Playwright, journalist, teacher and memoirist of Dublin past

Aodhán Madden: November 26th, 1947 - January 1st, 2014

The Dublin playwright, journalist and teacher Aodhán Madden, who has died aged 67, wrote award-winning plays for the stage as well as radio plays, a screenplay, a short story collection, a poetry collection and a memoir entitled Fear and Loathing in Dublin.

In a review of the latter, a former colleague at the Evening Press, John Boland, described Madden as intriguing and possessed of diverse talents. He also commended him for addressing his sexual and psychological problems so frankly in the memoir.

Madden was born on Dublin’s North Circular Road, the third youngest of seven children. His father, Jim, from Old Cabra Road, was a building contractor and his mother, Tess Geaney, from Nenagh, a homemaker. His father had to leave school early because of his own father’s death and he was a voracious reader who imbued his children with a love of books.

Madden attended both primary and secondary school at CBS North Brunswick Street and went on to study journalism at the College of Commerce in Rathmines.


Vanished Dublin

Much of the Dublin he grew up in, which he described in an interview in 2009, no longer exists. The Phoenix Park, with Dublin Zoo, was at the back of their house.

“We grew up listening to the lions roaring for their dinner at four and the sounds of the monkeys. Wednesday was the day of the cattle mart and every week the cattle would go down the North Circular Road. We used to go to the doctors who lived in elegant houses opposite the cattle mart, but when you’d come out, you’d be walking in cow dung.”

He got a position in the Evening Press, where he worked as a sub-editor. There he began to drink heavily. "Drink was part of the scene. You went drinking after work and if you wanted to socialise with your colleagues, you went to the pub." Depression contributed to his problems, as did his homosexuality, which he found difficult to admit to himself.

Father’s care

During his descent into alcoholism his father patiently looked after him. “He made my meals, cleaned up after me, visited me in hospital and tore up the suicide notes I had hidden about the house. And he never complained,” he wrote.

After a decade in and out of St Patrick's Hospital, he conquered his addiction and turned to creative writing. His first play, The Midnight Door, was performed at the Peacock in 1983 and nine further plays followed in the 1980s and 1990s. He won the OZ Whitehead Award for Remember Mauritania (1984) and Private Death of a Queen (1985). Dosshouse Waltz won Dublin Theatre Festival Best Play in 1985.

A reviewer of his Fear and Loathing in Dublin (2009) wrote: "As a record of the intransigent prejudice towards the gay community, which prevailed in the Dublin of the 1970s and 1980s, this memoir gives voice to the concerns of a long-suffering minority."

Aodhán Madden is survived by his sisters Carmel O’Sullivan and Sheelagh Staunton and by his brothers James and Paddy.