The majority of our weekly posts relate directly to events surrounding the 1916 Rising. However, we also have the opportunity to delve deeper into the collections and realign the focus to include topics such as 20th century social and living conditions, fallout from the conflict, and significant commemorations etc. This week the attention is on Liam O’Flaherty’s fictional work The informer and more specifically the copy in our collection which belonged to the actor, stage and costume designer, Micheál MacLiammóir.
O’Flaherty joined the 2nd Battalion Irish Guards in 1916 serving in France and Belgium. His experience of warfare didn’t end there however as he was later an active member of the Irish Citizen Army – most notably leading the occupation of the Rotunda Concert Hall in January 1922. He was also a founding member of the Communist Party of Ireland in November 1921. Deemed by the author as detective fiction The informer was first published in 1925. The Manchester guardian (October 1925) refers to the work as ‘sufficiently notable’ and ‘exceptionally promising’. The central theme of the volume is one of temptation leading to betrayal as the protagonist Gypo Nolan reveals the whereabouts of his former comrade Frankie McPhillip to the authorities.
Micheál MacLiammóir’s 1958 edition of the work, given by him to Brian Tobin, a former manager of the Gate Theatre, includes MacLiammóir’s signature and notes for its adaptation to the stage. It is fitting that the Gate Theatre, formed by Hilton Edwards and Micheál MacLiammóir in 1928, is integral to the provenance of the copy as it stands where the Rotunda Concert Hall, which O’Flaherty had occupied, used to be.
Celebrating 30 years of the theatre’s existence, The informer was first performed on 10 November 1958 at the Olympia Theatre and included pantomime star Maureen Potter among its cast. As director and cast member, MacLiammóir drew upon his earlier experiences of the patriotic theme, having performed the role of Pádraig Pearse in his ‘masque’ The ford of the hurdles for Dublin Civic Week in 1929. The same year he also portrayed Robert Emmet in the Gate’s production of Denis Johnston’s bold play The old lady says no!
The annotated copy includes extensive notes in MacLiammóir’s hand on the upper pastedown, upper endpaper and half-title page. It is here he records possible players for the work along with some general notes. Descriptions of potential cast members include ‘good looking, my height’, ‘unknown so far’, ‘28 but can look younger.’
The informer can be consulted in the Department of Early Printed Books and Special Collections.
Early Printed Books and Special Collections