Tom MacIntyre

1931-2019 [Thomas]; b. Co. Cavan; grew up in Bailieborough, with four siblings; ed. University College Dublin; briefly worked as pharmacist and played Gaelic football for Cavan in 1852 ad 1957; taught at Clongowes Wood College, 1958-65; full time writer since 1965;taught creative writing at University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), and at Williams College, MA; m. Peggy McCarthy, an American, with whom five children - Deidre, Darragh, Donal, Desmond and Tadhg; issued Dance the Dance (1969), short stories; The Charollais (1969), a burlesque novel; Through the Bridewell Gate (1971), dealing with the Arms Trial of 1970; Blood Relations (1972), translation-versions of Irish poetry; worked in Paris with Calck Hook Dance Theatre in the late 1970s; received Arts Council bursary, 1978; visited Inisboffin in 1974 and settled there for four years, with Deborah Hall, a student from Michigan - deserting his family to do so;
issued further fiction in The Harper’s Turn (1982), I Bailed Out (1987); wrote Eye-Winker, Tom Tinker (Peacock, 1972), a play, centres on IRA organiser called Shooks in 1968; Jack Be Nimble (Peacock, 1976), Find the Lady (Peacock, 1977), and Doobally Black Way (London & Paris 1979); dramatised Patrick Kavanagh’s long poem as The Great Hunger (Abbey, 1983), dir. Patrick Mason with Tom Hickey - to be a long-term future collaborator - in the lead, premiered at the Peacock; successfully toured in 1983-86 before returning to the Abbey where a commemorative plaque was placed in the bar in 1988;
wrote The Bearded Lady (Peacock, 1984), on Swift; Rise Up, Lovely Sweeney (Peacock, 1985), a version of middle-Irish ‘Buile Shuibhne’; Dance for Your Daddy (Peacock, 1987); I Bailed Out At Ardee (Peacock, 1987); and Snow White (Peacock, 1988); Kitty O’Shea (Peacock, 1990), naturalistic; publ. new and selected stories, The Word for Yes (1991), and Fleurs de Lit (1991), elected to Aosdána, 1991; poems; contrib. short piece to Krino (Winter 1993) treating facetiously of the widespread desire to ‘become an equestrian statue’; Sheep’s Milk on the Boil (Peacock, 1994);

Good Evening, Mr. Collins (Peacock, 1996) and You Must Tell the Bees (Peacock, 1997), both at the Dublin Festival, the latter with the collaboration of choreographer John Scott and the Irish Modern Dance Theatre; Ag Caint leis an mBanríon (1997), poetry; winner of The Irish Times/ESB Irish Theatre Best New Play Award with The Gallant John Joe (Focus Th.; Skehana Productions [29] Nov.-8 Dec. 2001); returned to stage, March 2002; a soliloquy based on the song about the eponymous Gaelic sportsman, performed by Tom Hickey; issued novel, Story of a Girl (2003); a play, What Happened Bridgie Cleary (Peacock, April 2005), concerning the meeting of Mikey, Bridgie and William Sampson - a former lover - in the afterlife;

issued ABC: New Poems (2006); his papers are lodged in the National Library of Ireland; Only an Apple (2009), a play about an ailing playboy Taoiseach who encounters Queen Elizabeth I and Grace O’Malley in a fantasy-world, with Malcolm Adams as Sheridan (dir. Selina Cartmell); a new play, Only an Apple (Peacock Th., April 2009), concerns a taoiseach visited by the spirits of Queen Victoria, Grace O’Malley and his own deserted wife; his life-work was celebrated at the Abbey Theatre with an evening of stories and play-readings among friends and colleagues; suffered long illness; d. 31 Oct. 2019; survived by Céline (‘adored wife and soulmate’) and his five children by his first wife; a biography by Justin O’Brien is in preparation. DIW DIL OCIL
Obituary notices
  • RTÉ obituary notice by Sinéad Crowley, with theatrical photos (31 Oct. 2019)
  • Irish Post obituary notice by Rachael O’Connor (1 Nov. 2019)
  • Irish Times obituary notice by Martin Doyle (31 Oct 2019)

—Accessed 31.10.2019.

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  • The Great Hunger: Poem into Play (Dublin: Lilliput 1983), 83pp. [after Patrick Kavanagh].
  • The Great Hunger: Poem into Play (Mullingar: Lilliput Press 1988).
  • Good Evening, Mr. Collins, in The Dazzling Dark: New Irish Plays, ed. Frank McGuinness (London: Faber 1996), pp.173-230, with ‘Afterword’, ibid., pp.231-33.
  • “Sheep’s Milk on the Boil”, in New Plays from the Abbey Theatre 1993-1995, ed. Christopher Fitz-simon & Sanford Sternlicht (Syracuse UP 1997), [q.pp.].
  • What Happened Bridgie Cleary [The Abbey Theatre Playscript Series] (Dublin: New Island 2005), 120pp.
  • Only an Apple (Dublin: New Island Press 2009), 100pp.
  • Poppy’s Leavetaking (Dublin: New Island Press 2012), 96pp.

See Peacock/Abbey Plays - infra.

  • Blood Relations: Versions of Gaelic Poems of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (Dublin: New Writers’ Press 1972), 35, [3]pp. [ltd. edn. 500].
  • I Bailed Out At Ardee (Dublin: Dedalus 1987).
  • Fleurs-du-Lit (Dublin: Dedalus 1991).
  • ABC (Dublin: New Island Press 2006), 80pp.
  • Encountering Zoe: New and Selected Poems (Dublin: New Island Press 2010), 214pp.
  • Dance the Dance (London: Faber 1970), 171pp.
  • The Harper’s Turn, intro. by Seamus Heaney (Oldcastle: Gallery 1982), 65pp. [15 pieces].
  • The Word for Yes: New and Selected Stories (Oldcastle: Gallery 1991), 123pp.
  • The Charollais (London: Faber & Faber 1969), 151pp.
  • Story of a Girl (Dublin: Lilliput Press 2003), 160pp.
  • Find the Lady (Dublin: New Island 2008), 171pp.
  • A Glance Will Tell You and A Dream (Dublin: Dedalus 1994), 128pp.
  • Ag Caint leis an mBanríon (Dublin: Coscéim 1997), 54pp.
  • Review of Austin Clarke, The Bright Temptation, in Dublin Magazine (Spring 1966), [q.p.].
  • Through The Bridewell Gate: A Diary of the Dublin Arms Trial (London: Faber & Faber 1971) [reportage of state trial of 1970].
  • short piece in ‘The State of Poetry’ [Special Issue], Krino, Gerald Dawe and Jonathan Williams (Winter 1993), pp.35-36.
  • trans., ‘The Woman on Whom God Laid His Hand’, in Padraic Ó Conaire: 15 Short Stories (Dublin: Poolbeg 1982).
  • Silenus na gCat (Dublin: Coscéim 1999), 47pp.
  • “Slieve Gullion”, in Fortnight (July/Aug. 2003), p.31 [infra].

Tom McIntyre plays at the Peacock & Abbey Theatres (National Theatre)
    • 1972 - Eye-Winker, Tom-Tinker
    • 1976 - Jack Be Nimble
    • 1977 - Find The Lady
    • 1983 - The Great Hunger
    • 1984 - The Bearded Lady
    • 1985 - Rise Up Lovely Sweeney
    • 1987 - Dance for Your Daddy
    • 1988 - Snow White
    • 1990 - Kitty O’Shea
    • 1994 - Sheep's Milk on the Boil
    • 1995 - Good Evening, Mr Collins
    • 1997 - The Chirpaun
    • 1998 - Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire [winner of Stewart Parker Prize]
    • 1999 - Cúirt an Mheán Oíche
    • 2001 - The Gallant John Joe [winner of Irish Times/ESB Irish Theatre Best New Play Award]'
    • 2005 - What Happened Bridgie Cleary
    • 2009 - Only an Apple

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Book-length studies
  • Bernadette Sweeney & Marie Kelly, eds., The Theatre of Tom Mac Intyre: Strays from the Ether (Blackrock: Carysfort Press; USA: Barnes & Noble 2010) [q.pp.; contribs. incl. Catriona Ryan].
  • Catriona Ryan, Border States in the Work of Tom Mac Intyre: A Paleo-postmodern Perspective (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars 2012), 255pp.
Articles, &c.
  • [q.a.], interview, Irish Times (8 Aug. 1972), [q.p.].
  • Patrick Rafroidi, ‘A Question of Inheritance: The Anglo-Irish Tradition’, in Rafroidi & Maurice Harmon, eds., The Irish Novel in Our Time (Université de Lille: 1975-76), p.23 [see extract].
  • Peter Denman, ‘Form and Fiction in the Stories of Tom MacIntyre’, in Études Irlandaises IV (Nov. 1975) [q.p.].
  • Kathryn Holmquist, ‘In the Beginning was ... the Image’, in Theatre Ireland, 6 (1984), pp.150-52; [q.a.], interview, Irish Times (23 Aug. 1988), [q.p.].
  • Deirdre Mulroooney, ‘Tom MacIntyre’s Theatre’, in Theatre Stuff: Critical Essays on Contemporary Irish Theatre, ed. Eamonn Jordan (Blackrock: Carysfort Press 2000), pp.87-93.
  • Fiach MacConghail [interview], in Theatre Talk: Voices of Irish Theatre Practitioners, ed. Lilian Chambers, Ger Fitzgibbon, Eamonn Jordan, et al. (Blackrock: Carysfort Press 2001), pp.308-18.
  • Nuala Ni Domhnaill, review of The Word for Yes, in The Irish Times ([q.d.] 1991), [see extract].
  • Maurice Harmon, review of Story of a Girl, in Books Ireland (Nov. 2003) [see extract].
  • James J. McAuley, ‘Giving image pride of place’, review of ABC: New Poems [with poetry by Kerry Hardie, Paul Perry and Robert Welch], in The Irish Times (16 Dec. 2006), Weekend.
  • Derek Hand, Sharing a wonder of words, review of Find the Lady, in The Irish Times (6 Sept. 2008), Weekend [see extract].
  • Sara Keating, ‘Born with storytelling in his blood’ [interview article], in The Irish Times (25 April 2009), p.9. [see extract]

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‘Half way through Tom MacIntyre’s new play, Rise Up Lovely Sweeney (1985), you think: “This is either great stuff or rubbish.” By the end you begin to feel it is both.’ (Fintan O’Toole; quoted by David Krause in review of Critical Moments On Modern Irish Theatre, ed. Julia Furay & Redmond O’Hanlon, Blackrock: Carysfort Press 2004; in Irish Literary Supplement, Fall 2004 [online; accessed 14.05.2010)

Patrick Rafroidi, ‘A Question of Inheritance: The Anglo-Irish Tradition’, in Rafroidi & Maurice Harmon, eds, The Irish Novel in Our Time, Université de Lille 1975-76, summarising The Charollais writes: ‘the whole rollicking Odyssey of the bull (the ‘Charollais’ of the title) which is rescued from the ship by McGettigan, Wilkinson, and Campbell, the three greatest rogues in the parish of Glenguin; [...] the burlesque public life of the powerful animal in one of whose testicles lies the Lia Fail, Ireland’s long-lost Stone of Destiny; [...] his death through the poisoned hand of Sister Mary circumcision and his Ascension from Maynooth in the presence of the Cardinal and Mr Dee La Veera; remarks on ‘signs that McIntyre grew tired with his protracted joke before he reached the end of it [...] just a brilliant exercise.’ (p.23.)

Patrick Rafroidi, ‘The Irish Short Story in English: The Birth of a New Tradition’, in Terence Brown & Rafroidi, eds., The Irish Short Story, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1979): ‘[...] he unusual “An Aspect of the Rising” by Tom MacIntyre in which the Republican tradition is embodied by a prostitute who, before going about her gainful employment, sotops under the official residece of President de Valera and abuses him as a traitor.’ (p.33.)

Nuala Ni Domhnaill, review of The Word for Yes, in Irish Times ([q.d.] 1991), [q.p.]; brings together five stories from Dance the Dance (1970), nine stories from The Harper’s Turn (1982), and seven new stories - 21 stories in 123pp.; remarks that ‘form and content are perfectly aligned’; ‘‘An Aspect of the Rising’’ deals with de Valera as founding father.

Maurice Harmon, review of Story of a Girl, in Books Ireland (Nov. 2003): straightforward narrative alien to Mac Intyre; method reminiscent of Samuel Beckett; ‘may be said ot be in a questioning mode’; ‘inventive, delight in its linguistic adventures and subtleties, sometimes successful, sometimes less so.’ Also quotes description of grandmother urinating from the tree [… &c.].

James J. McAuley, ‘Giving image pride of place’, review of ABC: New Poems [with poetry by Kerry Hardie, Paul Perry and Robert Welch], in The Irish Times (16 Dec. 2006), Weekend: ‘[...] Tom MacIntyre’s new work [...] tests us with the tension between image and form, and rewards us with his tireless sensual and psychic energy. / He raises language and form above the banalities of current usage, with many archaic allusions to carry us along mysterious streams of consciousness, funny and fearsome by turns - “Get real. Ever read Heraclitus? / Wise Old Bird, he wasn’t far wrong - / The pig delights in filth and dung - / and the slut’s withers are unwrung!” / - in the Joycean manner, attacking the facile surfaces of language to get to where experience and dream conjoin. A delightful, rambunctious, and much too slim volume.’ (See full text, infra.)

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Derek Hand, ‘Sharing the Wonder of Words’ [review of Find the Lady], in The Irish Times (6 Sept. 2008), Weekend, p.11. Find the Lady is Mac Intyre’s latest work of fiction: a compilation of short stories, though the appellation “short story” seems far too explicit. Gnomic ruminations would seem more appropriate, but even such a description fails to finally fix what is offered in this collection. Such elusiveness is an integral element of Mac Intyre’s intention here: the “find” of the title points to the work the reader must expend in order to gain entry into the author’s idiosyncratic imagination. / While there is division between the individual stories and grouping of stories, the collection is held together by a unifying narrator. It is a voice at once quirky and quick, speaking in a language that ranges from the colloquial tones of Cavan to the more austere formalities fitting some of the Greek themes and personages that lurk within the pages. [...] It is the narrator [...] who dominates and controls the proceedings: his playfulness and knowingness generating a kind of dialogue and conflict with himself. His easy access to and acquaintance with all these cultural allusions is an act of supreme possession and ownership. Having the Queen of Sheba or Salome speak with an Irish rural twang breaks down the supposed barriers between traditions and times, showing up the universal similarities that bind people together in a common experience. / At times action, character, and place disappear as a flirtatious linguistic virtuosity comes to the fore. Words are the magic elements of literary creation and undoubtedly Mac Intyre wants us to share his awareness of their wonder [...] The danger, however, is that so deliberately inscrutable is Mac Intyre’s method that this joke’s contours remain largely impenetrable for the reader. We might laugh, but we’re not sure at what we laugh, and a vague and uneasy sense lingers that the joke might just be on us.’ (For full text, see RICORSO, Library, “Criticism Reviews”, via index or direct.)

Sara Keating, ‘Born with storytelling in his blood’ [interview article], in The Irish Times (25 April 2009), p.9 - quotes Mac Intyre: ‘“There are two kinds of writing,” he continues, by means of illustration. “There’s front-of-the-head writing, where it’s just here and now. But then there’s the writing which has a door open to another place, where wonderful, beautiful, dangerous things happen; where you are taking your cue from the creak in the door that goes between the two worlds. But to get access to that zone, to the unconcious – well, gold, as they say, is the price you pay. You don’t get access to it without giving away everything, and what I mean is this: you know the one thing that you are loath to give away – some connection, maybe, like your love of the collective; that you always want to be marching the same side of the street as everybody else. Well, if you want to be a great storyteller, you should try the other side of the street, and look out for trouble, a lot of trouble. Bear in mind you’re taking your life in your hands, because there’s nothing more dangerous in terms of the personal choices that you will make.” / At my peril, I ask him to be more specific, my literalness an affront to his mystical musings, I fear. “Look, put it this way,” he explains impatiently, “the storyteller’s deference to the unconscious is that everything you write comes from a dream. It’s like a constant conversation in the dusk with your shadow. With powerful presences, yes. But above all with a woman. Our literature is full of that woman – she’s the aisling, the spéirbhean. You will meet her in your dreams and you must tend to her with devotion, but you don’t go there without someone holding your hand, someone who has some sense of the weather. And it is difficult to get there. [...; &c.]’ (For full text, see RICORSO, Library, “Criticism Reviews”, via index or direct.)

The Irish Times [unnamed]: ‘[...] The Gallant John-Joe is, at one level, a recognisable literary text. There is a strong central character, the old Cavan widower John-Joe Concannon. There is a vivid plot, concerning the mysterious pregnancy of Jacinta, John-Joe's teenage daughter, and the suspected fathers that haunt his obsessive imagination. There is a strong sense of locality, bound together by the mythic presence of John-Joe O'Reilly, the great Cavan footballer of the 1940s. / Much more than any of this, though, the play is a skein of words. Leaving behind the increasingly problematic Hickey-MacIntyre collaborations after the triumph of The Great Hunger, in the 1980s, it gives full rein to the exuberance of MacIntyre’s prose. John-Joe's baroque monologue is a torrent of mumblings and malapropisms, of mediaeval dialect and pop slang, of yearning tenderness and murderous xenophobic rantings. [...] It is a performance of rare virtuosity, in which there is not a hair's breadth between author, actor and text. Though the play is an act of mourning for the individuality lost in a blander Ireland, it is itself a fierce vindication of a lingering uniqueness.’ (The Irish Times, 29 Nov. 2001 - online; accessed 31.10.2019.)

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‘‘Yellow Bittern’’ (trans. of poem by Cathal Bui Mac Giolla Gunna): ‘Heron, blackbird, thrush, you’ve had it too; / sorry, mates, I’m occupied, / I’m blinds down for the Yellow Bittern, / a blood relation on the mother’s side; / whole-hog merchants, we lived it up, / carp’d our diem, hung out our sign, / collared life’s bottle disregarding the label, / angled our elbows met under the table ...’ (Penguin Book of Contemporary Irish Poetry.)

Slieve Gullion” [beginning:] ‘You’ve reached the summit, there’ s / the lake all the talk was about, / slap on top, an eye, it stares back / at you - “Hello” - innocent. // The fawn, seems, led Fionn tip here, / into the lake - her scut’’s a wand – / hero emerges “three days later”, / mop matt white that was blonde [...] Bats delineate the garden. / Good to get out now and again, / consult augurers, their finial claim / and Gullion, wet snout of Gullion, / Recommend you to all my, children.’ (End; a poem of 21 quatrains in Fortnight, July/Aug. 2003, p.31; for full text, see infra.)

So There Now”: ‘I know the temptation / to kiss the lost ball. / I am - after a fashion - / the lst ball. I’ve had / too much of the rough.’ (Quoted in Nuala Ní Chonchúir, review of ABC: New Poems, in The Irish Book Review, Summer 2006, p.38.)

Reviewing Clarke: ‘This is a beautiful book. It is tender, witty, savage, sad, technically the author’s control of his material is complete [...] published in 1932. Read it, brood on it, look down the 1966 road - and tell me, friend, if you heart is not badly shaken.’ (Review of Austin Clarke, The Bright Temptation, in Dublin Magazine, Spring 1966, p.83).

Interview: ‘There is a lot of me in Shooks, the indecisive revolutionary of my play, and there is a lot of Shooks in every Irishman’, and went on to say that for him revolution is, in part, ‘controlling the demons one finds in one’s own psyche’. (Quoted by Christopher Murray, in Oxford Companion [editorial documents.]

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Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, gen. ed. (Derry: Field Day 1991), contains one citation, viz., a translation of ‘‘An Bhean ar Leag Dia Lámh Uirthi’’ by Mac Intyre in Stories of Pádraic Ó Conaire (Poolbeg 1982) in FDA, Vol. 3. Note that Nuala Ni Domhnaill review of The Word for Yes (1991) in The Irish Times [as supra] particularly lamented the omission of MacIntyre from anthology. (See Brian Arkins, review of FDA, in Irish Literary Supplement, Fall 1992.)

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Paul Durcan: In Durcan’s poem “What Shall I Wear, Darling, to the Great Hunger” (Going Home to Russia, 1987, p.23) - the Great Hunger refers to MacIntyre’s 1983 stage-adaptation of Patrick Kavanagh’s poem of that title (The Great Hunger, 1942).

Dedications: Sydney Bernard Smith’s poetry collection Girl with Violin (Dublin: Dolmen 1968), is dedicated to MacIntyre, while Derek Mahon dedicates ‘‘In the Aran Islands” [“Aran” in Coll. Poems, 1999] and ‘‘The Last Dane’’, both in Lives (1972), to Tom and Peggy Mac Intyre.

Family lore

[Travelling to Inisbofin in 1974, MacIntyre] was not alone. He was accompanied by a lover. Deborah Tall, 20 years his junior, had been swept from the Ann Harbor campus of the University of Michigan in the mid-western United States by MacIntyre.

Then a visiting lecturer, MacIntyre was already a charismatic force of nature. As Tall put it in her memoir of the affair, nothing prepared her for “the power of his presence in a room . . . Listening to him in class was more like watching a one-man show, the script of which got written on the spot.”

The script involved convincing the student to return with him to Ireland and to a life on an island neither were prepared for, particularly the neophyte poetess. When once asked by Tall why he had left his family and whether it was fair to do so, MacIntyre replied: “there’s no fairness in the world”.


Her memoir, Island of the White Cow, depicted an island at war with itself. It was a metaphor for the progressive breakdown of her own relationship. Caught up in petty enmity, secrets based on truths and misdirection, her book is informed by jealousy and rage: revenge on her mentor and the island that gave him what she knew he desired: “The capacity to live like a vagabond, at the edge of society, like the early Irish bard who earned his way by his songs, camping on the doorsteps of those that denied him. God help those that did. He made it sound obvious, inevitable.”

—See Justin O’Brien, ‘Writer who spoke ... from island off west of Ireland’, in The Irish Times (31 Oct. 2019) - online; accessed 31.10.2019.

Don Gifford: In a footnote to his preface to the revised edition of Joyce Annotated (California UP 1982), Donald Gifford attributes the phrase ‘the fearfully potent image of the excommunicated or silenced priest’ to ‘Tom MacIntyre, Irish man of letters, in conversation, September 1977.’ (p.xviii.)

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