John Coulter

Life
1888-1980 [var. 1976]; b. Belfast, ed. Manchester Univ.; taught textile design in Belfast, and art and English at Coleraine Academical Institute; moved to Dublin to be near the Abbey, teaching at Wesley College; returned to Belfast to start theatre, 1919, but impeded by Troubles; moved to London; freelance for BBC; edited Ulster Review in 1924; contrib. to The New Adelphi, 1927 (ed. Middleton Murry); met Clare Primrose, a Canadian author, and moved to Toronto, where they were married, 1936; influence Canadian theatre with Riel series; his Irish plays include Family Portrait (1937); Holy Manhattan (1941); The Drums are Out (1948); Deirdre of the Sorrows, told for music by Healey Willan (Toronto: Macmillan 1944), xi, 72pp.; new ed. (1965); Also God’s Ulsterman, a two plays [sequence] on Cromwell in Ireland; published and unpublished works held in Mills Memorial Library, MacMaster Univ. Hamilton, Ontario. DIW IF2 DIL OCAN OCIL

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Works
Plays, Conchobar (1917); The House in the Quiet Glen (1937) and Family Portrait (Toronto, Macmillan 1937) [?BML 1944]; Deirdre of the Sorrow: An Ancient and Noble Tale Retold by John Coulter for Music by Healey Willan (Toronto: Macmillan 1944, 2nd ed. 1965), xi, 72pp. [var. 1966]; Turf Smoke (Toronto: Ryerson 1945); Riel (1949); The Crime of Louis Riel (1967); The Trial of Louis Riel (Ottawa: Oberon 1968); The Drums are Out [Irish Drama Series, vol. 6] (Chicago: De Paul UP 1971), 77pp.; Riel (Hamilton: Cromlech Press 1972).

Plays for radio, include A Tale of Old Québec, and Québec in 1670, broadcast on BBC, 1935, and CBC, 1940; Oblomov, adapted from Goncharov, broadcast CBC 1962; Sleep, my Pretty One (1961); A Capful of Pennies (1967), stage and radio play about Edmund Kean; Francois Bigot: A Rediscovery in Dramatic Form of the Fall of Quebec (1978).

Poetry, The Blossoming Thorn (Ryerson 1946). Fiction, Turf Smoke [novel] (Toronto: Ryerson 1945); rep. as Turf Smoke on Manhattan (Dublin: Talbot Press 1949).

Biography & Autobiography, Churchill (Toronto: Ryerson 1944) [var. 1945]; In My Day (1980). Miscellaneous, ‘The Catholics Walk’, Living Age, 323 (Nov 22 1924), pp.433-35. See also Prologue to a Marriage, Letters and Diaries of John Coulter and Olive Clare Primrose (1979).

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Criticism
Geraldine [sic] Anthony, John Coulter (NY: Twayne 1976); ‘John Coulter’, in Contemporary Authors 7-8 (1963), pp.115-16; Marion Dempsey, ‘Profile, John Coulter’, Performing Arts 8 (Spring 1971), pp.20-21.

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References
Robert Hogan, Dictionary of Irish Literature (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1979): Abbey playwright, later in Canada; plays range from The House in the Quiet Glen (1925), a matchmaking comedy, to God’s Ulsterman (1974). Some are satirical treatments of Belfast materialism such as The Quiet Glen and Portrait, or stories of divided loyalties in the Troubles such as The Drums are Out (Abbey 1948), long run; while Ulsterman deals with the legacy of sectarian hatred from Cromwell to Paisley; Coulter’s contribution to Canadian drama is the Riel trilogy (1949-67; produced 1975), about Louis Riel, a French-Indian insurgent in Manitoba on behalf of the Metis people. [Dictionary of Irish Writers, 1988, cites trilogy Rich [err.] (1975).

William Toye, ed., Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature (1983), p.143ff. give bio-details [as supra]; cites The Family Portrait, full length comedy (1937), written for the Abbey; House in the Quiet Glen, one act comedy about match-making for a young girl to a widow, not knowing she has designs on his son; The Drums Are Out (1971) focuses on a family in which the father is a policeman and the dg. is secretly married to a member of the IRA (premiered Abbey 1948). Riel trilogy, dealing with leader of Mètis Indian revolt, hanged 1885, designed for presentation in Elizabethan manner; Riel (1949); The Trial of Louis Riel (1968), is a courtroom drama; The Crime of Louis Riel (1967), won Dominion award. Three librettos of Willan, Transit Through Fire (1942), about soldier in WWII; Deirdre of the Sorrows (1944; revised as Deirdre, 1966). His first published play, Conchobar (1917) is about the same legend. The Blossoming Thorn (1946) is a collection of lyrics, light, romantic, and elegiac. A novel, Turf Smoke (1945) adapts Holy Manhattan and tells of an Irish immigrant to NY who can’t adapt and can’t return. Churchill (1945), biog., using material discarded in his ‘living newspaper’ play of Mr Churchill of England. Wrote for radio, showing sympathy with French Quebec, viz. Francois Bigot, a rediscovery in dramatic form of the fall of Quebec (1978), revised from CBC broadcast of 1970; A Tale of Old Québec, and Québec in 1670, broadcast on BBC, 1935, and CBC, 1940; Oblomov, adapted from Goncharov, broadcast CBC 1962; Sleep, my Pretty One (1961), verse play about girl who cannot accept her stepmother; A Capful of Pennies (1967), stage and radio play about Edmund Kean; God’s Ulsterman, a sequence of two plays on injustice of Cromwell to Ireland and its legacy. In My Day (1980), long memoir; active in establishing Canada Council; invited Tyrone Guthrie to direct first production of Stratford Festival; founder Canadian Arts Council and Canadian Conference of Arts; DLitt York Univ.; critic remarks that he was never entirely at home in Canada, quoting Coulter, ‘I do not think anyone can emigrate successfully after their mid-20s; Mills Memorial Library at McMaster has collection of his books and papers; See Gerald Anthony’s book on Coulter for Twayne World Authors Series (1976); Coulter also wrote account his his career for Anthony’s Stage Voices (1978).

Desmond Clarke, Ireland in Fiction: A Guide to Irish Novels, Tales, Romances and Folklore [Pt. 2] (Cork: Royal Carbery 1985), lists Turf Smoke on Manhattan (Dublin: Talbot Press 1949), 168pp.; Barney Cahill, indolent but intelligent type who scorns modern world and cares for nothing but his memories and his dreams - though neither ne’er-d-well nor stage-Irishman - builds a replica of his Ulster home in Clogherbaun on the roof of the apartment block he caretakes [based on play, Holy Manhattan].

Phyllis Hartnoll, ed., Oxford Companion to the Theatre (OUP 1988 edn.), ‘Canada’ [article], cites Coulter among ‘English-Canadian playwrights’ to emerge in post-war Canada (p.135.). There is no separate entry,

Congress Union Catalogue lists The House in the Quiet Glen and Family Portrait (Toronto, Macmillan 1937); Deirdre of the Sorrows, An Ancient and Noble Tale, music by Healey Willan (Toronto: Macmillan 1944; 2nd ed. 1965); The Trial of Louis Riel, trans. by Raynald Desmeules (Ottawa: Oberon 1968), 66pp.; Riel, Play in Two Parts (Hamilton: Cromlech Press 1972), 142pp.; The Crime of Louis Riel, third part of the Riel Trilogy (Toronto: Playwrights’ Co-op 1976), 68pp [0 919834 44 2]; The Drums are Out [Irish Drama Series] (Chicago: De Paul UP 1971) [NO ISBN]; Francois Bigot, A Rediscovery in Dramatic Form of the Fall of Quebec (Toronto: Hounslow Press 1978), 78pp. [0 8882 037 5]; Prelude to a Marriage, Letters and Diaries of John Coulter and Olivia Clare Primrose (Ottawa: Oberon Press 1979), 145pp. [0 88750 293 8]

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Notes
Louis Riel - works: Thomas Flanagan, ed., The Collected Writings of Louis Riel/Les écrits complets de Louis Riel, Vol.3: 5 June 1884-16-Nov. 1885 [gen. ed., George F.G. Stanley] (Edmonton: Alberta UP 1985).