Removal service held for writer Hugh Leonard


A removal service for the late writer Hugh Leonard has taken place this evening in his native Dalkey, Co Dublin.

Leonard died on Wednesday, aged 82. He had been seriously ill for the past month.

He is survived by his wife Kathy and his daughter Danielle. His first wife Paule died in 2000.

“A Dalkey monument has passed from among us. Like the people in the Gospel story we are gathered with Kathy and Danielle, with memories too of his beloved Paule, to share grief, offer support, and to ask the Lord to bring Jack into the promised joy of new life in the kingdom of God, said Fr John McDonagh,” at the removal service at the Church of the Assumption in Dalkey this evening.

Amongst the attendance were playwrights Frank McGuinness and Bernard Farrell, theatre directors Garry Hynes and Patrick Mason, poet Micheál O’Siadhail, RTÉ producer Seamus Hosey, film producer Lelia Doolan, writer Ronan Farren, actors Ingrid Craigie, Barry McGovern and Irish Timestheatre critic Gerry Colgan.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen was represented by his aide de camp Cmdt Michael Treacy.

Known to his friends as Jack, the writer was born John Keyes Byrne in 1926. He was raised by adoptive parents in Dalkey and after school worked at the Land Commission, an experience from which he drew much humour in his autobiography in later years.

Leonard was also active in the dramatic society during his time as a civil servant.

When the Abbey Theatre rejected his play The Italian Roadin 1954, he took the name of its hero and submitted another play, The Big Birthday, which the Abbey staged in 1956. He was a prolific writer of plays, essays, journalism and autobiography. Among his plays are A Leap in the Dark(1957), The Poker Session(1964), Mick and Mick(1966), The Patrick Pearse Motel(1971), The Au Pair Man(1974) and A Life(1980). His most successful play, Da(1973), ran for 20 months and 697 performances on Broadway, earning him a Tony Award; it was made into a film in 1988, starring Martin Sheen and Barnard Hughes.

The funeral Mass takes place at 10am at the Church of the Assumption on Monday.