NUI Galway Launch Genevieve Lyons Archive and Digital Collection

Actor Milo O’Shea pictured with Genevieve Lyons in the play ‘The Man Who Came To Dinner’, directed by Hilton Edwards, 1957. Photo: NUI Galway Archives
Oct 13 2020 Posted: 15:56 IST

The Hardiman Library at NUI Galway has launched a new archive belonging to the actress and writer, Genevieve Lyons. The archive documents the career in the theatre in Dublin during the 1940s and 1950s, by one of its most acclaimed and talented performers, Genevieve Lyons and includes a range of photographs, annotated scripts, letters, diaries, press cuttings, and other papers from Lyons’ career on the Dublin stage.

Genevieve Lyons was born in Dublin in 1930. A diary kept by Lyons in the late 1940s and early 1950s offers a personal insight into the emerging career of a young actress as well as being a social record of life in Dublin city at the time. Working in the city, Lyons’ love of the theatre saw her join the Brendan Smith Academy in 1948, where she learned and honed her craft, graduating with a Diploma in Acting in 1950.

Lyons was a central member of the new Globe Theatre Company. Founded in 1954 by Godfrey Quigley and others including Michael O’Herlihy and Dennis Brennan, the Globe was an independent theatre company established in Dublin as “a unique experiment in the Irish theatre”. The company sought to create a space outside of the urban centre of Dublin city for professional theatre.

The first play presented by the Globe Theatre Company was the American funeral parlour comedy, The Biggest Thief in Town by Dalton Trumbo (1954). Based primarily at the Gas Works Theatre in Dun Laoghaire, the company regularly performed on major stages such as the Gate Theatre, the Olympia Theatre, the Gaiety Theatre and were frequently part of the annual Dublin Theatre Festival. The group specialised in international theatre, as well as Irish plays, and premiered many new international works for Irish audiences.

Key performances by Lyons include the role of Marion in the Irish premiere of J.P. Donleavy’s stage adaptation of his novel, The Ginger Man, famously censored and shut down after three performances in 1959; Lydia Lubey in Arthur Miller’s All My Sons at the Gate Theatre, 1954; Christine in Gabriel Marcel’s A Broken World, 1959; and as Sally Bowles in John Van Druton’s I Am a Camera, which was seen by over 15,000 people at the Gas Works Theatre in Dun Laoghaire in 1956.

Lyons married her fellow actor and Globe company member Godfrey Quigley in Autumn 1954. She performed with the company until the 1960s before moving to London. There, while raising her daughter, Lyons taught drama, wrote children’s books and also later wrote over twenty other books and novels. Lyons passed away in London in 2018.

Dr Barry Houlihan, Archivist at NUI Galway, said: “The archive of Genevieve Lyons is a really significant collection. Genevieve was a hugely talented actress who brought so many new roles to life on the Dublin stage, from the Globe Theatre to the Pike Theatre, and to great acclaim. It is wonderful to be able to share this archive online with a global audience and preserve the papers among the vast number of theatre collections of the Hardiman Library.”

Michele McCrillis, daughter of Genevieve Lyons, said: “I grew up captivated by the many stories my mother told me about the productions and actors she worked with in the 1950s.  Going through her photographs, reviews and papers after her death, I was struck by the richness of this history and I am thrilled by the care the Hardiman Library has taken in preserving its place within this important archive of Irish theatre. I know my mother would be truly delighted that these materials will be available to the academic and theatre community.”

A new digital collection from the Genevieve Lyons Archive presents over sixty never seen before photographs from Dublin Theatre in the 1940s and 1950s, from stages such as the Gas Works Theatre in Dun Laoghaire to the famous Pike Theatre on Herbert Lane. The digital collection reveals images now seen for the first time of past stars of Irish stage and screen, including Anew McMaster, Pauline Delaney and Milo O’Shea, as well as key moments from Lyons’ career in the theatre.

John Cox, Librarian at NUI Galway, said: “We are delighted to add this important collection to the Library’s family of theatre archives and are very grateful to receive such a diversity of materials relating to the career of Genevieve Lyons. The digital availability of this collection will enhance its use as a valuable resource both on and beyond the NUI Galway campus.”

Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies, Patrick Lonergan warmly welcomed the opening up of this collection, saying: “Researchers of Irish history and culture will find this collection exceptionally useful and stimulating. Genevieve Lyons’ diaries, photographs, and other materials offer us a fascinating insight into Irish cultural life during the mid-century period – those important decades when the nation became more open to international influences.

“By working with the Gas Works and Pike in particular, Genevieve Lyons played a key role in that process of opening-up, performing in new plays that challenged old orthodoxies. For students of Drama, Literature, Children’s Studies, and History, this resource will be both inspirational and exciting – and for researchers in the same areas it will help us to re-tell the story of Irish cultural history from important new perspectives.”

To access the Genevieve Lyons digital collection, visit: or


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