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The Splendid Years – The Memoirs of an Abbey Actress and 1916 Rebel

The Splendid Years – The Memoirs of an Abbey Actress and 1916 Rebel
  • The Splendid Years - The Memoirs of an Abbey Actress and 1916 Rebel


‘What might happen if we lost meant nothing: life or death, freedom or imprisonment, these things did not enter into it at all.’

Maire Nic Shiubhlaigh was a founder actress of the Abbey Theatre and its first leading lady on its opening in 1904, when she played the title role in W. B. Yeats’s Kathleen Ni Houlihan. On that night, five members of her family were acting and working in the theatre. Her beauty and talent captivated audiences and critics at home and abroad. Portrait artists queued up to paint her. Revolutionaries and poets wrote plays for her. The Pearse brothers, A.E., Countess Markievicz, Maud Gonne, J. M. Synge and John B. Yeats counted among her admirers.

The Splendid Years – with a foreword by Padraic Colum – is Maire’s first-hand account of some of the momentous events that shaped Irish history: including the establishment of the Abbey Theatre and her role as leader of the Cumann na mBan ‘girls’ in Jacob’s Biscuit Factory during the Rising. Withdrawn from print just weeks after its initial publication in the 1950s, the story of this remarkable and inspiring Irishwoman is available again, with new and never-before-seen material.

Here we have Pearse imitating Yeats onstage; J. M. Synge rolling cigarettes for his actors; Maire’s aged father printing the War News in 1916; her marriage to Major General Bob Price, and a lost portion of her  story, detailing her childhood in Carlow before her rebellious, Parnellite family were run out of town by the clergy.

Edward Kenny (1927–1999) was a journalist, short story writer, TV and theatre critic, and one of RTÉ TV’s pioneering broadcasters. Raised by his aunt Maire and his actress mother, Gipsy, The Splendid Years was the culmination of a ‘long, long interview’ spanning seven years.

David Kenny is Maire Nic Shiubhlaigh’s grandnephew. He is a journalist, broadcaster, author and songwriter. He has worked in several senior editorial and journalistic roles across the Press and Independent groups, RTÉ, and the Sunday Tribune. His best-selling books include Erindipity: The Irish Miscellany, The Little Buke of Dublin, The Trib, and The Press Gang: Tales from the Glory Days of Irish Newspapers


Maire Nic Shiubhlaigh


C-format, Paperback





Release Date

March 2016

Additional Information

Weight .420 g
Dimensions .215 × .135 × .20 mm


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