Siobhan McKenna (1923 - 1986):
Siobhán McKenna was a leading actress on the Irish stage and internationally, and also starred in several acclaimed film roles. Much but not all of her work was in English, but she also had prominent roles in Irish
She was born in Belfast and moved to Galway when she was five years old. The family were dedicated Irish speakers and her name in that language was Siobhán Giollamhuire Nic Cionnaith. She was educated at the Dominican Convent, Galway, at St Louis Convent, Monaghan, and University College, Galway where her father Eoghan was Professor of mathematics. Her acting career began in An Taibhdhearc, the Irish-language theatre in Galway, in 1940, after which she joined the Abbey Theatre, Dublin in 1944.
In 1955 she created the role of Miss Madrigal in Enid Bagnold’s The Chalk Garden on Broadway. The Evening Standard named her Actress of the Year in 1958, and she was famous for performances in plays such as Saint Joan by Bernard Shaw and Synge’s Playboy of the Western World. Here are Ladies, her one-woman show, was a tremendous success, especially her delivery of Molly Bloom's soliloquy from Joyce’s Ulysses.
The honours conferred on her included the Gold Medal of the Eire Society of Boston; an honorary doctorate from Trinity College, Dublin, and in 1983, life membership of the Royal Dublin Society. In 1975 she was appointed to the President of Ireland’s advisory Council of State. She appeared on the cover of Life magazine on 10 September 1956.
Her film appearances included Of Human Bondage, The Last Days of Pompeii, opposite Laurence Olivier, and the 1965 all-star epic Doctor Zhivago.
In 1946 she married fellow Abbey member Denis O’Dea, whom she survived; their son Donnacha, was an Olympic swimmer for Ireland at the 1968 summer Games.
|Born:||24 May 1923|
|Died:||16 November 1986|
Additional research, Richard Froggatt
© 2021 Ulster History Circle