30 March-Seán O’Casey

Seán O’Casey was a playwright who was a native of Dublin, Ireland. Famous for plays such as ‘The Shadow of a Gunman’ and ‘The Plough and the Stars’ he was also a well-known Irish nationalist. O’Casey moved to England in 1927 at the age of 47. He lived there for the rest of his life.

Seán O’Casey was born at 85 Upper Dorset Street, Dublin in 1880. He was the youngest of a family of thirteen children. His father died when O’Casey was six years old. As a child his family moved house regularly. O’Casey suffered from poor eyesight which interfered with his early education. Leaving school at the age of fourteen he worked at various jobs. He worked for nine years (1902-1911) with Irish Railways (Great Northern Railway). He later worked with Eason’s, booksellers and newspaper distributors.

O’Casey became interested in Irish nationalism. In 1906 he joined the Gaelic League, learned the Irish language and changed his name to its Irish form, Seán Ó Cathasaigh. Influenced by the poverty he saw in the slums of Dublin, O’Casey joined the Irish Transport and general Workers Union which was founded by the labour leader Jim Larkin. He later joined the Irish Citizen Army but resigned in a disagreement about membership in 1914.

Though he had written a regular column for the Irish Worker from 1912 it was not until 1917 that O’Casey began devoting his energies to writing. His first plays were rejected by the Abbey Theatre but his two-act play, ‘The Shadow of a Gunman’ was eventually accepted by the Abbey in 1922. O’Casey was then 42 years old. His most popular play ‘Juno and the Paycock’ was staged by the Abbey in 1924. When the four-act play ‘The Plough and the Stars’ was staged in February 1926 it led to protests and riots in Dublin. O’Casey was in London at the time. He was being awarded a prize for his play ‘Juno and the Paycock’. He gave his acceptance speech in Irish.

While in London O’Casey met the Irish actress Eileen Reynolds Carey. They married in 1927 and though they returned to Ireland for their honeymoon O’Casey spent the remainder of his life in England. They lived in London until 1938 when they moved to Totnes in Devon. O’Casey continued to write plays and essays. Seán O’Casey died at the age of 84 in Torquay, Devon on September 18th 1964.

Seán O’Casey was born in Dublin in the year 1880 On This Day.

Sean O’Casey

Seán O’Casey Bridge

 

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