Máire Ní Shuibhlaigh

[?-?; née Mary Walker]; actress regarded as the beauty of the early Abbey theatre; resigned when Miss Horniman put the theatre on a salaried basis; later wrote The Splendid Years (1955), a history of the period ghosted by Edward Kenny [DIW].


The Splendid Years: Recollections of M. Nic. Shiubhlaigh, as told to Edward Kenny (Dublin: James Duffy 1955). See also Máire Nic Shiubhlaigh, ‘The Irish National Theatre Society’, in Abbey Theatre: Interviews and Recollections, ed. E. H. Mikhail (London: Macmillan 1988), pp.40-48


Stephen Gwynn, Irish Literature and Drama in the English Language (London: Nelson 1936): ‘Máire ni Shuiblaigh joined a singularly distinguished beauty to a voice admirably adapted by nature to the speaking of verse. Nothing ever replaced her beauty ...’ (p. 177.)

Lennox Robinson, Abbey Theatre (1951): indicates that she was among those who resigned when Miss Horniman proposed to pay salaries in 1905: ‘it turned the Theatre from an enterprise undertaken for love of Ireland and dramatic art into a “commercial” theatre. I was not unnatural that a split should result and [with others] Maire nic Shiubhlaigh resigned.’ (p.47; quoted in W. B. Yeats: A Centenary Exhibition [National Gallery of Ireland] 1965, p.80.)

A. N. Jeffares, W. B. Yeats, A New Biography (London: Hutchinson 1988), p.152, Ní [or Nic] Shuibhlaigh refuses to sign contract; threatened with law suit by Yeats; Nic Shuibhlaigh and others left the Abbey to form Cluithcheoiri n hEireann [the Theatre of Ireland], with Edward Martyn as President and Padraic Colum, James Cousins, Patrick Pearse and Thomas Kettle on the board, May 1906. Stayed in existence till 1916, when the board-member’s interest in the Irish Volunteers precluded it (according to Ní Shuibhlaigh); Russell gave it his blessing and his Deirdre [which Yeats had never liked].

James W. Flannery, Yeats and the Idea of a Theatre (1976, 1989), quotes a passage from the penultimate page of Yeats Autobiographies (Macmillan 1955), substituting ‘Miss V–’ for Ní Shuibhlaigh’s name: ‘I am watching Miss V– [ Nic Shuibhlaigh] to find out if her inanimate movements when on stage come from a lack of experience or if she has them in life. I watched her sinking into a chair the other day to see if her body felt the size and shape of the chair before she reached it. If her body does not so feel she will never be able to act, just as she will never have grace or movement in ordinary life.’ (Autobiographies, p.526; Flannery, p.210.)


Patrick Pearse: Nic Shubhlaigh called Patrick Pearse - without animus or objection - ‘a bit of a poseur’. (The Splendid Years, p.145; quoted in Declan Kiberd, Inventing Ireland, 1995, p.223-24.)

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