Jeanne Rathbone

Garry Hynes Theatre Director Galway Woman

Posted in Garry Hynes Theatre Director and Galway Woman by sheelanagigcomedienne on June 20, 2017

Garry Hynes was a co -founder of Druid Theatre Galway and has gone on to be an internationally known theatre director as well as bringing the Druid to wide public acclaim. She had to be one of my Galway women to celebrate in my series.

Garry Hynes award winning theatre director.

According to Vanity Fair

For three decades, Garry Hynes has been Ireland’s most dynamic and fearless theater director. With her company, Druid, based in Galway, in the West of Ireland, she has used her vast imaginative energy to re-interpret the national classics, such as the plays of John Millington Synge and Sean O’Casey. She has also put her talent at the disposal of contemporary writers. She was the first to stage the plays of the young Martin McDonagh, and in 1998 she became the first woman to win a Tony Award for direction, of McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane. Since the 1980s, Hynes has had a close working relationship with Tom Murphy, ranked with Brian Friel as among Ireland’s greatest living writers. Murphy has been the most restless imagination at work in Irish theater since his second play, A Whistle in the Dark, hit London’s West End, in 1961. He is the artist most of us Irish writers look to for inspiration and example. Thus, it will be fascinating to see three of his plays directed by Hynes at the Lincoln Center Festival, July 5 to 14. The plays deal with loss and emigration, and dramatize illusion and self-delusion. Hynes’s method as a director is forensic: she strips away, using her sharp sense of the abiding power of the theatrical image, cajoling actors toward the emotional and intellectual core of a play. In the past, Hynes and Murphy together have produced the very best of Irish theater. Re-united, they are likely to cause sparks to fly.


I remember Garry, Mick Lally and Marie Mullen from the very early days when she and friends started to stage plays in the tiny room at the back of The Coachman in Dominck Street. of course, they too were in the UCG Drama Society and continued with theur passion for theatre as they stayed on in Galway. It has been fascinating watching the development of Druid over the decades.  Her Playboy of the Western World was unforgettable.

I was born in Ballaghadereen, in county Roscommon, in Ireland. When I was 12 years old, I moved to Galway, my father’s native county. I was the eldest child. My father was a passionate Gaelgóir (Irish speaker). My parents spoke to me in Irish and I spoke mostly Irish until I went to school. Most of the other children spoke English and there was some sort of distance (between us) at school, I wasn’t able to say the Hail Mary. I rebelled against (the language) in an ignorant way and I’m probably the least fluent Irish speaker in my family now. As a child, I cherished my own imaginative hinterland. We are all creatures of our imagination. As a young person, I was taken to see amateur plays; there was, and still is, a very vibrant amateur theatre circuit in Ireland. When I was 18 or 19, in the early 1970s, I went to work on a student visa to New York. I saw theatre off Broadway. Those were great influences.

She was educated at St. Louis Convent Monaghan, the Dominican Convent Galway, and UCG.

She is a co-founder of the Druid Theatre company with Mick Lally and Marie Mullen in 1975 after meeting through the drama society of U.C.G. where they studied.


She was Druid’s artistic director from 1975 to 1991, and again from 1995 to date. Hynes directed for the Abbey theatre from 1984 and was its artistic director from 1991 to 1994, and also the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal Exchange Manchester, the Kennedy Center and the Royal Court Theatre, London.

Mick Lally theatre

After 15 years with Druid, I began to feel that it was better for me to leave and I accepted an offer to become artistic director of the Abbey Theatre (Ireland’s national theatre, where Hynes was employed from 1991 to 1994). I moved to Dublin and bought a house there, where I still live. Four years later, Druid asked me to return on a temporary basis and somewhat reluctantly I agreed. I’m still here. Druid has kept me in Ireland. I fell in love with New York when I went there at 18 or 19 – it’s still my second home – but then, with time, and from the outside, I began to see better the kind of supportive place to make theatre that Druid was.


When I came back to Druid, I asked to see the plays that had been submitted while I was away. I was trawling through the backlog when I found Martin McDonagh’s work. He had sent in three of them, including The Beauty Queen of Leenane. All of them stood out. I met his agent and optioned all three of his plays. I thought, “Here was a real writer for the theatre” – he could write brilliant dialogue and he tell a story. The Beauty Queen of Leenaneis an international story and it is a timeless story; it’s about a mother and daughter who are closely tied, a love-hate relationship – it’s a fundamental human story. When I first read the play, I knew immediately that Marie would be right for the part of Maureen. Now she’s playing Mag, the mother. We’re privileged, Marie and me, to have had such a long life together.


We were so glad to get to see the Druid production directed by Garry of Bailegangaire in the Donmar Playhouse in 1986 when Siobhain McKenna and Marie Mullen starred in Tom Murphy’s play. Marie Mullen played Mommo in the later production and , of course, for many she is seen as Siobhain’s successor as Ireland’s greatest stage actresses.

Garry and film producer Martha O’Neill became civil partners at a private ceremony in Galway in 2014.  A small group of family and close friends attended the ceremony at the Mick Lally Druid Theatre in Galway city. Afterwards, the couple hosted their guests at Nimmo’s Ard Nia restaurant alongside Galway’s famous Spanish Arch. As a humanist celebrant who conducted the first ever gay partnership ceremonies in City Hall London I was delighted when I read this. Ireland is a different place to the one I left.


Garry Hynes is very much associated with Galway and its reputation as a cultural city.  President Michael D Higgins, who was also a student at University College Galway in the sixties, would have seen the Druid and Garry evolve over time as he was a Councillor, TD and Galway resident.

I let her know that she was one of the living women to feature in my Notable Galway Women Walk, the response was It sounds like a lovely idea and Garry sends her best wishes.









Notable Galway Women

Posted in Notable Galway Women by sheelanagigcomedienne on June 6, 2017

I am writing this series of blogs featuring Notable Galway Women in reaction to the two songs entitled Galway Girl – one written by Steve Earle and the latest by Ed Sheeran in the Irish tradition of songs about women from a male perspective – the male gaze.

I am celebrating and commemorating 14 Notable Galway Women in the centenary year of some women women getting the vote. This is in parallel with my Notable Women of Lavender Hill Walks which came about because none of the Wandsworth Heritage Societes/Groups were planning any activities in the centenary year as they had already decided on the theme of ‘open spaces’ . This is why my talk on International Women’s of Significant Battersea Women became my walk Notable Women of Lavender Hill.

In my preface I explain that as a Humanist Celebrant I have been writing brief biographies for funerals and memorials and this is an extension of that tendency. I have also been involved with the Battersea Society commemorative blue plaques and believe so much in this kind of commemoration. I have even gone a step further in campaigning for a statue of Charlote Despard 1844-1939 socialist, suffragette and Sinn Feiner to be commissioned in the regenerated Nine Elms Battersea. So, I am on a mission to have real women commemorated as they are so under represented visibly in the public domain with plaques and statues.

Getting back to the Galway Girl songs.  They are often fetishised descriptions of hair colour, wearing black velvet band, rosy cheeks, lily white skin, wearing bonnets, carrying baskets, tripping along, called Mary, Rose,  Eileen and, of course, place naming Galway, Tralee, Mooncoin etc.  This is the typical objectifying of women as the ‘comely maidens’ of De Valera’s imagination. The Lovely Girls contest in Father Ted refers to the annual cringe fest of the Rose of Tralee beauty pageant where the Roses parade in front of the Prime Minister every summer – an Taoseach ogling the cailini – only in Ireland or an oligarchic Whatistan.

The other role of Irish womanhood is, of course, in the home and enshrined in the constitution. The reference to a woman’s “life within the home” rather than work in the home, and the desire to prevent mothers from engaging in the labour force “to the neglect of their duties in the home” is insulting,  Catholic inspired and patriarchal.

My original blog was in response to the blow-in Earle who has returned to the states but when I heard that Sheeran had written one also with the same title, was happy to admit that 400 million people of Irish descent would be interested in it, shamelessly acknowledging that he did it for financial reasons and not bothered by a plagiarism challenge.

The hype in Ireland, particulaly in Galway,  about it was OTT especially when the video starring Saoirse Ronan as the Galway Girl appeared.  saoirse ronan

The Earle imagined black-haired/blue-eyed women disappeared after the one night fling after their a walk on the Salthill prom. Presumably she fled because she didn’t fancy him in the sober light of day. Stewart Lee, cynical comedian, has sung it on the grounds that his wife’s folk – comedienne Bridget Christie – hail from Galway.

There is a version as ghaeilge.  A cover version of the song by Mundy and Sharon Shannon reached number one and became the most downloaded song of 2008 in Ireland, and has gone on to become the eighth highest selling single in Irish chart history.

So, Ed Sheeran thought he could cash in the popularity of a song called Galway Girl.   The Sheeran Galway girl it turns out was based on fiddle player Niamh Dunne who is a member of Antrim-based folk group Beoga that collaborated with Sheeran on the track.  However, she is not his love interest nor married to an Englishmen and is from from Limerick. But they did spend a night on the tiles in Dublin Irish dancing, Guinness, two Irish whiskeys – Jameson and Powers, Van the Man, a rendition of Carrickfergus, Grafton Street – the usual kind of ingredients of a commercial modern Irish song.  Of course, he is eligible for an Irish passport, ginger hair etc. And that makes him Irish. He even has a photo of him as a teenager busking in Galway next to the statue of Oscar Wilde.

Ed Sheeran in Galway

Teenage Sheeran busking in Galway

So now I feel compelled to write about Galway women. The first thing to note about Galway women is that they are women not girleens. I am one.  There is some interesting imagery of women in Galway songs. For a start, you had the women making hay, in the uplands digging pratees whilst chatting in Irish- a language that the English do not know. The woman featured in the song a Galway Shawl wears ‘a bonnet with a ribbon on it’ but ‘she wears no paint nor powder,  no none at all’.

Further name check of Galway songs produces the Queen of Connemara which transpires is a boat, Sweet Marie refers to the name of a horse in the Galway Plate race of the Galway Races. There’s the Lass of Aughrim which featured in James Joyce’s Dubliners. There is Pegeen Litir Mor telling how she attracts not only the poet but men from different districts. And so it goes on.

Even our bard Seamus Heaney got in on the act with his Girls Bathing Galway.

No milk-limbed Venus ever rose
Miraculous on this western shore;
A pirate queen in battle clothes
Is our sterner myth.

…in swimsuits, Brown-legged, smooth-shouldered and bare-backed
They wade ashore with skips and shouts.

This will always remind my generation of the proclamation of disapproval by the very conservative Bishop Browne about women in Salthill wearing two piece bathing costumes which prompted a letter in response from some Galway women inquiring which piece of the swim suit did his Lordship wish them to remove.

Galway women come in varying shapes, sizes, temperaments, ages and colours. They are emigrants, daughters, mothers, sisters, wives, lovers, poets, authors, entrepreneurs, singers, dancers, artists, politicians, teachers, workers, lawyers, doctors, nurses, engineers, scientists, administrators, shop assistants, etc.

I would like to introduce you to a few Galway women.  It is a random choice from poets, to Nationalist activists. I have included Mary Devenport O’Neill (1879 – 1967) poet and dramatist. She wrote the poem Galway which I suggested to Tom Kenny should feature in the Galway Poetry Trail. He said it was too long!


I know a town tormented by the sea,
And there time goes slow
That the people see it flow
And watch it drowsily,
And growing older hour by hour they say,
‘Please God, to-morrow!
Then we will work and play,’
And their tall houses crumble away.
This town is eaten through with memory
Of pride and thick red Spanish wine and gold
And a great come and go;
But the sea is cold,
And the spare, black trees
Crouch in the withering breeze
That blows from the sea,
And the land stands bare and alone,
For its warmth is turned away
And its strength held in hard cold grey-blue
And the people are heard to say,
Through the raving of the jealous sea,
‘Please God, to-morrow!
Then we will work and play.’

There are powerful Galway women like Catherine Corless who has worked tirelessly to expose the secret and shame of the neglected babies who died and were buried in unmarked graves and their unfortunate mothers who were incarcerated by the Irish state and the Catholic Church whilst the silent population looked on. There was Bridie O’Flaherty , Mayor and founder member of the Progressive Democrats, Anita Leslie 1914-1985,  biographer and writer and there is Leila Doolan Producer /Director,  Patricia Burke Brogan, playwright, novelist, poet and artist who exposed the the Magdalene Laundries scandal in her play Eclipsed, Jessie Lendennie founder of Salmon Publishing which has championed women poets, Vanda Luddy artist, Mary Coughlan, chanteuse and Galway character that was Una Taaffe etc.

I emigrated in 1965 when I was still a teenager and so my choice of women of Galway reflects that as I am now an old pensioner, pagan and stranger in the City of Tribes. I have selected Nora Barnacle, wife and muse of James Joyce,  Rita Anne Higgins poet, Michelene Sheehy  Skeffington, botanist and gender equality campaigner, Siobhain McKenna, actor,  Lady Augusta Gregory, playwright and Abbey Theatre founder,  Garry  Hynes, Theatre Director, Alice Perry, Civil Engineer, Ada English, Psychiatrist 1903 UCG, Alice Cashel, Irish nationalist,  Margaretta D’Arcy, author and activist, Maureen Kenny, bookseller, Mary Devonport O’Neill poet Dolores Keane singer and Clare Sheridan sculptor and writer. A younger person would have chosen a different set of Mná na Gaillimhe  and I hope they do and continue the celebration of significant Galway women.

I hope that some Galway woman/women will pick up this idea and even do a walk entitled Notable Women of Galway Trail to the places lived in or associated with these women. I think this should happen for 2020 Year of culture. I certainly hope so and it is part of my intention in embarking on this. I also hope that

I will feature each one individually.

Nora Barnacle (1884 -1951)  Wife and Muse of James Joyce Nora Barnacle

Maureen Kenny (1918-2008) Bookseller extraordinaire Maureen K

Lady Augusta Gregory (1852-1932) Dramatist, folklorist and theatre manager Augusta,_Lady_Gregory_ alter life

Rita Anne Higgins  Poet, Bard of Galway Rita-Ann-Higgins-2

Alice Cashel (1878-1958) Irish Nationalist Alice_Cashel

Garry Hynes      Theatre Director Garry Hynes

Alice Perry (1885-1969)  First Woman  Civil Engineer

Michelene Sheehy Skeffington    Botanist, NUIG Gender Discrimination


Margaretta D’Arcy Author, Political Activist Theatre

Margaretta D

Margaretta Darcy

Ada English (1875-1944) Psychiatrist and Irish Nationalist

Ada biography

Mary Devonport O’Neill (1879-1967)  Poet and Playwright

Mary Devenport O'Neilll

Dolores Keane Singer…/dolores-keane-singer-and-notable-ga…


Siobhán McKenna (1923–86)
Siobhan Dr Z
Clare Sheridan (18  -190 Sculptor, Author and Traveller
Clare by Anita