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Mícheál Mac Liammóir
(October 25, 1899 - March 6, 1978) Ireland

Mícheál Mac Liammóir

Actor, designer, playwright and brilliant raconteur

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Born Alfred Lee Willmore in Kensal Green, London (though he professed a Cork birth), became a child actor with Herbert Beerbohm Tree's company, appearing with Noël Coward in Peter Pan. He spent two years in Spain, determined to become a painter, and studied at the Slade School, London, then at Willesden Polytechnic School of Art.

After a London debut, he visited Ireland in 1916; returned to Ireland in 1927, joined the Nationalist Gaelic League, and reinvented himself, acquiring a much envied knowledge of Irish and the name by which he became known. In Ireland he met his future partner in theatre and in life, the actor Hilton Edwards (b. 1903).

Mícheál Mac Liammóir & Hilton EdwardsIn 1927 he founded , Taibhdhearc na Gallaimhe, producing his own Diarmuid agus Gráinne. With his life-long lover, fellow-actor Hilton Edwards (see picture), in 1928 co-founded the famous Dublin Gate Theatre, opening with Peer Gynt.

MacLiammoir appeared on Broadway in the 1930's and from the 1950's onwards toured the world in an accalimed one man show The Importance of Being Oscar, based on the life of Oscar Wilde. He followed this in 1963 with I Must Be Talking to My Friends, a show about Irish writers, and lastly with Talking About Yeats, his final one man entertainment.

Mac Liammóir wrote a dozen or so plays, often on patriotic themes, and sometimes wrote in Gaelic. He continued to manage the Gate Theatre with Edwards almost until his death, still appearing on stage even when sight and memory were beginning to fail. Mac Liammóir died in Dublin.

His contributions to gay culture were essentially two: the entertainment The Importance of Being Oscar in which his face curiosly resembled Toulouse-Lautrec's portrait of Wilde, and his dignified, high-profile life with Hilton Edwards, with whom he shared a huge city house: although neither of them lived to see homosexuality decriminalised in Ireland, their funerals were important public events, and the occasion of much genuine affection.

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Source: excerpts from: Aldrich R. & Wotherspoon G., Who's Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History, from WWII to Present Day, Routledge, London, 2001 - et alii

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