30 March marks the birthday of Irish playwright and memoirist, Sean O’Casey. O’Casey was the first Irish playwright of note to focus his work on the themes of the Dublin working class.
O’Casey’s father died when Sean was just six years of age, leaving a family of thirteen. The family moved from house to house around north Dublin. As a child, he suffered from poor eyesight, which interfered somewhat with his early education, but O’Casey taught himself to read and write by the age of thirteen.
He left school at fourteen and worked at a variety of jobs, including a nine-year period as a railway man. In 1917, his friend Thomas Ashe died in a hunger strike and it inspired him to write. He wrote two laments: one in verse and a longer one in prose. He spent the next five years writing plays.
O’Casey’s first accepted play, ‘The Shadow of a Gunman’, was performed at the Abbey Theatre in 1923. The play deals with the impact of revolutionary politics on Dublin’s slums and their inhabitants, and is understood to be set in Mountjoy Square, where O’Casey lived during the 1916 Easter Rising.
The works of Sean O’Casey are available to the University Staff through the campus libraries, which are accessible to them through the use of their WisCard ID.