T. C. Murray (1873-1959)

[Thomas Cornelius Murray; pseud. “The Serf”;] b. 17 Jan. 1873, in Macroom, Co. Cork; ed. St. Patrick’s TTC, Drumcondra, on Queen’s Scholarship, 1891; worked as national school teacher at Carrignavar, Cork City, and later at Carrigtwohill; appt. principal in Rathduff, 1900; encouraged by Corkery to write; submitted The Wheel of Fortune (1909; revised as Sovereign Love, 1913) to the Cork Drama Society’s Little Theatre (An Dún), and revising in response to constructive criticism by family and friends; contrib. New Ireland Review, Dublin Magazine, and The Bell;

his plays produced at the Abbey were Birthright (1910), the ending of which he implored Lennox Robinson to alter during production; Maurice Harte (1912), which travelled on to the Royal Court (London) during the Abbey tour of that year; Murray experienced bitter opposition from a clerical [eccles.] manager especially directed at Maurice Harte (1912); issued Sovereign Love (1913); accepted post as head of Model School[s], Inchicore, Co. Dublin, 1915-32, moving to Dublin with wife and five children;

wrote The Serf (Abbey 1920), based on his former struggle with the local priest in Cork; also The Briery Gap (1922), and Autumn Fire (1924), a version of the Phaedra story dealing with the case of a farmer rendered impotent by an accident who choses a proxy to father his child; considered his masterpiece, has echoes of Ibsen; later plays, The Pipe in the Fields; Michaelmas Eve; Illumination, &c., rework older material; Spring Aftermath (1922) is an autobiographical novel of childhood;

appt. director of Authors’ Guild; elected President of the Irish Playwrights’ Association, and Vice-President Irish Academy of Medals & Letters; awarded NUI DLitt, 1949; spent his last years in seclusion; d. 7 March 1959, in Dublin; there is a portrait by Seán O’Sullivan, 1929 [NGI]; Murray enjoyed immense popularity with amateur drama societies; some of his plays were translated into Irish; a dg. Helena (1928-2013) appeared in his plays and worked and died in Hollywood. IF DIB DIW DIH FDA OCIL WJM

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  • Birthright (Dublin: Maunsel 1911);
  • Maurice Harte (Dublin: Maunsel 1912), rep. with Stag at Bay (London: Allen & Unwin 1934);
  • Spring and Other Plays [viz., Sovereign Love and The Briery Gap] (Dublin: Talbot 1917);
  • Aftermath, A Play in Three Acts (Dublin: Talbot 1922);
  • Autumn Fire: A Play in Three Acts (London: Allen & Unwin 1925);
  • The Pipe in the Fields [1 Act Play], in The Dublin Magazine 2 (April-June 1927), pp.7-30, rep. with Birthright (London: Allen & Unwin 1928);
  • Michaelmas Eve: A Play in Three Acts (Allen & Unwin 1932);
  • Spring Horizon (London: T. Nelson & Sons 1937).
Selected Plays
Richard Allen Cave, ed., Selected Plays of T. C. Murray (Gerrrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1999), xxiv, 272pp. [contains “Sovereign Love”, “Birthright”, “Maurice Harte”, “The Briery Gap”, “Autumn Fire”, “The Pipe in the Fields”, an essay on ‘George Shiels, Brinsley MacNamara, &c.’, and ‘Illumination’ [prev. unpubl.], & bibliographical checklist.

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  • Dorothy Macardle, ‘The Dramatic Art of T. C. Murray’ in The Dublin Magazine, 2 (Jan 1925), pp.393-98;
  • T. Hogan, ‘T. C. Murray’, Envoy, 3 (Nov. 1950), pp.138-48;
  • Mícheál Ó hAodha, ‘T. C. Murray and some Critics’, in Studies, 47 (Summer 1958), pp.185-91;
  • Ó hAodha, ‘T. C. Murray - Dramatist’, in Plays and Places (1961) [q.pp.];
  • T. Connolly, ‘T. C. Murray, The Quiet Man’, in The Catholic World 190 (March 1960), pp.364-69;
  • N. Sahal, Sixty Years of Realistic Irish Drama, 1900-1960 (Bombay: Macmillan 1971), xi, 220pp., ill.;
  • T. G. Fitzgibbon, ‘The Elements of Conflict in the Plays of T. C. Murray’, in Studies 64 (Spring 1975), pp.59-65;
  • Albert J DeGiacomo, ‘Remembering T. C. Murray’, in Irish University Review (Winter/Autumn 1995), pp.298-307;
  • James Burke, ‘T. C. Murray’ in Bernice Schrank & William Demastes, ed., Irish Playwrights, 1880-1995: A Research and Production Sourcebook (CT: Greenwood Press 1997), pp.243-52;
  • Albert J. deGiacomo, T. C. Murray: Dramatist: Voice of Rural Ireland (Syracuse UP 2003), 212pp.

See also Richard Cave, ‘Irish Versions of the Phaedra Story’, in Marianne McDonald & J. Michael Walton, eds., Amid Our Troubles: Irish Versions of Greek Tragedy (London: Methuen 2002), qpp.

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Robert Hogan, ed., Dictionary of Irish Literature (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1979), notes a typescript of Illuminations [1937] in Boston College Library; remarks, ‘Incompatible marriage is a recurring theme in Murray’s middle period ... although [he] worked with combustible material - murder, insanity, families in conflict (how often the old disable the young), clerical influence, incest - he was not a controversialist. Primeval passions are disciplined by his intense Catholicism, and the result is a darkly brooding view of life ... The comic muse was not his friend’; his comedy, A Flutter of Wings (Gate 1929), rejected by Abbey; other plays cited, The Blind Wolf (1928), afterwards titled The Karavoes, set in Hungary; A Stag at Bay, set in England; Illumination (1929) is the Maurice Harte theme with a happy ending; The Pipe in the Fields (1927) departs from realism; a planned sequel of Spring Horizon never materialised. [William J. Feeney]; bibl. as under Works, supra.

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Desmond Clarke, Ireland in Fiction: A Guide to Irish Novels, Tales, Romances and Folklore [Pt. 2] (Cork: Royal Carbery 1985), cites Spring Horizon (1937), pp.37; adolescent development - psychological study, set in Co. Cork in Land League days; central character, Stephen Mangan; viewpoint Catholic and nationalist. DIL remarks, ‘a gently paced autobiographical novel of growing up in Cork ... a planned sequel never materialised.’

D. E. S. Maxwell, A Critical History of Modern Irish Drama, 1891-1980 (Cambridge UP 1984), lists Birthright (Maunsel 1911); Maurice Harte (Maunsel 1912); Aftermath (Talbot (1922); Autumn Fire (Lon. 1925; Bost. 1926); Michaelmas Eve (Lon. 1932).

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Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, gen. ed. (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 3, selects Birthright [659-74]; 717-18, BIOG & COMM as under Life and Commentary - supra.

Helena Sheehan, Irish Television Drama, A Society and Its Stories (RTE 1987), lists TV films, Autumn Fire, T. C. Murray, adpt. Adrian Vale/dir. Jim Fitzgerald (1965). .

Belfast Central Public Library holds Aftermath (1922); Autumn Fire (1925); Birthright (1911); Maurice Harte (1912); Spring and other plays (1917, 1926); also [prob. unrelated] Jonathan Swift (1954).

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