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Mairéad Ní Ghráda

Mairéad Ní Ghráda, poet, playwright and broadcaster, was born in Knockadangan, Kilmaley, Co. Clare on 23rd December, 1896. Her father was James O'Grady and her mother was Margaret Greene. Her grandfather, Ristéard O'Grady, had moved to Knockadangan from O'Callaghan's Mills when he was sixteen years old. He had married Anne Galvin from Ballymacooda, Lower Kilmaley. Mairéad's father, a farmer, county councillor and native speaker of Irish, was a strong influence on her life-long commitment to the revival of the Irish language.

Mairéad had an older sister, Bríd or Bridie. Bridie was a primary school teacher and taught at Connolly school for some time.

Mairéad, or Madge as she was usually known, went to Kilmaley national school. When she reached the higher classes it was decided that she should stay at home, with a view to her eventually taking over the running of the farm. Mairéad however had other ideas and her parents were persuaded to enrol her at secondary school. In 1913 she entered the Convent of Mercy school at Ennis. From there she won a County Council scholarship to U.C.D. where she graduated with an Honours Degree in French and English and later got an Honours M.A. in Irish. During her time as a student she won several prizes.

Mairéad took up a teaching post in a private school for a time. She joined Conradh na Gaeilge (the Gaelic League) and Cumann na mBan. She was jailed for a short time in 1921 for selling republican flags on a public street. She became secretary to Ernest Blythe, the Cumann na nGael T.D., in the first Dáil of the new Irish Free State. She was his private secretary in the Department of Trade and Commerce when he was appointed Minister and during the Civil War when he was Minister for Finance.

She married Richard Kissane (Ristéard Ó Ciosáin) in 1923. He was a senior garda officer. They had two sons, Séamus and Brian.

In 1926 Ireland's first radio station 2RN, later known as Radio Eireann, went on air. Mairéad was compiler of children's programmes. Quickly she rose through the ranks of broadcasting becoming the station's principal announcer in 1929. She held this post until 1935 and then worked as part-time announcer.

During this time she wrote scripts for radio drama and stage drama. Her play "Micheál" (1933) won an Abbey Theatre award. In 1935 Micheál MacLiammóir produced another of her plays, "Uacht", at his Gate Theatre in Dublin. She was also involved in text book writing for Padraig Ó Siochrú, (An Seabhac), who was in the Educational Council of Ireland school book section. She was appointed Editor of school books in Brown and Nolan, a post she kept until illness forced her to retire. Even then, she continued to tape work for school books.

It was with her most noted play "An Triail" that she caught the attention of the public. She highlighted some of the harsh truths about Irish society and exposed the hypocrisy of the time. The play is thought to have been based on an incident near her home remembered from her youth: the victimisation of a pregnant young single girl while the man involved escaped condemnation. While some people were shocked at the "filthy immoral" drama others saw it as being ahead of its time. Tomás MacAnna, who produced the play, praised it as the precursor of women's lib. It still ranks with Brendan Behans "An Giall" as the most successful play in the Irish language.

Mairéad Ní Ghráda was a fearless champion of truth and fair play. She died on June 13th , 1971.

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