Mary O'Malley (director)

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Mary O'Malley ( née Hickey 1918 Mallow, County Cork – 22 April 2006) was an Irish theatre director, the founder of Belfast's Lyric Players Theatre, now more usually known as the Lyric Theatre, Belfast.


At the age of thirteen, whilst stopping off in Dublin, on the way to begin her first year at Loreto Secondary School, Navan, she attended the Abbey Theatre. Later that year O’Malley would write and direct her first play, The Lost Princess.

After she had finished at Loreto, Mary moved with her mother to live near her brother, Gerard, in Dublin. In her spare time she would attend productions at the Abbey and Peacock theatres and quickly became immersed in Dublin’s social and theatrical scenes, becoming a key member of the New Theatre Group, and joining countless societies such as the Irish Society for Intellectual Freedom.

On 14 September 1947, Mary was married to Pearse O’Malley at University Church, Dublin.

In 1952, she ran for office as Irish Labour Party councillor for Smithfield, the only female in the running. On 21 May, she won.

In 1959, she founded Threshold literary magazine.[1][2]

She started Belfast’s Lyric Players Theatre, in her barn. A self-taught and tireless director, she fought against a tide of cultural populism and indifference, in the north during the 50s, 60s and 70s to pioneer the new theatre.[3] As their repertoire grew, O’Malley felt it necessary to provide a permanent theatre for the company, and in the 60s the Lyric Players Theatre became a non-profit association and in 1968, moved to Ridgeway Street.[4][5]

The date of the official opening was chosen by O'Malley as an homage to US President John F. Kennedy's Amherst address,26 October 1963, in which he affirmed the role of the artist in society.[6]

In 1976, she retired in Wicklow.[7]

Her autobiography, Never Shake Hands with the Devil,was published in 1990.

The Lyric Players Theatre archives are held at NUI Galway.[8]


  1. ^ Frank Shovlin (2003). The Irish literary periodical, 1923-1958. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-926739-2.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-02-20. Retrieved 2009-05-23.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ Ulick O'Connor (7 May 2006). "Mary O'Malley".
  4. ^ Christopher Murray (1997). Twentieth-century Irish drama. Manchester University Press ND. ISBN 978-0-7190-4157-0.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-02-20. Retrieved 2009-05-23.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ Jane Coyle, A Cultural Bridge in a Divided City, Irish Times, 29 October 2018.
  7. ^ Lee Henry. "Mary O'Malley Changed the NI Stage". Audiences of Northern Ireland. Archived from the original on 2012-02-24.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-06-19. Retrieved 2009-05-23.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)

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