibitions of his work are mounted by The Grafton Gallery, Dublin (1986) and the Electricity Supply Board (1987). Sean Keating – The Pilgrim Soul, a documentary presented and written by his son Justin Keating, airs on RTÉ in 1996.

(Pictured: Photograph of Keating’s “An Allegory” painted between 1922 and 1924. The painting represents Keating’s own disillusionment and loss of idealism resulting from the outbreak of the Irish Civil War. The only figure of the group addressing the observer is a self-portrait of the artist.)