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Three Galway Playwrights

Three Galway Playwrights.
Irish Travel, Official organ of the Irish Tourist Association Vol. XII. No. 4 January, 1937 p. 85
Galway has given three great figures to the Irish literary revival – Lady Gregory, Seamus O’Kelly and Edward Martyn.

Seamus O’Kelly was born in Loughrea in 1881 and educated at St. Brendan’s College there. Later he was a journalist in Skibbereen and Naas, afterwards coming to Dublin, where he wrote some successful plays which were
produced by the Abbey Theatre Company, then in its infancy. O’Kelly is better known by his stories than by his plays. His two best-known novels are
“Waysiders” and” The Lady of Deer Park.” He was connected with the Sinn Fein movement and for some time edited its official organ, “Nationalist.”
He died in Dublin on the 11th November, 1918, the day the Great War ended.

Edward Martyn was also closely connected with the Abbey Theatre, being one of its founders. Born at Masonbrooke, Galway, in 1859, he was educated in Dublin and Oxford. He wrote much, his best known works being “Maeve,” “The Heatherfield,” etc. He was keenly interested in church music and the revival of the Irish language, and was associated with Arthur Griffith in the early days of Sinn Fein. He was President of that organisation from 1904 to 1908. When Sinn Fein became Republican after 1916 Martyn seems to have faded out of the picture. He died in 1923 and left his body for dissection.

Lady Gregory, another founder of the Abbey theatre, was born at Roxborough, Co. Galway. Her best known works are “Gods and Fighting Men,” “A Book of Saints and Wonders,” “Our Irish Theatre,” “Hugh Lane’s Life and Achievement,” “Some Short Plays,” “New Comedies” and “Some Irish Folk-History Plays.”

Other Galway writers of note are John McNevin, author of the “Irish Volunteers”; Dr. James McNevin, the United Irishman, author of “Pieces of Irish History”;, M.D. Bodkin, the novelist; Miss Violet Martin, novelist; Fances Carey, best of the English translators or Dante; and John William Curran, the noted political writer.

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Kinvara Carnival – 1961

Connacht Tribune 1st July, 1961
On Sunday Carnival time, despite the rain, opened in Kinvara.
Some fifty years ago Lady Gregory wrote her patriotic little masterpiece, “The Rising of the Moon,” with a setting on Kinvara Quay. On Sunday the Kinvara Dramatic Society, under producer Mr. Thomas Donnellan, N.T. staged her drama, somewhat adapted for the purpose, in its natural setting.
The actors lived up to the occasion from the moment “Sergeant” (Tom Johnston) opened his colloquy with the “Sign-painter” (Paddy J. Keane). The body of the play where Kieran Moylan, in the role of the Ballad-singer, gradually awakens the dormant patriotism in the Sergeant’s heart was very well done.
Eire (Miss Mary Moylan) then comes to the Quay accompanied by her four green fields. Connacht (Miss Patsy Huban), Leinster (Miss Maura Byrne). Munster (Miss Nell Fahy) and Ulster (Miss Roisin Moylan). The patriot leader recites “My Dark Rosaleen” in her honour and places a crown on her head following which she recites “My Four Green Fields,” by Lady Gregory, and each of her handmaidens take up place by her side while the St. Patrick’s Band, Galway, which had played appropriate music all through, renders a triumphal march and the national flag is hoisted.

The Fancy Dress Parade
The rain was again a spoilsport for the Fancy Dress Parade where remarkable inventiveness was shown in a large entry which gave the judges, Mr. M. McDonagh, Ballinderreen and Mr. M. Dolan (Ardrahan) plenty to ponder over.
Several Eichmans passed by together with “John Caldwell,”, “The June Bride Turned November Wife,” a “Space Flight” trio, the “Final touches to Kinvara Pitch,” “Rainier, Grace and Family,” “Irish Stew for Princess Grace,””Raftery,” “Hikers for the Kinvara Hostel,” “Latest Fashions,””Kennedy Back From Vienna,” “Grace’s Biggest Thrill,””Looney,” the “Poteen Maker,” “First Aid and Last Aid,” “Lady Gregory as the Unexpected Guest”, at last Saturday’s meeting in Coole, the “Baluba,”, the “Mexican Pair,” “Capt.Ringrose” together with an assortment of other topical figures.

The prizewinners were;
Most Humorous;
1. “Poteen Maker” – Sheila Nolan
2. “Biggest Thrill” – Gertrude Keane

Most Topical;
1. “Final Touches to Kinvara Pitch” – Michael and Finbar Brogan
2. “Another Victim of Eichman” – Thomas Nolan

1. “Mexican Pair” – Francis and Mary Greene
2. “First Aid and Last Aid” – Kieran Doyle and Maura Doyle

1. “Space Crew” – Michael Connolly, Thomas Tannian and Joe Forde
2. “The Unexpected Guest – Lady Gregory” – Brid Gleeson
3. “Setanta comes to Faitche Padraig” – Michael McMahon

Most Humorous;
1. “The Baluba” – Sean Nolan
2. “Kennedy Back from Vienna” – Martin Greene
3. “June Bride and November Wife” – Anne Morris and Christina Deely.

Mr. Ml. Leech, Mayor of the Festival, welcomed all and urged the younger folks to bring the old people to see the festivities. He also urged all bachelors and their fiancees to visit his “marriage bureau” where he would advise on all premarital problems.
Following the festivities at the Quay the competitors paraded behind St. Patrick’s Band to the Dancing Marquee where the prizes were presented by the Pageant Queen, Miss Mary Moylan, and the competitors entertained to tea.

The Carnival which lasts for three weeks is in aid of the new 3,500 Gaelic Pitch in Kinvara which will be formally opened on the concluding day, July 16th.

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A Visit to Lady Gregory – 1921

The North American Review, Vol. 214, No. 789 (August 1921) pp. 190 – 200

Lady Gregory
Augusta, Lady Gregory Project Gutenberg eText 19028 From Project Gutenberg’s Irish Plays and Playwrights, by Cornelius Weygandt

by Signe Toksvig
To get from Dublin to Coole Park, the home of Lady Gregory, one normally takes a train from Dublin to Athenry, and another from Athenry to Gort, the village nearest to Coole. But times were not exactly normal in Ireland when my husband and I visited it last summer, and when we got to Athenry we were confronted by the blank fact that for two months or so no trains had been running to Gort. Why? This was a rhetorical question. We knew very well that armed policemen must have been trying to travel on that train, and that the engineer had excused himself for an indefinite period, and that we had better find a Ford. We found one. It was very rickety and full of unwieldy first-aid-to-the-injured-auto things, but Gort was twenty miles away, and hope and beauty had long since left Athenry, and so we squeezed in and began to bump over stony Connaught.

more at

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Duras House -1962

The Abbey Theatre Wikimedia Commons
The Abbey Theatre
Wikimedia Commons

Connacht Tribune August, 25th 1962 p.25 (abridged)

The Kiltartan Society will meet at Duras House Kinvara, on Sunday next to celebrate the first anniversary of the rebirth of this romantic house, which was presented to the nation as a Youth Hostel by Denis and Adrian Elrill of Limerick.
A paper will be read entitled “The colourful de Basterots 1793-1904.” In “Dramatis Personae” Yeats wrote:

I first spoke to Lady Gregory in the grounds of a little country house at Duras, on the sea-coast, where Galway ends and Clare begins (1897).  She had brought me to see the only person in Galway, perhaps I should say in Ireland, who was in any sense her friend – Florimond Count de Basterot.  In his garden, under his friendly eyes, the Irish National Theatre, though not under that name, was born.”
Happily, since last year, a plaque commemorates that historic meeting.  Lady Gregory wrote that her son and his young friends liked to go out in a hooker at Duras and see the seals showing their heads, or to paddle delicately among the jelly-fish on the beach.  It was a pleasant place to pass an idle day.
When Count de Basterot died in 1904, Lady Gregory wrote:

I know that there is many a prayer said on the roads between Kinvara and Burren and Curranrue and Ballinderreen for him who was never without a bag of money to give in charity, and who always had a heart for the poor.
Guy de Maupassant and Paul Bourget, two eminent French writers of his day, spent holidays with the Count in this remote spot near Kinvara.

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The Kinvarra Prosecution – 1901

Tuam Herald, 28th September, 1901 p.2

Kinvara Quay Photo: EO'D
Kinvara Quay
Photo: EO’D

We understand that as a result of the police prosecution of Bartley Hynes for putting his name in Irish on his cart Mr Edward Martyn has ordered his name to be put in Irish on all his carts and so has Lady Gregory. It is said that the cards in question will be sent at an early date to Kinvarra. We shall see if the English-speaking police of that quarter take any steps to prosecute Lady Gregory and Mr Edward Martyn for what they summoned Bartley Hynes. The end of the matter is that Irish police must learn Irish and if they do they will understand that Irish characters are “legible.”

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A trip to Kinvara – 1912

Tuam Herald August, 31st 1912 p2 (abridged)

Dunguaire Photo: c.  Norma Scheibe
Photo: c. Norma Scheibe

Mr Jack Yates and Mrs Yates are staying at Coole Park with Lady Gregory. He is a distinguished artist of the new school of Irish art. On Sunday a party from Coole drove to Dungory Castle – the fine old castle owned by Edward Martyn – and lunched there. It is said Mr Yates will paint a large picture of it.
It is one of the finest ruins in Ireland – kept in excellent preservation by Mr Martyn who pays a caretaker, Mr Hanbury, to look after it. The wall which surrounds it is complete. It overlooks an arm of the little Bay of Kinvara, itself an arm of Galway Bay and around and about are countless springs of fresh water bubbling up from the ground and coming by subterranean ways from the lake of Coole, six miles off as the crow flies.
The water of Coole itself comes from the Devil’s Punch Bowl at Gort, outside Lord Gough’s beautiful demesne, where a seething bottomless pool of water may be seen, one of the wonders of nature. it is never empty, always in motion like a vast cauldron stirred by a giant.

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Lady Gregory – 1909

The Tuam Herald, 6th March, 1909

Augusta, Lady Gregory  Wikimedia Commons - Project Gutenberg_
Augusta, Lady Gregory Wikimedia Commons – Project Gutenberg_

Lady Gregory, who has been ill the last fortnight is, we are very pleased to say, now wholly convalescent. She is devoting her spare time to planting trees of which she has put down a very large quantity already in her beautiful and picturesque demesne.

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The Seven Heavens – 1906

Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest Heaven - Gustave Doré (1832 - 1883) From Alighieri Dante; Cary, Henry Francis (ed) (1892) "Canto XXXI" The Divine Comedy by Dante, Illustrated, Complete.  London, Paris and Melbourne; Cassell and Co., (Wikimedia Commons)
Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest Heaven – Gustave Doré (1832 – 1883)
From Alighieri Dante; Cary, Henry Francis (ed) (1892) “Canto XXXI” The Divine Comedy by Dante, Illustrated, Complete. London, Paris and Melbourne; Cassell and Co., (Wikimedia Commons)
A Book of Saints and Wonders – according to the Old Writings and the memory of the People of Ireland.
Lady Gregory – 1906

Book Five – Great wonders of Olden Times (edited)
The Seven Heavens
As to the Seven Heavens that are around the earth;
The first of them is both bright and cloudy. It is the nearest and has the shining of the moon and the scattering of the stars within.
Beyond that lie two flaming heavens, angels in one, the winds in the other.
Beyond those lie an ice-cold heaven, bluer than any blue, seven times colder than any snow. It is out of this comes the shining of the sun.
Two heavens lie above – bright like flame. It is out of them shine the fiery stars that put fruitfulness in the clouds and sea.
And the last – highest of all it is, having within it the rolling of the skies – the labour of music – and choirs of angels.

Within the belts of these seven heavens are hidden twelve shaking beasts. They have fiery heads upon their heavenly bodies and blow twelve winds about the world. And in these belts sleep dragons. Tower headed, blemished – their fiery breath give out the crash of the thunders and lightning blows from their eyes.

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Our Irish Theatre – Augusta Lady Gregory

Augusta Lady Gregory Project Gutenberg
Augusta Lady Gregory
Project Gutenberg
Our Irish Theatre: A chapter in Autobiography by Lady Gregory. New York: The Knickerbocker Press. G. Putnam’s Sons, New York, London. 1913. pp. 4-7

Later in the year I was staying for a few days with old Count de Basterot, at Duras, that is beyond Kinvara and beside the sea. He had been my husband’s warm friend, and always in the summer time we used to go and spend at least one long day with him,–we two at first, and then later I went with my son and the boy and girl friends of his childhood. They liked to go out in a hooker and see the seals showing their heads, or to paddle delicately among the jellyfish on the beach. It was a pleasant place to pass an idle day. The garden was full of flowers. Lavender and carnations grew best, and there were roses also and apple trees, and many plums ripened on the walls. This seemed strange, because outside the sheltered garden there were only stone-strewn fields and rocks and bare rock-built hills in sight, and the bay of Galway, over which fierce storms blow from the Atlantic. The Count remembered [Page 4]  when on Garlic Sunday men used to ride races, naked, on unsaddled horses out into the sea; but that wild custom had long been done away with by decree of the priests. Later still, when Harrow and Oxford took my son away and I had long spaces of time alone, I would sometimes go to Duras to spend a few days.Lady_gregory plY
I always liked to talk and to listen to the Count. He could tell me about French books and French and Italian history and politics, for he lived but for the summer months in Ireland and for the rest of the year in Paris or in Rome. Mr. Arthur Symons has written of him and his talks of race,–to which he attributed all good or bad habits and politics–as they took long drives on the Campagna. M. Paul Bourget came more than once to stay in this Burren district, upon which he bestowed a witty name, “Le Royaume de Pierre.” It was to M. Bourget that on his way to the modest little house and small estate, the Count’s old steward and servant introduced the Atlantic, when on the road from the railway station at Gort its waters first come in sight: Voila la mer qui baigne l’Amérique et les terres de Monsieur le Comte. For he–the steward–had been taken by his master [Page 5]  on visits to kinsmen in France and Italy–their names are recorded in that sad, pompous, black-bordered document I received one day signed by those who have l’honneur de vous faire part de la perte douloureuse qu’ils viennent d’éprouver en la personne de Florimond Alfred Jacques, Comte de Basterot, Chevalier de l’ordre du Saint Sépulcre, leur cousin germain et cousin [who died at Duras (Irlande) September 15, 1904]; la Marquise de la Tour Maubourg, le Vicomte et la Vicomtesse de Bussy, la Baronne d’Acker de Montgaston, le Marquis et la Marquise de Courcival, le Comte et la Comtesse Gromis de Trana, la Countesse Irène d’Entreves, and so on, and so on. I do not know whether the bearers of these high-sounding names keep him in their memory–it may well be that they do, for he was a friend not easily forgotten–but I know there is many a prayer still said on the roads between Kinvara and Burren and Curranroe and Ballinderreen for him who “never was without a bag of money to give in charity, and always had a heart for the poor.”

Augusta Lady Gregory
Augusta Lady Gregory

On one of those days at Duras in 1898, Mr. Edward Martyn, my neighbour, came to see the Count, bringing with him Mr. Yeats, whom I did [Page 6]  not then know very well, though I cared for his work very much and had already, through his directions, been gathering folk-lore. They had lunch with us, but it was a wet day, and we could not go out. After a while I thought the Count wanted to talk to Mr. Martyn alone; so I took Mr. Yeats to the office where the steward used to come to talk,–less about business I think than of the Land War or the state of the country, or the last year’s deaths and marriages from Kinvara to the headland of Aughanish. We sat there through that wet afternoon, and though I had never been at all interested in theatres, our talk turned on plays. Mr. Martyn had written two, The Heather Field and Maeve. They had been offered to London managers, and now he thought of trying to have them produced in Germany where there seemed to be more room for new drama than in England. I said it was a pity we had no Irish theatre where such plays could be given. Mr. Yeats said that had always been a dream of his, but he had of late thought it an impossible one, for it could not at first pay its way, and there was no money to be found for such a thing in Ireland.
We went on talking about it, and things seemed [Page 7]  to grow possible as we talked, and before the end of the afternoon we had made our plan. We said we would collect money, or rather ask to have a certain sum of money guaranteed. We would then take a Dublin theatre and give a performance of Mr. Martyn’s Heather Field and one of Mr. Yeats’s own plays, The Countess Cathleen. I offered the first guarantee of £25.

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“The greatest wonder…” Lady Gregory

Kinvara - Gateway to the Burren Photo: D.Johnston
Kinvara – Gateway to the Burren
Photo: D.Johnston

The Catholic Press (NSW: 1885-1942) Thursday 22nd, July, 1926 Page 3

Excerpt of review titled Lady Gregory’s Note-book 
An entertaining volume.
“The greatest wonder I ever saw was one time near Kinvara at a funeral. There came a car along the road and a lady on it having a plaid cloak, as was the fashion, and a big hat, and she kept her head down and never looked at the funeral at all. I wondered at her when I saw that, and I said to my brother it was a strange thing a lady to be coming past a funeral and not to look on at it at all. And who was on the car but O’Gorman Mahon, escaping from the Government, and dressed up as a lady! He drove to Father Arthur’s house in Kinvara and there was a boat waiting, and a cousin of my own in it, to bring him out to a ship and so he made his escape”.

Lady Gregory claims the right to praise “The Kiltartan History Book,” because as she says, “there is not in it one word of my own.” But she has contrived all the same to impart a share of her sly humour into almost every page.