The late playwright Brian Friel was always “indebted” to Ballymoney for launching his career as a world-famous dramatist.
Hailed as the “Irish Chekov”, Friel, who passed away earlier this month at the age of 86, was proud of his links with the town, according to North Antrim historian Alex Blair.
“Brian was patron of the Ballymoney Drama Festival from 1998 right up to his death and he was tremendously proud of that role and always kept up a keen interest in the Festival,” Alex told the Times.
“The Enemy Within (1962), which was about St Columba, was put on in Ballymoney Town Hall in 1964 - the first amateur production of the play.
“Edmund Gordon, who was headmaster of Dalriada School, won the prize for Best Producer at the Festival and Stanley McIlwaine won Best Actor and the play moved on to the Opera House where it won the Northern Ireland final.
“Brian was in the audience that night and beforehand he was entertained at a reception in his honour at the Victoria Street home of Don and Maureen Boyle.
“He was always very proud of the fact that Ballymoney was the place that it all really started for him.”
Friel, who gave to the world such greats as Dancing at Lughnasa, ’ Philadelphia Here I Come and The Freedom of the City’ grew up in Derry and attended St. Columb’s College.
His plays have been compared favourably to those of contemporaries such as Samuel Beckett, Arthur Miller, Harold Pinter and Tennessee Williams.
Some of Friel’s other works included the The Gentle Island, The Freedom Of The City, Aristocrats, Faith Healer, Translations, Making History, Molly Sweeney, Give Me Your Answer Do! and The Home Place. He was credited with adaptations of classics by Chekov, Ibsen and Turgenev among others.
He moved to Greencastle in Inishowen in the 1960’s, and it was there the 86-year-old passed away on October 2 surrounded by his loving family.
Among those who attended his funeral were Stephen Rea, John Hume and Fiach MacConghail, director of Dublin’s Abbey Theatre.
Friel is survived by his wife Anne, daughters Mary, Judy and Sally, son David and extended family. He was predeceased by his daughter. Patricia. The curtain first went up on Ballymoney Drama Festival in February 1934 and Friel was one of three patrons, the others being Sir John Gorman and Scott Marshall.