Frank Mc Guinness

Portrait of Frank McGuinness

Frank McGuinness was born in Buncrana on the Inishowen Peninsula in 1953.  He was educated locally going on to study English at University College Dublin.  McGuinness came to prominence as a playwright with an early work, The Factory Girls, using his local knowledge and experience to inform the work. 

He went on to receive international recognition with his WW1 play, Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme. He is renowned for writing new versions of  classics by Ibsen, Chekhov and Euripides.  He wrote the screenplay for the film  of Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa.  In 1984, McGuinness’s first collection of poetry Booterstown was published. 

Frank McGuinness is Professor of Creative Writing  at University College Dublin, a post he has held since 2007. 

Interview with Frank McGuinness

I am a Buncrana man, born there in 1953. My place of birth was 3, Maginn Avenue – known to the town as The Pound Lane.  All the women we knew had their babies at home then - maternity wards were strictly for swanks, and my family did not come into that category.  The house belonged to Lizzie and Johnny O’Donnell, my mother’s parents. At its side was the forge where my grandfather worked as a blacksmith, as did generations of men before him.  That was the family trade.  I come so from a line of expert craftsmen, a fact of which I am very proud and never forget when I am writing.  The shape is the substance, and the substance is the shape.

I return often to my home town.  My brother Shane and myself bought a house some years ago there to share when we go back to the county.  My niece Selena loves Donegal as we do.  Maybe even more so.  Our great sorrow is that our father and mother did not live to see her, but we know how they would approve of her getting to know the shores and streets, the braes and lanes of Buncrana.  Being a natural actress, she can even do a super imitation of the accent, I’m glad to say, and I hope that will stand her in good stead.

Coming from Donegal has also long stood me in good stead.  The place haunts all I write.  Even in the versions of European plays I write, I have felt its presence in the snows of Norway, the passionate heat of Greece, the wilds of Spain and Russia, all transforming themselves into the inexhaustible landscapes and languages of my home territory.  There is no escaping its influence.  The Fort of the Foreigner is how Dun na nGall translates.  A place as lonely as it is welcoming, as strange as it is familiar, as wild as it is peaceful – a place of infinite, inviting contradictions. Come to it, for it is uniquely, marvellously, utterly itself and nowhere else.  This will never change.  There are many reasons to love Donegal.  That is the best.

This article was taken from Issue 9 of the Donegal Community In Touch Ezine, Oct 2010