Molly Allgood


Life
[stage name ‘Máire O’Neill’; var. Moira]; b. Dublin, 12 Jan.; sister of Sara Allgood; sent to an orphanage on father’s death; apprenticed as dressmaker; joined Abbey in 1905; became engaged to John Millington Synge, c.1905; played Pegeen Mike in The Playboy, to riots in Dublin, Jan. 1907, had personal triumph with London performances later that year; suffered the death of Synge, 24 March 1909, and denied permission to attend his funeral by his family; she played the lead role in his Deirdre of the Sorrows, 1910;
 
stayed on wit the Abbey Company up to 1911; occasionally returned to act up with them to 1917; m. George Herbert Mair, drama critic of Manchester Guardian, June 1911; widowed 3 Jan. 1926; m. Arthur Sinclair, 1926; divorced, 1954; played Liverpool Repertory with J. B. Fagan; successful American tours included New York, often in Irish plays, esp. Seán O’Casey, with her sister Sara and her husband Sinclair (1883-1954); later years troubled by poverty and alcoholism; a son died in an air crash in 1942; d. 2 Nov. New York, 1954;
 
in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech of 1923, W. B. Yeats, referred to her as ‘all simplicity’; there is an oil portrait of 1913 by John Butler Yeats in the Abbey Theatre foyer; her letters to Synge were returned to her after his death and have not survived; Joseph O’Connor has written a novel on their relationship recalled in the second person while living impecuniously in a London lodging house in 1952 (Ghost Light, 2010). DIB DIL FDA OXTH OCIL

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Criticism
Maurice Headlam, Irish Reminiscences (London: Robert Hale 1947), p.129-30 [infra]; Elizabeth Coxhead, Daughters of Erin: Five Women of the Irish Renascence (London: Secker & Warburg 1965); Do. (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1979).

Molly Allgood is the subject of a forthcoming novel by Joseph O'Connor in his American trilogy (following on from Star of the Sea, 2002, and Redemption Falls, 2007).

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Notes
Berg Collection of the New York Public Library holds as part of the Lady Augusta Gregory Papers a document of contract between Máire O’Neill and the Irish Literary Society (National Theatre), signed by W. B. Yeats and Lennox Robinson and holding her to performances on the American tour of 1911.

Maurice Headlam’s Irish Reminiscences (1947), pays a tribute to her acting (‘all but a really great actress’) and refers to her ‘voix d’or’, as ‘not a stage voice but full and pure and true, especially in the lower notes.’ (p.129-30.)

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Peg of my heart’; Molly (“Maire”) O’Neill called her dg. Pegeen; her quarrels with Synge were of ‘Playboy-like fierceness’; part taken on by Sara in the 1920s; Brid Brennan plays the part in Garry Hynes’ production. In the National Theatre (London) production of 2001 Sorcha Cusack appeared as the Widow Quinn, Patrick O’Kane as Christy and Derbhle Crotty as Pegeen Mike (Notice by Nicholas Grene.)

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Crossing boundaries: James Pethica writes, ‘[c]ontributing to and complicating this hostile trend, of course, was Synge’s relationship with Molly Allgood. Their liaison. as W. J. McCormack has observed, violated “boundaries of class, religion and age”’ at the Abbey; but it also violated the sharp line of authority Gregory and Yeats had sought to draw between Directors and actors. (‘“A Young Man’s Ghost”: Lady Gregory and J. M. Synge’, in Irish University Review, 34, 1, Spring/Summer 2004, p.14; for more, see infra.)

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Place & Time: Molly Allgood died the basement of a BBC recording studio in New York while waiting to record one of Synge's plays in 1954. 

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