A striking bronze bust of Christine Countess of Longford was unveiled last night by the 11elist Jennifer Johnston at the Gate Theatre, Dublin.
The new sculpture joins three other bronze busts in the foyer of the Gate. These represent Micheal MacLiammoir and Hilton Edwards, who founded the Gate in 1928, and Edward, Earl of Longford, Christine’s husband, who supported the Gate when it was on the point of collapse in 1930.
Christine Longford, who died in 1980, wrote more plays performed at the Gate between 1931 and 1961 than any other writer: eighteen of her own and six adapted from other writers. She also co-produced with her husband numerous other plays including works by Aeschylus, Sheridan and Wilde.
Without her diplomatic gifts the Gate might not have existed today. In 1936 the partnership between Michael MacLiammoir and Edward Longford collapsed in acrimony and the company split into two halves: Gate Theatre productions and Longford productions. Christine Longford helped broker a peace deal by which the theatre was shared, each company occupying it for half the year. And for the next 25 years it was she made sure both sides kept the peace.
She was a joint benefactor of the Gate on a huge scale. In 1957 the Gate was threatened with closure by Dublin Corporation because of new fire regulations. To rescue the Gate, Edward and Christine Longford agreed to cash in his life insurance policy – the money that would have paid for her annuity as a widow.Two thirds of her own and Edward’s personal income, nearly half a million pounds in all, was given to support the Gate – millions of euros in today’s money.
The Christine Longford Appeal Committee, chaired by Christine Longford’s nephew, Thomas Pakenham, commissioned the bust by Dublin-based sculptor, Carolyn Mulholland three years ago.
The members of the Christine Longford Appeal Committee are: Thomas Pakenham (chair), John Fairleigh (treasurer), Bruce Arnold, Brian Coyle, Christopher Fitz-Simon, Kathy Gilfillan, Desmond Guinness, Raymond Keaveney, Jennifer Johnston.
Leaflet from the Unveiling of the Bust of Christine Longford
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