Carolyn Swift will be remembered for unique contribution to theatre

Carolyn Swift, writer, director, actress, dance critic and champion of fringe theatre, died in Our Lady's Hospice, Harold's Cross…

Carolyn Swift, writer, director, actress, dance critic and champion of fringe theatre, died in Our Lady's Hospice, Harold's Cross, Dublin, at the weekend following a long illness.

Her death came just two days after Mr Michael D. Higgins, the Galway West TD, urged that she be given a State apology for the way she had suffered in the Rose Tattoo controversy almost half a century ago.

The Pike Theatre in Dublin, which she had founded with her late husband, Alan Simpson, was stormed by gardaí in 1957 because of "objectionable passages" in a production of Tennessee Williams's The Rose Tattoo.

Ms Swift died on Saturday morning, aged 79, having recently helped to write a book with Gerard Whelan about the controversy entitled Spiked: Church-State Intrigue and The Rose Tattoo.

Last Thursday, Mr Higgins called on the Minister for Justice to "express the remorse of the State for the outrageous assault committed by police" when they arrested Ms Swift's husband during a performance of the play, which continued its run in spite of the police raids.

Yesterday, Mr Higgins paid tribute to Ms Swift's "resilience and the breadth of her contribution to theatre". He added: "People who love and respect theatre acknowledge an enormous debt to her."

At the time, the indecency case was never brought to trial and all charges against Mr Simpson were dropped after a year of legal wrangling. However, the couple were not compensated for the ordeal. With playgoers divided over the controversy, the tiny theatre never recovered.

Carolyn Swift was born Carol Samuel in London in 1923 but changed her name when she moved to Dublin to study drama with Anew McMaster's company at the Gate Theatre at the age of 24. While working as an understudy and assistant stage manager at the theatre she met her husband, who was a serving army officer.

She wrote her first play, The Millstone, in 1951. A young Anna Manahan starred in it when the play was first performed in the Town Hall, Dún Laoghaire.

With her husband, she opened the 60-seat Pike Theatre, a former coach-house in Herbert Lane, the following year. Among their production credits were the world première of Brendan Behan's The Quare Fellow and the Irish première of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot.

It was said at the time that if the Abbey showed Ireland to the world and the Gate showed the world to Ireland, the Pike displayed aspects of both Ireland and the world which the other two were unable, or afraid, to show.

When the Pike Theatre closed in 1960, Carolyn Swift worked as a script editor for RTÉ. She wrote more than 100 episodes of the hit children's series Wanderly Wagon for the station. She was also a successful author of children's books and plays.

For three years, she was Ballet Critic of the Sunday Independent. She was Dance Correspondent of this newspaper from 1979 until last year, when she retired on health grounds.

Tomás Mac Anna, who once served with Ms Swift on the board of the Abbey Theatre, remembered her fondly yesterday "for keeping fringe theatre alive during the bad times".

Ms Swift, who donated her body to medical science, is survived by two daughters, Maureen and Deirdre, and a grand-daughter, Lena. A memorial service takes place at 12.30 p.m. on Wednesday in St Bartholomew's Church, Clyde Road, Dublin.