As an author, playwright and dramatist Brian Friel is widely recognised as one of the greatest contemporary dramatists writing in the English language.
He was born in Tyrone in 1929, his mother Mary McLoone was from Glenties, and his father Patrick, was from Derry. In 1939 his family moved to Derry where he attended St Columb's College in Derry, he received his B. A. from St. Pat's College, Maynooth (1948), and qualified as a teacher at St. Joseph's Training College in Belfast, 1950. In 1960 after 10 years as a teacher he left to pursue a full time writing career. He married Anne Morrison in 1954 and in 1966 moved his young family to Inishowen, finally settling in Greencastle.
His first big success came in 1964 with Philadelphia, Here I Come. Critically acclaimed, it opened the doors of the theater world to Brian Friel and to Ballybeg [the fictional Donegal town based on Glenties, the setting for most of his plays]. It is seen as a turning point for Irish drama and is one of the most important plays of the 1960’s.
Brian Friel went on to write many more original plays, including Lovers (1967); Aristocrats (1979); Faith Healer (1979); Translations (1981); Dancing at Lughnasa (1990); Molly Sweeney (1994). Dancing at Lughnasa (1990) is probably his most successful play; winning three Tony Awards in 1992, including Best Play and was made into a film in 1998 starring Meryl Streep and scripted by Donegal playwright Frank Mc Guinness.
He was appointed to the Irish Seanad in 1987 and in January 2006 he was presented with a gold Torc by President Mary McAleese in recognition of his election as a Saoi by the members of Aosdána for singular and sustained distinction in the arts.
Brian Friel has made an immeasurable contribution to cultural identity. We can easily identify with the dramatic, rugged, landscapes and characters of ‘Ballybeg’. Who we are and where we are from, are inextricably linked. And perhaps it is poignant with the recent re-emergence of immigration to consider that wherever we go in the world that Donegal will always be found between the covers of a Brian Friel play.