PEOPLE

SEAN O'CASEY

1880 - 1964

Born John Casey in north-inner-city Dublin in 1880, O'Casey was one of 13 children, only five of whom survived past infancy. From the age of five, Sean suffered from ulceration of his left eye, which made him almost completely blind in later years. He became a militant nationalist, an ardent supporter of Jim Larkin and active organiser of the Irish Citizen Army. The Abbey Theatre first performed The Shadow of a Gunman in 1923 and this was followed by his masterpieces, Juno and the Paycock (1924) and The Plough and the Stars (1926). A bitter row with WB Yeats followed the rejection of The Silver Tassie by the Abbey Theatre in 1927 and O'Casey made the decision never to return to Ireland from his home in England, where he had moved in 1926. He continued to write in exile about Dublin and the political issues of his time. He wrote six volumes of autobiography: I Knock at the Door, Pictures in the Hallway, Drums Under the Window, Inishfallen Fare Thee Well, Rose and Crown, and Sunset and Evening Star. In 1958 the Dublin Theatre Festival accepted for production The Drums of Father Ned. The Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid, objected to plays in the programme by O'Casey and James Joyce, and refused to say the Votive Mass. O'Casey withdrew his play and the festival was abandoned. This event led to his decision to ban all professional productions of his plays in Ireland. In 1964 O'Casey lifted his ban on the performance of his plays in Ireland so that the Abbey Theatre could perform Juno and the Paycock at the World Theatre Festival in honour of Shakespeare's 400th anniversary. He died in Devon 1964.