Brian Friel

The best known Irish playwright of his generation, Brian Friel, died on Friday (2nd October) aged 86. His first major play, Philadelphia, Here I Come!, was the hit of the 1964 Dublin Theatre Festival, and Dancing at Lughnasa in 1992 won three Tony Awards.

He was also an accomplished short-story writer and a founder of Field Day Theatre Company. In all Friel wrote 24 published plays, two short-story collections and eight published adaptations or versions, most notably from Ibsen, Chekov and Turgenev.

His most controversial play, Translations, was first staged in 1980 is about the mapping of Ireland by the Ordnance Survey in the 1830s. It proved to be a landmark in the debates about cultural identity and historical revisionism that were a feature of Irish intellectual life in the 1970s and 1980s.

Friel was born near Omagh, Co Tyrone, in January 1929. Ten years later he moved with his family to Derry. There he was educated at St Columb’s College, following which he spent two years as a seminarian at St Patrick’s College in Maynooth. Trained as a teacher at St Joseph’s College, Belfast, he began teaching in 1950.

In 2001 he presented the archive of his work to the National Library of Ireland. Elected in 1982 to membership of Aosdána he was elected a Saoi in 2006. He was Donegal Person of the Year in 2010.

His wife, Anne Morrison, their three daughters and their son survive him.

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