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Mural commemorating the life and work of George Fitzmaurice which can be seen on the wall in the Church Car Park(Abbeyfeale side).. ©J.Lynch Plaque in the O Connor Family plot remembering the Fitzmaurice Family in Springmount Cemetery,Duagh , North Kerry .. ©J.Lynch The Dandy Dolls: Drawing by Norah McGuinness. ©Lorraine Roche

George Fitzmaurice (1877-1963) Playwright

George Fitzmaurice of Kilcara, Duagh was born at Bedford House near Listowel on January 28th 1877. He was the son of a clergyman, and the tenth of twelve children. George’s father was the local Church of Ireland parson in Listowel. His mother was Winfred O Connor of Duagh, a Catholic. As happened in many mixed marriages of the time, the boys in the Fitzmaurice family were brought up in the religion of the father, and the girls in that of their mother.

George Fitzmaurice belonged to the gentry. He came from a family, which in Burke’s “Landed Irish Gentry” can be traced to the fourteenth century. The combination of being Protestant, belonging to the gentry and living in a Great House( as Fitzgerald himself put it in his play “ the Moonlighter”) all served effectively to separate young George from a social life in the community.

After George’s birth the Fitzmaurice family moved to Springmount House at Duagh. Later, the family moved again to their lands at Kilcara, Duagh. Where they remained until the last member of the family died. Following the death of George’s father, the Fitzgerald family gradually became poorer. This is believed to account for his shy manner.

George attended the local Primary school in Duagh and went to St.Michael’s College in Listowel. This contact with the local people was of invaluable assistance to him in his delineation of the characters who would populate his plays.

About 1901 George went to Dublin and took a job with the Land Commission. His first play, The Country Dressmaker based on a local dressmaker from Duagh was a success and attracted comparisons with Synge and Lady Gregory when it appeared at the Abbey in 1907. His originality was confirmed with The Pie-Dish (1908) and The Magic Glasses (1913), plays combining peasant realism, satire, symbolism, and fantasy.

Between 1908 and 1913 George was on sick leave and spent most of his time with his family in Duagh. As a person, George Fitzmaurice was an introverted and almost pathologically shy man. As he got older, he became more withdrawn and eccentric.

In spite of his illness and shyness, George Fitzmaurice continued to write plays and stories based on his native place. He wrote The Dandy Dolls which was rejected by W. B. Yeats in 1913 but published in Five Plays (1914), which also includes The Moonlighters, a melodrama written with John Guinan. Only one more of his plays reached the Abbey stage, 'Twixt the Giltinans and the Carmodys (1923). He also wrote The Waves of the Sea and in 1936 The Green Stone. Other works included  The Linnaun Shee and the Enchanted Land.

Gradually George become more introverted and less interested in writing, particularly as old age overtook him. He died late on Sunday, May 12th 1963, in a rented upstairs room in No.3 Harcourt Street, Dublin. He was aged 86 years.

Howard K. Slaughter in his book “George Fitzmaurice and his Enchanted Land” had the following to say of Fitzmaurice “ In Fitzmaurice’s room were no pictures of himself, few personal mementos, but he did have a copy of almost every play he had published, as well as the few in draft forms no one knew of. Besides his personal clothing, there was little else. He died without leaving a will. There were stories about him in the paper, but none had a picture of him. Nor is there a photograph of him in the Abbey scrapbook,” He was the last of the Fitzmaurice’s of Duagh. His seven sisters and four brothers had predeceased him. They also, like him were unmarried.

Duagh can be proud to claim George Fitzmaurice as one of her own, claim him also as one of the great North Kerry Writers. Duagh can be equally proud of the fact that he used his knowledge and experience of the local people and their traditions as an inspiration for his writings. In recognition of his abilities and his importance as a national play writer, the people of Duagh have created “The George Fitzmaurice Library” at their centre in Duagh. On October 14th 1995, a headstone, carved by a local sculptor and commissioned by the Duagh Historical Society, was placed over George Fitzmaurice’s grave in Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin. His grave, which had lain unmarked for thirty years, was given its due recognition at last.

 

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