Tributes paid to playwright and author Fr Forristal


THE LATE Fr Des Forristal’s playwriting career began with a trip to Biafra in 1968, his funeral Mass in Dalkey was told yesterday.

He wrote Black Mans Country. It was sent to Hilton Edwards at the Gate Theatre who invited Fr Forristal to join him and Micheál MacLiammóir for tea at their home, said Fr Dermod McCarthy.

“At the very time their visitor was due, MacLiammóir looked out the window and exclaimed ‘Good God, there’s a priest coming in the gate!’ ‘It’s all right, Michael, I’ll get rid of him!’ said Hilton.

“Despite his long years of acting experience, there was no hiding Hilton’s shock and confusion when Des announced himself! That began a friendship and mutual respect that was to last for decades,” he said.

With plays staged at both the Gate and the Abbey theatres in Dublin, Fr Forristal also wrote an estimated 20 books as well as film and documentary scripts. He was parish priest in Dalkey before the onset of illness and died last Monday in Shankill, Co Dublin.

Fr McCarthy, editor of religious programming at RTÉ until 2009, worked alongside Fr Forristal on the pioneering Radharc documentaries produced for RTÉ.

He recalled how “it was upsetting to visit Des in this last decade and to witness a brilliant mind fade into oblivion . . . the only thought in my mind was summed up in Pádraig Daly’s lovely lines – ‘How can the blank that keeps your features link with the glory that was you’?”

He continued: “Priesthood can be exercised in many ways. Most commonly as pastors, caring for their parish communities. But others are contemplatives, scholars, writers, teachers, administrators, broadcasters or musicians. Des combined every one of those forms of ministry in his 45 years of active life as a priest”.