Margaretta D’Arcy

1934- ; b. London; dg. an Irish father from Henrietta St., Dublin and IRA activist in War of Independence, and Russian-Jewish mother; leading actress of Ulster Group Theatre appearing under directorship of Harold Goldblatt in roles such as The Constant Wife by Somerset Maugham and a stage adaption of Henry James’s Washington Square; companion and artistic collaborator of John Arden [q.v.]; lived in Ireland except between 1953 and 1961; m. John Arden, 1957; appeared in Gerard McLarnon’s The Bonefire, a play erroneously made the subject of sectarian controversy, Belfast Opera House, Aug. 1958; had four boys with Arden, variously raised in London, India and Ireland; imprisoned in Shillong Jail, India, and later in Armagh for refusing a fine after a Republican rally; lived on an island in Lough Corrib without phone or television;
appeared in first performance of Meldon’s Aisling, produced by his wife (1953); imprisoned for expressions of hostility to British policy in Ireland after a poetry reading at the Ulster Museum, 1978; held in Holloway Prison in the 1980s for her part in the Greenham Common anti-nuclear demonstration, and held in solitary confinement for refusing strip-search; engages in ‘Duchas na Saoirse (Artists for Freedom)’; set up radio station in her home at St Mary's Tce., Galway, 1987 - mostly supporting women’s viewpoints; member of Aosdána and proposer of a pro-Palestinian boycott of Israel cultural projects, March 2007; suffered death of John Arden, 28 March 2012; walked on the runway at Shannon Airport protesting American military transports with other protestors of Galway Alliance Against War; refused to sign a bond of good behaviour and imprisoned in Limerick Prison; known to be a cancer sufferer; visited by Sabina Higgins, wife of the President. DIL OCIL

There is a Margaretta D’Arcy web-site [accessed 20.05.2012].

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Plays (solo)
  • The Pinprick of History;
  • Vandaleur’s Folly;
  • Women’s voices from W. of Ireland;
  • Prison-voice of Countess Markievicz.
Plays (collaboration with Arden)
  • The Business of Good Government: A Christmas Play (1963);
  • The Happy Haven (1962)
  • Ars Longa Vita Brevis (1965)
  • Friday’s Hiding: An experience in the Laconic (1967)
  • The Hero Rises Up (1969)
  • The Island of the Mighty (1974)
  • The Royal Pardon;
  • The Non-Stop Connolly Show;
  • Keep the People Moving (BBC Radio);
  • Portrait of a Rebel (RTÉ TV);
  • The Manchester Enthusiasts (BBC 1984), 2-part radio play, and Do., as The Ralahine Experiment (RTE 1984);
  • Whose is the Kingdom? (BBC 1987), nine-part radio play.

See also Immediate Rough Theatre

Note: The above published variously by Methuen, Cassells, Pluto Press.
Group productions
  • Muggins is a Martyr;
  • The Vietnam War-game;
  • 200 Years of Labour;
  • The Mongrel Fox;
  • No Room at the Inn;
  • Mary’s Name;
  • Seán O’Scrúdú;
  • Silence.
Sep. editions
  • The Island of the Mighty: A Play on Traditional British Themes in Three Parts (London: Eyre Methuen 1974), 237pp.
  • The Little Gray Home in the West: An Anglo-Irish Melodrama [Methuen’s modern plays] (London: Methuen 1986), 73pp.
  • The Non-stop Connolly Show: A Dramatic Cycle of Continuous Struggle [Pluto Plays Ser.], 6 vols. in 5 (London: Pluto 1977-1978) [Pt 1-2: Boyhood, 1868-1889; Apprenticeship, 1889-1896. Pt 3: Professional, 1896-1903. Pt 4: The New World, 1903-1910. Pt 5: The great Lockout, 1910-1914. Pt 6: World War and the Rising]; Do., [in 1 vol.] (London: Methuen 1986), vii, 448pp.
  • Arden and D’Arcy Plays [Rough Theatre, One; Methuen Drama] (London: Methuen 1991), xvi, 432pp. [contains The Business of Good Government [see notice]; Ars Longa Vita Brevis; Friday’s Hiding; The Royal Pardon; The Little Gray Home in the West; Vandaleur’s Folly.
  • with John Arden, Tell Them Everything: Soujourn in the Prison of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Ard Macha [Armagh] (London: Methuen 1961); another edn. (London: Pluto Press [q.d.]). [cultural and political essays];
  • “Awkward Corners”: Essays, Papers, Fragments, selected, with commentaries, by the authors [A Methuen Dramabook] (London: Methuen 1988), 263pp.
  • with Aine & Eibhlin Gillespie & Noelle Bouliou (Cork: Mercier Press 1992), [200]pp. [An Approach to Irish Political Prisoners’ Experience through the Writings of Bobby Sands]
  • Loose Theatre: Memoirs of a Guerrilla Theatre Activist (Victoria BC: Trafford; Galway: Women’s Pirate Press 2005), vi, 490pp. [autobiog. with diary entries, photos, &c.]
  • Galway’s Pirate Women: A Global Trawl (Women’s Pirate Press 1996), 193pp.; German translation-performances of The Royal Pardon and The Ballygombeen Bequest (Das Erbe von Ballgombeen) [Noticed in Jürgen Schneider and Ralf Sotscheck, Ireland: Eine Bibliographie selbständiger deutschsprachiger. (Verlag de Georg Büchner Buchhandlung 1989).

The Business of Good Government (1963) is a nativity play which develops a sense of a disappearing community; Ars Longa Vita Brevis (1965) is composed out of children’s games and The Royal Pardon tells the story of the adventures of a group of strolling players who fall in with a deserter from the war in Flanders. Other plays in this collection such as Little Gray Home in the West and The Vandaleur’s Folly arise from the highly charged political arena of the 1970s in Ireland reflecting the authors consistent interest in using drama to extend the boundaries of national identity and human freedom. (COPAC online; accessed 20.04.2011.)

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Paul Hadfield & Linda Henderson, ‘“Getting Time for Adjustments”: the making of Whose is the Kingdom’ [interview with Arden and Arden and D’Arcy] in Writing Ulster (Winter 1992-93), pp.85-109; Laura Lyons, ‘Towards Representation of Insurgency: Margaretta Darcy’s Feminist Tour of Duty’, in Timothy R. Foley, et. al., Gender and Colonialism (Galway UP 1996) [noticed in ILS, Fall 1996].

See also Keith Duggan, ‘Behind Bars with the Shannon One’, in The Irish Times, [Sat.] 1 Feb. 2014, News Review, p.3 [from which some details, as above; also reactions to Alan Shatter’s support of the sentence as Minister of Justice; she has a son called Finn.]

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Darcy’s diary - Thursday I Jan 1976, New Year’s Day: ‘Poured. John Keaney came round, grumbled about Farmer’s Dole. Des Hogan called, asked about books and bodhrán. He had visited Tom Kilroy who said he was only eating one meal a day, he was so broke. Have decided to give up cigarettes, they are costing £350 a year. Des Johnson called yesterday. We must begin working on the union play. Des H[ogan?] gave us some names of people who might be interested. This year is not going to be good.’ (Quoted in Eamonn Kelly, review of Loose Theatre, in Books Ireland, Summer 2010, p.133.)

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Robert Greacen: ‘it is reassuring to know that when Margaretta Darcy wins the Nobel Prize for peace, she will tell the Swedes what they can do with their million dollars.’ (Letter to the Editor, Irish Times, [16] Sept. 1995).

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