seamus dubhghaill

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


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Death of F. R. Higgins, Poet & Theatre Director

Frederick Robert Higgins, Irish poet and theatre director, dies of a heart attack on January 6, 1941.

Higgins is born on April 24, 1896 on the west coast of Ireland in Foxford, County Mayo. He is the eldest son of Joseph, a policeman stationed in Foxford at the time of his son’s birth, and Annie Higgins. His poem “Father and Son” is a loving tribute to his father. He grows up in Ballivor, County Meath, where his family has farmed for several generations. He spends the largest part of his adult life in Dublin, in a house he has built beside the River Dodder in Rathfarnham. His health is poor, and though his friends are inclined to regard him as a hypochondriac, his frequent predictions that he would die young prove to be accurate.

Higgins marries Beatrice May Moore in 1921. The marriage is a happy one. Even Frank O’Connor, who dislikes him, praises him as a kind and considerate husband. He is however reputed to have had a number of affairs, notably with the actress Ria Mooney.

Higgins is a student of William Butler Yeats and serves on the board of the Abbey Theatre from 1935 until his death. His best-known book of poetry is The Gap of Brightness (1940). He is also well known for his poem “Father and Son.” He writes a moving elegy for his fellow poet Pádraic Ó Conaire. He is generally acknowledged to be a fine poet, but is less successful in his Abbey Theatre work. Frank O’Connor says unkindly that Higgins could not direct a children’s poetry recitation.

In 1937 Higgins is tour manager of the Abbey Theatre production of Teresa Deevy‘s Katie Roche, which tours to the Ambassador Theatre in New York City. There are five performances from October 2-6. His Abbey career can be seen in the Abbey Theatre archives.

Higgins is a popular and convivial man. Even O’Connor, who comes to regard him with deep suspicion, admits that he is a delightful person to know. His circle of friends include many of the leading Irish literary figures of his time, including Yeats, Padraic O Conaire, George William Russell, Lennox Robinson, and for a time O’Connor. O’Connor, however, comes to regard him as untrustworthy and a troublemaker, and describes him unflatteringly in his memoir My Father’s Son. For Yeats, Higgins seems to feel a genuine affection, once remarking that he never left Yeats’ house without “feeling like a thousand dollars.” He is also capable of great kindness and generosity to younger writers like Patrick Kavanagh.

(Pictured: “F. R. Higgins,” Oil on Canvas by Sean O’Sullivan, courtesy of the Abbey Theatre, Dublin)


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Birth of Garry Hynes, Theatre Director & Tony Award Winner

Garry Hynes, Irish theatre director, is born in Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon, on June 10, 1953. She is the first woman to win the prestigious Tony Award for direction of a play.

Hynes is educated at St. Louis Convent at Monaghan, the Dominican Convent at Galway, and University College Galway (UCG).

Hynes is a co-founder of the Druid Theatre Company with Mick Lally and Marie Mullen in 1975 after meeting through the drama society of UCG. She is Druid’s artistic director from 1975 to 1991, and again from 1995 to date. She directs for the Abbey Theatre from 1984 and is its artistic director from 1991 to 1994, and also the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal Exchange, Manchester, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Royal Court Theatre, London.

Hynes directs DruidSynge, the company’s critically acclaimed production of all six of John Millington Synge‘s plays that première at the Galway Arts Festival in 2005 and has since toured to Dublin, Edinburgh, Inis Meáin, Minneapolis and New York City. DruidSynge has been described by Charles Isherwood of The New York Times as “the highlight not just of my theatre going year but of my theatre going life” and by The Irish Times as “one of the greatest achievements in the history of Irish theatre.”

In 2017, award-winning artist Vera Klute is commissioned by the National Gallery of Ireland to create a portrait of Hynes as part of the 2015 Hennessey Portrait Prize. The bust, made of porcelain, concrete and timber (with a dimension of 164cm x 54cm x 45cm), is unveiled to the public in April 2017 and is currently on display as part of the Gallery’s National Portrait Collection.

In 1998 Hynes wins the Tony Award for Direction for The Beauty Queen of Leenane, the first woman to receive the award. She is a recipient of many other Theatre Awards, including The Irish Times/ESB Irish Theatre Award for Best Director (2002) and a The Irish Times Special Tribute Award for her contribution to Irish Theatre in February 2005.

Hynes has received honorary Doctorates from the University of Dublin (2004), The National University of Ireland, Galway (1998) and the National Council for Educational Awards (1988). On June 15, 2006 she is awarded the Freedom of the City of Galway, its highest bestowed honour.

Hynes is the civil partner of film producer Martha O’Neill.


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Samuel Beckett Awarded the 1969 Nobel Prize for Literature

samuel-beckettSamuel Barclay Beckett, Irish avant-garde novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet, is awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature on October 23, 1969. Beckett lives in Paris for most of his adult life and writes in both English and French. He is widely regarded as among the most influential writers of the 20th century. He is elected Saoi of Aosdána in 1984.

Beckett’s work offers a bleak, tragicomic outlook on human existence, often coupled with black comedy and gallows humour, and becomes increasingly minimalist in his later career. He is considered one of the last modernist writers, and one of the key figures in what Martin Esslin calls the “Theatre of the Absurd.” Waiting for Godot is generally regarded as his best-known play.

In October 1969 while on holiday in Tunis with his wife Suzanne, Beckett hears that he has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Anticipating that her intensely private husband would be saddled with fame from that moment on, Suzanne calls the award a “catastrophe.” In true ascetic fashion, he gives away all of the prize money. While Beckett does not devote much time to interviews, he sometimes meets the artists, scholars, and admirers who seek him out in the anonymous lobby of the Hotel PLM St. Jacques in Paris near his Montparnasse home. Although Beckett is an intensely private man, a review of the second volume of his letters by Roy Foster in the December 15, 2011 issue of The New Republic reveals Beckett to be not only unexpectedly amiable but frequently prepared to talk about his work and the process behind it.

Confined to a nursing home and suffering from emphysema and possibly Parkinson’s disease, Beckett dies on 22 December 22, 1989, just five months after the passing of Suzanne. The two are interred together in the Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris and share a simple granite gravestone that follows Beckett’s directive that it should be “any colour, so long as it’s grey.”

Of all the English-language modernists, Beckett’s work represents the most sustained attack on the realist tradition. He opens up the possibility of theatre and fiction that dispense with conventional plot and the unities of time and place in order to focus on essential components of the human condition.

On December 10, 2009, a new bridge across the River Liffey in Dublin is opened and named the Samuel Beckett Bridge in his honour. Reminiscent of a harp on its side, it is designed by the celebrated Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, who also designed the James Joyce Bridge further upstream. The newest ship of the Irish Naval Service, the LÉ Samuel Beckett (P61), is named for Beckett. An Ulster History Circle blue plaque in his memory is located at Portora Royal School, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.