Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Honouring Stephen Rea at NUI Galway

NUI Galway has this week honoured the acclaimed Irish actor, Stephen Rea, by conferring on him an Honorary Doctor of Arts Degree. Rea has amassed a career in the performing arts on both stage and screen that has seen him portray a rich lineage of complex characters who are deeply connected to the Ireland of its time and place and also to an international connection to the wider world.

In advance of the conferring ceremonies, Dr Jim Browne, President of NUI Galway, said:
“NUI Galway is fortunate to be associated with many outstanding honorary graduates throughout its history. This week we are very proud to honour Stephen Rea for his outstanding and distinctive contribution to the world of culture, theatre and film in Ireland and far beyond. NUI Galway is very pleased to be in a position to recognise his exceptional talent and achievement. On behalf of the University I congratulate Stephen and each of the 2,500 students who will be conferred with degrees this week from NUI Galway. ”

Dr Charlotte McIvor, Lecturer in the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance, delivered the citation in honour of Rea paid tribute diverse range of work over forty years in the Arts:

"Stephen Rea  has taken us around the world and through time, inhabiting souls whose fragile and often violently conflicted layers of self have laid bare struggles for identity and connection that are fundamental to the human condition.   He is one of the most recognizable faces of the stage and screen, yet always unfamiliar, shape-shifting to meet the terms of the worlds he has inhabited through his work. Through his characters, he has brought us face to face again and again with the brutal and divisive politics of our small island and elsewhere."

Within the archive collections of the Hardiman Library there is a vast array of records that document and highlight the relationships between Rea and writers, playwrights, directors and theatres that have shaped his career. A key relationship is to Irish theatre via Field Day Theatre Company, whom Rea was a founding member and also the connection with the playwright Thomas Kilroy, himself a later member of Field Day and the author of Double Cross, written for Rea and produced in 1986. The plays of Brian Friel again have a large presence in the archives through Field Day records but also via the archive of the Abbey Theatre, digitally available at the Hardiman Library, along with the Thomas Kilroy archive and many other related literary and theatrical collections.

The Kilroy archive contains manuscript drafts and notes of the play Double Cross, programmes and flyers and also correspondence with Rea as well as a range of records relating to Field Day Theatre Company.

Rea starred in many Friel premieres for the Abbey Theatre, including the Freedom of the City (1973) and Aristocrats in 1979 and also Making History for Field Day Theatre Company at Derry in 1988.

Here is a selection of some archive material from these productions as we honour an congratulate Stephen Rea.

For more coverage of the honourary conferring and for video interviews with Rea please click here.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Brian Friel - An Appreciation

It is with great sadness that we note the laying to rest of Brian Friel yesterday. A quick look through our archival holdings shows the range and influence of Brian as a playwright and a friend to various theatre people for well over fifty years. From writers such as John McGahern and Thomas Kilroy, to a variety of theatre companies and actors, the energy and enthusiasm he brought to Irish theatre is clearly visible. In September 1963 the Lyric Theatre staged "The Enemy Within".

Featuring George Mooney in the role of Columba, it was one of a number of plays staged by the Lyric Theatre Company from young emerging Irish writers in the late fifties and early sixties.

Another play which features strongly in our collections is the "Loves of Cass Maguire". Siobhan McKenna's role as Cass in the Abbey's 1967 production introduced one of the most enduring characters to an Irish audience.

It was also one of the plays staged by the Druid Theatre Company in their opening production in the Summer of 1975, revived in 1996 for the 21st anniversary production, both productions starring Marie Mullen.

The Abbey Theatre Digital Archive, uniquely available at NUI Galway, captures the legacy and engagement of Brian Friel with Ireland's national theatre. The Abbey would première some of Friel's most powerful plays from the 1970s to present day, including The Freedom of the City (1973) Volunteers (1975) Living Quarters (1977) Dancing at Lughnasa (1990) Wonderful Tennessee (1993). The Abbey archive contains scripts, prompt scripts with detailed annotations, posters, programmes and recorded videos of performances of many of Friel's landmark works.

With around ninety references to Brian in our online holding search engine, available at why not take a virtual tour through our holdings to appreciate the impact of one of Ireland's great playwrights on Irish theatre.

Friday, October 2, 2015

A Nation Rising

This morning marks the launch of NUI Galway's calendar of events to commemorate 1916, A Nation Rising and the Archives Service is delighted to be hosting the launch here in the Special Collections Reading Room. A programme of events is available at

The archives service holds a range of material that refers to the events of 1916, some of which have a particular Galway focus. First of all there are the records from the College itself, which highlight the impact on the University in terms of staff and students arrested without trial in the immediate aftermath of the rising.

There is also an intriguing entry in the University's visitor book from the 4th August 1899 when Patrick and William Pearse sign their names in Irish. Pearse himself said that he first heard Irish spoken as a living language here in Galway, and it may well have been on this visit that this happened.

Other holdings in the James Hardiman Library Archives emphasise the links between the University and the events of 1916 and its commemoration. The Brian Cusack Papers show the student life of Dr. Brian Cusack, winner of the Moffet Medal for academic achievement presented by the President each year, for 1913. He was later to become the representative for Galway at the first Dail when it sat in early 1919.

Other material, from the G.A. Hayes-McCoy collection emphasise the commemoration of the Rising in 1966. Other items in our holdings include a special edition of the "Connacht Tribune" during the Rising detailing events in Oranmore and Carnmore in the outskirts of the town, as well as rumours of what was happening in Dublin.
From the Prionnsias Mac an Bheatha Collection there is copy of a special edition of the Irish language newspaper 'Inniu', which Prionnsias edited, commemorating the Rising in 1966.

Information on these items and other material relating to this time can be accessed at and is available for researchers in the Special Collections Reading Room.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Sports Archive Month - From 'Association Football' to Soccer

This edition of Archives Sports Month from the archives looks at soccer on campus at NUI Galway. In the early years of the 20th century, the records show news reports, club notes and photographs from when it was known as 'association football' and by c.1910 it became more commonly called soccer in the club notes. While the records from 1914, below, detail increasing numbers of those taking up and playing soccer on campus, there is a lack of any notes or records in the college annuals for many years afterwards which would indicate a break in the soccer club activities until the mid-1920s. The images below are from the 1914-15 season, one of the last updates from that period: