Edmund John Millington Synge Exhibition
A weekend dedicated to JM Synge will take place during Heritage Week in Ashford Community and Heritage Centre from Thursday to Sunday, August 24th – 27th. Exhibition viewing – 10am-6pm.
The weekend will feature an exhibition of images associated with Synge, including photographs that he took during his travels around County Wicklow and an iconic display of Sean Keating’s depiction of scenes from the “Playboy of the Western World ” (below)
Who Is John Millington Synge?
Edmund John Millington Synge (1871–1909) had very strong connections with County Wicklow and in particular with Ashford and Glanmore Castle which was the Synge Ancestral home.
Not only was he a playwright of world renown, he was a folklorist and musician and also a pioneer of photography. On his frequent travels through Ireland he took photographs, especially of rural scenes. He was mainly interested in the people living in the country and the small towns, their work and conditions of life – subjects to be found in his literary work, hence the title of this weekend – “The People of the Glens a Celebration of Synge.”The exhibition is open both days from 10am to 7pm.
The Irish dramatist Edmund John Millington Synge (1871-1909), one of the greatest playwrights of Dublin’s Abbey Theatre, made the folklore and dialect of the Irish peasantry the subject of his plays.
John Millington Synge was born on April 16, 1871, in Rathfarnham, a suburb of Dublin. He was the youngest of the eight children of John Hatch Synge, a lawyer who died when John Millington was an infant, and Kathleen Traill Synge, the daughter of a Protestant clergyman. As a child, Synge showed signs of the tubercular condition that claimed his life at the age of 38.
Synge attended private schools in Dublin and was awarded a bachelor of arts degree by Trinity College in 1892. He then traveled to Germany, intending to study the violin; but after a year of wandering, he joined the diversified group of Irish expatriates then studying in Paris. There Synge lived an almost ascetic life in the midst of bohemian surroundings, a pattern his later life also followed.
Synge’s career took an unexpected turn in 1896, when he was introduced to William Butler Yeats in Paris. The older Irish poet urged Synge to abandon his French studies and to devote himself to a study of his own people and their culture, for which his knowledge of Gaelic had well prepared him. Synge took Yeats’s advice. After intensive research in the remote Aran Islands and in County Wicklow, he presented his first play, The Shadow of the Glen (1903), to the Irish National Theatre. Irish newspapers greeted it as “an insult to every decent woman in Ireland.”
In 1904 Synge became codirector of the Abbey Theatre with Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory. The Abbey produced his classic tragedy of the Aran Islands, Riders to the Sea, in 1904. Synge’s plays met with continued hostility because of their seeming slight to Irish country people. Audiences walked out of The Well of the Saints (1905); The Tinker’s Wedding (1907) has never been produced professionally in Ireland.
Synge’s comic masterpiece, The Playboy of the Western World (1907), caused riots upon its presentation both in Dublin and in the United States. The author once commented mildly on the furor caused by his work, “We shall have to establish a Society for the Preservation of Irish Humor.” His last play, Deirdre of the Sorrows (1909), was produced posthumously; it was found nearly completed in the Dublin nursing home where Synge died on March 24, 1909. He had been nursed in his final illness by Marie O’Neill, a leading actress of the Abbey Theatre, whom he had hoped to marry.