Playwright Brian Friel laid to rest in village which inspired works


Renowned playwright Brian Friel has been laid to rest in the village said to be the inspiration for some of his most acclaimed works.

Hundreds of family, friends, actors and other theatre professionals gathered in a graveyard overlooking Glenties near the Blue Stack Mountains in Co Donegal to bid farewell to the writer.

The dramatic landscape of the area, where his mother Mary McLoone was born and worked as the postmistress, stuck with him from childhood holidays.

The family had asked for privacy at the playwright's home in Greencastle in north Donegal following his death on Friday aged 86.

Friel, whose popular successes included Dancing at Lughnasa, which was adapted for a film starring Meryl Streep, and Philadelphia, Here I Come!, has since been remembered as a giant of world theatre.

Among those who joined family in the graveyard was actor Stephen Rea, who co-founded the Field Day Theatre Company with Friel in 1980.

Their ground-breaking first production was Friel's play Translations, the premiere of which took place at Derry's Guildhall in 1980 and which was awarded the Ewart-Biggs Peace Prize.

Others at the graveside included former SDLP leader and Nobel peace prize winner John Hume, who spent time talking to Friel's widow Anne.

The playwright's picturesque resting place is on a hillside graveyard overlooking one of the two glens which run out of the Bluestacks around Glenties. 

He was buried in a coffin woven from wicker.

Small bunches of the Montbretia wildflower, its vivid bloom common on roadsides during summers in the west of Ireland, were placed around it as prayers were offered.

In 1981, Friel wrote that the west Donegal village "occupies a large portion of my affections and permanently shaped my imagination".

Those who knew him and his work best remarked that it was one of the rare occasions the playwright spoke publicly about his love for the area.

He was also quoted as proclaiming the restored section of the former County Donegal Railway by Lough Finn as "a unique journey along the shores of a lake as grand as any in Switzerland or Minnesota".

Friel was never taken to self-publicity and shunned the media, to the extent that even when being celebrated with a bronze plaque with his handprints outside the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin, he reluctantly welcomed it saying: "I don't know what the word is, exciting, it's very interesting."

He was born in Killyclogher, near Omagh, Co Tyrone, in 1929 and moved to Derry with his family at the age of 10.

Friel settled in Greencastle in the 1960s after giving up teaching to pursue his ambition of a life in the literary world.

He was educated at St Columb's College in Derry - also the alma mater of poet Seamus Heaney and Hume.

Some of Friel's other works included the The Gentle Island, The Freedom Of The City, Aristocrats, Faith Healer, Translations, Making History, Molly Sweeney, Give Me Your Answer Do! and The Home Place. He was credited with adaptations of classics by Chekov, Ibsen and Turgenev among others.

A production of Dancing At Lughnasa is due to begin at the Dublin Theatre Festival this week and comes just weeks after the inaugural Lughnasa International Friel Festival, a new annual cross-border event.

Friel also served as a senator in the Irish parliament and his portrait was displayed in Ireland's National Gallery.