A Tribute to Tom Jordan – Actor and Director

Another great loss to Irish Theatre and to Equity, is the passing of the talented, veteran actor, Tom Jordan. Born in Marino, Dublin in 1937, Tom first made his mark in 1968, as a member of the RTE Players, honing his skills in hundreds of broadcasts.

On leaving RTÉ in 1972 he became a founding member of the Project Arts Centre in Kings Street and, appeared on RTE Television in Ulick O’Connor’s The Rock. That same year he became Actor- Manager for Godfrey Quigley’s World Theatre Productions, initiating the very innovative “Dinner Theatre” performances in the Gresham Hotel, and in Wexford, for many seasons.

During this time Tom was now making his mark in Film and Television and, of the thirty or more productions, in which he appeared, he achieved fame as Farrell in Strumpet City. In 1981 he played Seamus Doherty with Pierce Brosnan in, The Manions of America, teaming up with him again in 1984 in Remmington Steele. Five years later, he was one of the original cast members of Fair City, starring as Charlie Kelly in almost 150 Episodes.

Tom’s heart, however, had always been in theatre, having performed in Dublin Theatre Festival Seasons and, in popular productions of, Is the Priest at Home? Da, and The Whip Hand. In 1987 he became Director of the Lyric Theatre, Belfast for two years.

Despite the high profile that Tom attained through talent, and diligence, he was always a very private person, meticulous in his preparation and always dependable, but his performances had a quiet power and a great stage and screen ‘presence’.

I had the honour of appearing with him in The Manions of America and on Radio. He was a generous actor, great company, a team player and a fine mentor of young talent. A strong supporter of Irish Equity, Tom was one of the few remaining actors to have successfully plied his trade in every avenue of his beloved profession, now sadly bereft of such talent and experience.

Laurence Foster June 30th 2019.

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Pádraig Murray – President

Pádraig is a professional actor and he has worked in both Ireland and the UK. He has been a member of Equity since the early 80’s. Padraig is President of Irish Equity for the last 8 years. Before that he was Vice-President for 2 years. He is also President of SIPTU’s Arts and Culture Sector. In that time he has been involved in many negotiations on terms and conditions and rates of pay for performers in the Irish Republic. He is currently represented by and a founding member of ReActors Agency.

Gerry O’Brien – Vice-President

Pegg Monahan – A Tribute

It is with great sadness that I have received the news of the death of actress, friend and colleague, Pegg Monahan, at the great age of 97. Pegg was the last of the founding members of the RTE Players, Radio Repertory Company. She was also a founding member of “WAAMA” the Writers-Actors-Artists & Musicians Association of Ireland and, was instrumental in it becoming Irish Actor’s Equity.

A fine stage actress, Pegg performed in the original production of Knocknagow and then joined Lord Longford’s Company in the Gate Theatre. In 1947 she began her illustrious radio career which spanned four decades, during which time she performed in more than 1,000 radio plays and classic dramatisations. She also starred in several television plays including “The Weaver’s Grave” and “Somerville & Ross”. Pegg Monahan became a household name in the 1950s and 60s with her portrayal of the long suffering Mrs Foley in David Hayes’ long running comedy series, The Foley Family. In 1982, Pegg crowned her broadcasting career with a brilliant portrayal of Mollie Bloom in the record breaking 32 hour, unabridged, RTE Radio broadcast of UIlysses. Those of us privileged enough to have worked with Pegg will miss her greatly.

She had a regal charm and an inner calm that put everyone at ease. She helped and guided young actors and was generous and sympathetic. Her versatility knew no bounds and, from Dublin housewives and country matriarchs to a chilling Mrs Danvers in Rebecca, her range was so impressive.

Ireland has lost a great actress and a true radio artist. Joyously, we will hear her like again, as that artistry has been preserved in Archive. “Her familiar voice, wearies not ever!” Shelley.

Laurence Foster. May 25th 2019.

Bryan Murray

Bryan Murray trained at The Abbey Theatre in Dublin and was a member of the company there for seven years. He has also been a member of The Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre Company in the UK.

His theatre work includes; The Hostage, Borstal Boy, The Morning After Optimism, The Shadow of a Gunman, The Silver Tassie, Deathwatch, The Devils, St Joan, Blood Wedding, Philadelphia, Here I Come, The Rivals, Volunteers, The Glass Menagerie, The Shadow of the Glen, The Whiteheaded Boy, Fando and Lis, The Plebeians Rehearse The Uprising, The Happy Go Likeable Man, A Change of Mind, The Plough And The Stars, Juno And The Paycock, Catchpenny Twist, Nashville New York, Blood Brothers, The Miss Firecracker Contest, Finian’s Rainbow, One Touch of Venus, Misery, Deathtrap, The Cavalcaders, Boyband, An Inspector Calls, An Ideal Husband, Joe & I, The Goat, Love Letters, Rank,  Anna Karenina, Salomé, Great Expectations, The Deep Blue Sea, Medea, Celebration, My Cousin Rachel, Best Man, Jack and the Beanstalk.

He has been a regular face on television for the last 35 years. He is probably best known for his roles as ‘Fitz’ in Strumpet City’, ‘Flurry Knox’ in The Irish RM, ‘Shifty’ in Bread, (For which he won BBC TV Personality Of The Year) ‘Harry Cassidy’ in Perfect Scoundrels, ‘Trevor Jordache’ in Brookside and ‘Bob’ in Fair City.

He presented the children’s series’ ‘Knock Knock’ and ‘Umbrella’ for BBC Television, ‘Encore’ and Saturday Night Live for RTE. He recently presented the IFTA nominated documentary series ‘The Tenements’ for TV3 and the four part documentary series ‘The Big House’ also for TV3. He is an occasional presenter of ‘Late Date’ on RTE Radio 1.

Irish Equity

Irish Equity representatives held a high level meeting with officials in the Department of An Taoiseach, yesterday (Thursday, 23rd May), to discuss improvements to the taxation and social welfare system for actors. The meeting was also attended by officials from the Department of Finance and Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. At the meeting, Irish Equity representatives called for changes that will increase the support and respect for actors to enable them to make a living and have long, rewarding careers.

Irish Equity 2019 AGM

More details and venue to follow.

Pat Laffan – A tribute

Irish actor and director Pat Laffan, has sadly “shuffled off this mortal coil” after an incredible career spanning six decades. He grew up on a farm in Co. Meath and, after graduating from Engineering in UCD began his career in the Abbey Theatre, despite his mother, allegedly, begging Ernest Blythe to sack him!

Pat became a prolific theatre actor and was the Director of the Peacock Theatre in the 1970s. On leaving the Abbey he directed in the Gate Theatre until 1982 and later joined the board of the Gaiety School of Acting.

I had the privilege of sharing a dressing with him at the Gate, and “survived” the long run. Pat didn’t suffer fools gladly or otherwise, but there was always a mischievous twinkle in the eyes and, if he liked you, you were a friend for life. My lasting memory is his performance as Brendan Bracken on radio. I was lucky enough to play Churchill opposite him and his generosity as an actor was enormous.

While Pat is perhaps still best remembered as Mr. Burgess in The Snapper he had 70 film and television credits to his name and was at home in comic or dramatic roles with equal aplomb. He has, quite rightly, been described as an incredible force in Irish Theatre. He was also an incredible force on the cricket field and not always with bat and ball – more intimidating was his ferocious glare at erring umpires and wayward bowlers. His Presidency of the Theatrical Cavaliers Cricket team was legendary.

A valued and supportive member of Irish Actors Equity, he will be sorely missed in every walk of life, over which he loomed large, passing on his expertise to the benefit of other generations of actors. The whole of the acting profession is indebted to Pat’s dedication, multi-talents, wit and pure professionalism.

Laurence Foster, March 2019

Austin Gaffney – A Tribute

The wonderful Austin Gaffney, pictured above in the banner was from a performance of “Song of Norway”, with my wife Pauline (Magrath) in 1966. No one but Austin could enter a scene with such a swirl of an operatic cloak, or doff a silk top-hat with such panache.

Born in Dublin, for decades, he was the star of so many Light Operas, Pantomimes, Cabarets, Reviews, Television Shows and Recordings, often with some of the biggest orchestras and bands in Britain and Ireland. His performance as The Red Shadow in, ”The Desert Song”, surpassed all others; his voice superb, his acting superb. From “Die Fledermaus” to “The Merry Widow”, Austin reigned supreme.

Austin was also an original member of and, a staunch supporter of the Variety Artist’s Section of Irish Actors Equity, helping to raise the standard of that Branch for many years.

He was generous, unselfish and a pleasure to work with and, his path to stardom was a tough one. Following twice-daily performances in the Gaiety Theatre, at the drop of the evening curtain, he would be off to perform in Jury’s Cabaret in Dame Street until midnight. Weekends, and free days were spent enjoying the coaching of the next generation of Irish singers.

Austin was part of, what was, a great theatrical ‘family’ of colleagues that embraced so-called ‘legits’, and ‘non legits’, with equal camaraderie from the post-war years onward. His soubriquet, “The Gaffer”, created with true Dublinese affection, was apt indeed. He was greatly missed when he retired and he will be even more greatly missed now, as a valued colleague to so many. What a voice, what a star, what a friend to all!

Laurence Foster. February 15th 2019.

Banner photo: Copyright Pauline Magrath (Foster)