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Friel, Brian

Brian Friel was born in County Tyrone in Northern Ireland in 1929. With his family he moved to Derry at the age of 10 and attended secondary school in the city. Here he experienced at first hand aspects of the sectarian divide between Catholic and Protestant communities which played such an important part in the life of the province. He later taught in various schools in the area before becoming a full-time writer. He wrote a number of plays which have received both critical and popular acclaim, with productions mounted in Ireland, London and New York. Among the most successful are Philadelphia, Here I Come! (1964), The Faith Healer (1979), Translations (1981), Making History (1988) and Dancing at Lughnasa (1990). In addition, he translated plays by Turgenev and Chekhov. In 1980 he co-founded, along with the actor Stephen Rea, the Field Day Theatre Company, through which they aimed to produce plays and writing relevant to the Ireland which was emerging in the late twentieth century. He was awarded honorary degrees from a number of universities and was a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He lived in County Donegal in the Irish Republic until his death in 2015, and the area was the setting for a number of his plays.
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Brian Friel was born in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.

Moved to Derry

Aged 10, he moved with his family to Derry (or Londonderry), also in Northern Ireland.


Friel received his BA from St Patrick’s College, Maynooth.

Qualified as a teacher

He studied at St Joseph’s Training College, Belfast.

Worked as a teacher

Friel taught primary and secondary Maths in Derry.


He and his wife, Anne Morrison, went on to have four daughters and one son.

Became a full-time writer

Friel left teaching to become a writer after The New Yorker published a series of his short stories.

Philadelphia, Here I Come! published

This was his second play to be published, but he had also written four unpublished works by this time.
late 1960s

Moved to County Donegal

The Friels went to live in the Republic of Ireland.

Co-founded the Field Day Theatre Company

The company aimed to produce plays and writing relevant to the Ireland which was emerging in the late twentieth century.

Translations published

It was the first play that the Field Day Theatre Company produced.

Nominated to the Irish Senate

He remained a member of the Senate for two years.

Dancing at Lughnasa published

The play won a Laurence Olivier Award in 1991 and a Tony Award in 1992.

Dancing at Lughnasa made into a film

The film adaptation stars Meryl Streep as Kate Mundy.

Watch the trailer to the film


Awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award

The award was given to him by The Irish Times.


Friel died on 2nd October in County Donegal, aged 86.