Ulick O’Connor (1928-2019)

1928-2019; b. Rsthgar, Co. Dublin; ed. UCD and New Orleans; boxer and sports-writer; Bar 1951 - and practiced for 15 years thereafter; wrote biography of Oliver St. John Gogarty (1964); Brendan Behan (1970), and studies of the early twentieth-century Irish troubles and the Irish Literary Revival; one-man show on Behan Dublin Th. Fest., 1971, and produced as documentary film by Four Oaks Foundation, 1987; one-man show on Gogarty, Dublin Th. Fest., 1975; plays in the Noh style produced at the Abbey Theatre, 1977, and later at the Dublin Th. Fest., 1979 and off-Broadway 1981; also Executions a play based on events of 1922-23 (Peacock 1985) and Conway Mill Th., Belfast (1988), and after that at Theatre Les Baladins d’Agenais, in Lot-en-Garonne, France (1989); compared with Costa-Gavras (e.g., Battle of Algiers); became a popular guest on Late Late Show (RT&Escute;] in the 1970s and 1980s, and an outspoken commentator on social, cultural and political issues
issued The Oval Machine, a play based on the Greek play Hipplytus (Project Th. 1986); Trinity of Two (Abbey, May 1988), a play on Oscar Wilde and Edward Carson; cantata-version of his play Deirdre with music by Eric Sweeney (Nat. Symp. Orchestra & Chamber Choir, 1990); three Noh plays produced at Fraunhofer Th., Munich (May 1991); wrote Joyicity (Actors’ Playhouse NY, 1992); published three production diaries with Execution (1992); invited to Japan by Hideo Kanze to view Noh productions, Nov. 1992; sold film rights of Brendan Behan to Davis-Panzer Prods. (LA), 1993; trans. Les Fleurs du Mal (1995); issued The Ulick O’Connor Diaries 1970-1981: A Cavalier Irishman (2001), covering Irish and international encounters with the well-known and documenting his own part in bringing the IRA into the peace process - a claim treated with scepticism by some commentators;
issued The Kiss (2009), New and Selected Poems and Translations; O’Connor is a long-standing Aosdána member; his br. Garrett, a psychiatrist and CEO of the Betty Ford Clinic, California, is married to the actress Fionnula Flanagan. DIW

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Poetry collections
  • Lifestyles (1973).
  • All Things Counter (1987).
  • One is Animate (1991).
  • trans. Poems of the Damned: Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal, intro. Michel Deon [Acad. Française] (Dublin: Wolfhound 1995), 32pp.
  • The Kiss: New and Selected Poems and Translations (Moher: Salmon Poetry 2009), 84pp.
  • The Dream Box (1969); The Dark Lovers (1974).
  • Three Noh Plays (1981).
  • Executions (Dingle: Brandon Press 1993), 183pp., ill. [text of successful 1985 Peacock play, with diary of production in Dublin, Belfast, and Agen, France].
  • Trinity of Two (Belfast: Linenhall 1995).
Biography & criticism
  • The Times I’ve Seen: Oliver St John Gogarty (NY: Oblensky 1963), publ. in UK as Oliver St. John Gogarty: A Poet and His Times (London: Jonathan Cape 1964; 2nd imp. 1964; NEL/Mentor 1967), 286pp., with index; ‘written by permission’.
  • Travels with Ulick, and The Joyce We Knew (1967).
  • Brendan Behan (1970; rep. Abacus 1993), 354pp.
  • A Terrible Beauty is Born: The Irish Troubles 1912-22 (London: Hamish Hamilton 1975; Granada [Panther] 1981), 200pp. [for edns., see infra].
  • Celtic Dawn: A Portrait of the Irish Literary Renaissance (London: Black Swan Books; 1985; rep. edn. Town House 1998), and Do., in USA, as All the Olympians (1998).
  • The Ulick O’Connor Diaries 1970-1981: A Cavalier Irishman: The Ulick O’Connor Diaries 1970-1981, foreword by Richard Ingram (London: John Murray 2001), 320pp.
  • ‘James Joyce and Oliver St. John Gogarty: A Famous Friendship’, in Texas Quarterly, III (Summer 1960), pp.189-210.
  • ‘The Autobiographies of Sean O’Casey’, in Sean McCann, ed., The World of Sean O’Casey [New English Library] (London: Dent 1966), pp.235-39.
  • ‘Yeats and Poetic Drama’, programme notes for James Flannery’s production of Yeats’s Cuchulainn Cycle (Abbey Aug. 1989).
  • Brian Friel - Commitment and Crisis: The Writer and Northern Ireland (Elo Press 1989), 24pp. [pamph. based on Yeats Summer School lecture, August 1987].
  • [contrib. to] Dermot Bolger, ed., Letters from the New Island, 16 on 16: Irish Writers on the Easter Rising (Dublin: Raven Arts Press 1988), pp.20-22.
  • ‘The Literary Renaissance 1880-1904: The New Irishman’, in Blackrock Society: Proceedings 2003, pp.4-15.
  • Sport is My Life (1984); A Critic at Large (1985).
  • introduction to Bobby Sands, Skylark, Sing Your Lonely Song (Cork: Mercier Press 1982).
  • Biographers and the Art of Biography (Dublin: Wolfhound Press 1991), 120pp.
  • The Yeats Companion (London: Pavilion 1990; rep. Mandarin 1991) [incl. biog. port. of Yeats by Frank O’Connor].
  • Irish Tales and Sagas, ill Pauline Bewick [1st edn. 1981] (Dublin: Town House 1993), 96pp.

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Bibliographical Details
The Troubles [edns.]: A Terrible Beauty is Born: The Irish Troubles 1912-22 (London: Hamish Hamilton 1975; Granada [Panther] 1981), 200pp.; and Do. in USA as The Troubles: Ireland, 1912-1922 (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill 1975), ix, 181pp.; Do., rep. as The Troubles: The Struggle for Irish Freedom 1912-1922 (London: Mandarin 1986), and Do. [rep. edn.], as Michael Collins and [the volunteers in] the Struggle for Irish Freedom 1912-1922(Edinburgh: Mainstream 2001), 224pp. , ill. [8pp. pls.]

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see Vincent Browne, interview, Irish Times (8 Sept. 2001) [Weekend]

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John Keyes, review of Trinity of Two (Linen Hall Review, May 10-12 1995), in Fortnight (June 1995), [q.p.]; ‘suggests that, in sacrificing their essential Irishness, Wilde and Carson set themselves up as dupes of the English establishment, wilfully creating the circumstances for their ultimate defeat ... this ‘establishment’, to which the word ‘hypocritical’ is invariably applied, is the villain of the piece, inviting the hisses of the audience.’

Declan Kiberd, review of Poems of the Damned, with others by Heaney, and Patrick Crotty (ed.,), in Tribune Magazine ( 3 Dec. 1995), ‘Books’ [Sect.]: ‘he has hit on the appropriate style, laconic but not bleak, to capture Baudelaire’s elegant desperation.’ (p.21.)]

Toby Barnard, review of Ulick O’Connor, The Ulick O’Connor Diaries, 1970-1981: A Cavalier Irishman (2001), in Times Literary Supplement (17 Aug. 2001), p.26; relates that the diaries deal with responses to Bloody Sunday, with O’Connor as one of the official mournersat St. Eugene’s Cathedral; allegiances to Fianna Fáil espec. Jack Lynch; caustic remarks about Conor Cruise O’Brien; with Trevor West, he explored the possibility of a separate Northern republican hardline with Unionists and nationalists; ‘to a degree inconceivable in Britain, O’Connor combined careers as actor, writer, trouble shooter, television star, athlete and man about town’; those mentioned in the diaries incl. Monk Gbbon, Sean O'’aolain; Edna O’Brien, Noel Coward, Ninette de Valois (‘a cold one’), Waugh and Betjeman (in New York) William Burroughs, Ginsberg, Corso and Orlofsky; Viva of Warhol Blue Movie fame; “Cracky” Clonmore (later Earl of Wicklow); reviewer notes that even reported jokes seem funny, even hilarious; ‘evokes Dublin now largely vanished’; ‘sensitivity extends beyond the built environment … to its setting of mountains and sea’; ‘much more to his world than Ireland’; considers the source diaries a mine for future historical of the politics of late 20th-century Ireland.

There is an obituary notice with photo-ills. at RTE - online (7 Oct. 2019).

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Yeats in thrall: O’Connor calls Maud Gonne and Lady Gregory ‘very different women with one thing in common, both influenced W. B. Yeats causing him to create some of his most poignant, memorable, and truly brilliant poems and plays. (The Yeats Companion, London: Mandarin 1991, p.44.)

Colonial ferret: 'We underestimated the ferret-like grip of a colonial power. The thirteen dead at Derry and the subsequent cover-up by Lord Widgery should have prepared us for the time when a former Master of the Rolls would Uriah Heap-like wash his hands of justice, as Lord Denning did when he declared that in cases such as the Birmingham Six it was better that they should stay in jail, even if they were innocent, than that the English system of justice should be undermined by an admission of error. ... It showed us how England really feels about Ireland - and if we forget that we’re living in a fool’s paradise.’ (p.22.)

Anglo-Irish: ‘The alchemy which makes nation was at work. A new Irishman was coming into existence, neither the Anglo-Irish or Gaelic, but a blend of both races.’ (O’Connor, Gogarty, 1964, p.42).

The Literary Renaissance 1880-1904: The New Irishman’, in Blackrock Society: Proceedings 2003, pp.4-15: ‘In July [sic] 1958, I attended the funeral service of Lennox Robinson, a Director of the Abbey Theatre, Dublin[,] and one of its early successful playwrights. The service was held in St. Patrick s Cahtedral in the eart of Dublin. St. Patrick s is the showplace of the Anglo-Irish, a splendid building with soaring Gothic vaults and a baptismal font in which it is said a Scandanavian king of Dublin was baptised. The service was indistinguishable from the Anglican one. The anthem was Greens “Lord Let Me Know Mine End” and the voices of the choir swirled upwards against the ribbed vaults, in the soaring and receding echo of Anglican chant. / On the walls of the Cathedral hung the flags of regiments who had distinguished themselves in the service of Empire. Beneath were inscribed the names of the many battles in which generations of Anglo-Irish had fought to build up Englands power across the globe. But the voice of the Dean who read the lesson was unmistakably Irish, and so were the faces of those who filled the pews. As the Catholic friends of Lennox Robinson had been prohibited by their Archbishop from taking part in the service, it could fairly be siad that the majority of people there represented were Protestant Irish. But that these were Irish and not English there was no doubt, though the head of their church had been an English queen. [... &c.]’ [Cont.] (pp.6-7.)

The Literary Renaissance 1880-1904 [...]’ (2003) - cont.: ‘Lady Gregory was well enough to come to Dublin at the end of the week and she, Yeats and Synge met together one afternoon at the theatre. One can imagine the three, as they talked in animated fashion about their plans, wandering on and [13] off the stage to savour their new building from the vantage point from which their plays would be presented. They had now a theatre, a company of actors and a group of playwrights. This would be a place where the imagination would have free rein. The theatre could help to fuse the national image so that the people might find an identity. It would be the centre around which a renaissance of writing and poetry could grow up. As they stood on the stage in the gloom of a winter’s afternoon, looking out into the dark of the pit beyond the gleam of the brass rail around the orchestra stalls, and the slender cast iron poles supporting the curve of the balcony, they could not have foreseen the difficulty they would face - the interminable quarrels with the players and managers, near bankruptcies, even riots. But they had a common bond. The class they had come from did not give in easily and had achieved much as organisers and administrators in many countries of the world. They would use these gifts now for the benefit of the people amongst whom their ancestors had come centuries before, to articulate a sunken culture into the literature of the world. [Quotes Yeats: “John Synge, I and Augusta Gregory, thought All that we did, all that we said or sang / Must come from contact with the soil, from that / Contact everything Antaeus-like grew strong. / We three alone in modern times had brought / Everything down to that sole test again.’; pp.13-14; end.)

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Bernard Benstock, ‘On the Nature of Evidence in Ulysses’, in James Joyce: An Joyce International Perspective, ed. Suheil Bushrui & Benstock (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1982), notes that Ulick O’Connor mistakenly identifies the Burtons in the Lestrygonians chapter of Ulysses with the Bailey pub in his short work The Bailey: The Story of a Famous Tavern (Dublin: Bailey 1968) - quoting: ‘James Joyce refers to the Bailey in Ulysses under the name of Burton. He used the Bailey as the locale for the Lestrygonian episode’ (O’Connor, op. cit., p.8; Benstock, p.48.) Vide Ulysses: ‘the Bailey restaurant across the street [...] Dirty eaters, Bloom thought.’ Benstock takes his lead from the topographical directions in Ulysses (viz., ‘turned back towards Grafton street, U170)’ and Hely Thom’s Official Directory, 1904 (p.2068) while pointing out that the Burton restaurant was a separate establishment which had ceased trading in the interim. The error is perpetuated in William Borders, ‘In praise of Ireland’s Giants on a Literary Tour of Dublin’ in New York Times, (Sun. 18 May 1980), Travel Sect. - viz., (NYT, p.22; Benstock, n.6, p.64). Benstock further indicates that Richard M. Kain got it right in Fabulous Voyager (1947, p.273) while William York Tindall got it wrong in A Reader’s Guide to James Joyce (1959, p.172.)