The Desmond Forristal Archive

Repository: Maynooth University Library

Identity Statement

TitleThe Desmond Forristal Archive
Archive ReferenceIE MU/PP/1
Web Link to this Entry
Creation Dates1824-2001
Extent Medium1667 items


Creator(s): Forristal, Desmond, 1930-2012

  • Administrative History ↴

    Desmond Forristal was known for his work as a scholar, author, playwright, and TV producer. Forristal was born in Dublin on the 25th of September, 1930. He was educated at Belvedere College, and went on to study Philosophy at University College Dublin (1948–1951) and then Theology at Holy Cross College, where he was ordained into the priesthood in 1955. Forristal was awarded a Master of Arts degree in Philosophy from U.C.D. in 1956. He served in several Dublin-based parishes, including Palmerstown, Halston Street, Bray, Iona Road, and Dalkey. In 1969, Forristal was elected to the Dublin Diocesan Council of Priests. Forristal studied film and television in New York in 1959, and on his return to Ireland he assisted Fr. Joseph Dunn in establishing the Radharc Film Unit. Working as a director and scriptwriter, Forristal’s work on Radharc productions brought him to Europe, America, Africa and the Far East. Radharc, consisted of a series of films about Ireland written and presented from a religious perspective. It was an active collaboration between Catholic priests and lay staff, addressing issues such as peace and justice at home and abroad. Forristal’s first play, The True Story of the Horrid Popish Plot, was performed at the Gate Theatre as part of the 1972 Dublin Theatre Festival. A Hilton Edwards production, the historical drama addresses the lives of Oliver Plunkett and seventeenth century perjurer Titus Oates who fabricated a supposed Catholic conspiracy to kill King Charles II. His second play entitled Black Man’s Country was performed in the same theatre in 1974, and was based on the author’s visit to Biafra in Southern Nigeria in 1968 whilst making a documentary about the Civil War. The Seventh Sin, another play, was first performed at the Gate in 1976 and focuses on the election of hermit Peter of Murrone as pope (Celestine V) in the thirteenth century, and his subsequent abdication and death. Forristal’s next production was for television, a play entitled Enquiry at Knock (1979). This play was based on the testimony of witnesses for the evidence of the miraculous appearance of Mary at Knock. Returning to the stage that same year, Forristal’s next dramatic effort was the play Captive Audience, which concerns the relationship between a young girl who is in the Charismatic Movement and her de-programmer. The Crozier and the Crown, a religious drama based on the life of St. Laurence O’Toole, was performed in 1988. Forristal is also known for his literary work. He wrote several books on historical and religious subjects, including Oliver Plunkett (1975), Maximilian of Auschwitz (1982), The Bridge at Lo Wu (1987), The Man in the Middle (1988), The Second Burial of Bishop Shanahan (1990), and Edel Quinn 1907–1944 (1994). In addition, he contributed articles to a number of journals, and was drama critic for ‘The Furrow’, a diocesan magazine, for many years. Forristal retired from the church in 2001 and died in September 2012.
  • Archival History ↴

    The Forristal Archive was donated to the Library, National University of Ireland Maynooth, in 2001 by his brother, the Reverend Ciarán Forristal
  • Immediate Source Acquisition ↴


Content & Structure

  • Scope & Content: Forristal, Desmond, 1930-2012 ↴

    The Forristal Archive provides an intimate view of the life and work of Rev. Desmond Forristal. The documents reflect his involvement in both religious and literary circles, and include correspondence, essays, lectures, audio visual material, scripts, research notebooks, reviews, and photographs.

    This collection reflects Forristal’s great interest in music and drama, and his involvement in a number of parish-based musical performances. These include Frank Ass, a production based on the story of St. Francis of Assisi that was performed in [1977] by Bray Folk Group under Forristal’s direction.

    Other material includes sheet music, programmes, invoices, and music catalogues. The Archive also contains documentation relating to the fiftieth anniversary of the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Dalkey, County Dublin, in 1991, its history and refurbishment. A file of homilies delivered by Forristal over the years address a variety of different subjects, including communism and capitalism, death, Edel Quinn, divorce and women priests.

    The literary material in the Forristal Archive includes scripts, correspondence, research notes, reviews and press coverage relating to Forristal’s work. The Collection contains a significant number of scripts for theatrical productions in draft format, including The True Story of the Horrid Popish Plot (1972), Black Man’s Country (1974), The Seventh Sin (1976), Captive Audience (1979), Inquiry at Knock (1979), Kolbe (1982), and The Crozier and the Crown (1988).

    An insight into Forristal’s involvement with the Radharc Film Unit for over thirty years is also provided by a selection of documents in the collection. Of particular interest is the material relating to the winding down of the company in the 1990s, and the subsequent donation of the Unit’s archive to the Irish Film Archive in Dublin. These documents include a certificate from the 1963 Jacob’s Television Awards for the Radharc series, noting its ‘outstanding contribution to Irish television during the year.’

    A selection of Forristal’s essays and lectures are represented in the collection, and include copies of articles for his Stage and Screen series in the Chronicle which provide a commentary on a wide range of works for cinema, television and theatre. Of particular interest, however is an undated typescript draft of a work of fiction by Forristal, entitled Festival of Earth. This is accompanied by four notebooks containing research notes for the novel.

    The collection also contains photographic prints, negatives and slides relating to family, colleagues, parishioners and friends, and travel. It also includes portraits of Forristal, group portraits, and photographs relating to his literary work.

  • Appraisal Destruction ↴

    Permanent Retention
  • Accruals ↴

    No further accruals expected
  • Arrangement ↴

    The collection is arranged as follows:
    A. Religious Material (1941–2000)
    B. Literary Material (1824–2001)
    C. Photographic Material [1890s–1995]

Conditions of Access & Use

Access Conditions Open to students of Maynooth University and Saint Patrick's College Maynooth. Open to external readers by appointment. Please contact: library.specialcollections@nuim.iePlease see our website for Reading Room opening hours.
Conditions Governing ReproductionNo reproduction allowed
Creation Dates1824-2001
Extent Medium1667 items
Material Language ScriptEnglish
Finding Aids Descriptive list Archive Web Link →

Allied Materials

Related MaterialArchival material relating to the Radharc Film Unit can be located in RTÉ Libraries and Archives, and in the Irish Film Archive at the Irish Film Institute.

Descriptive Control Area

Archivist NoteR Berry
Rules/ConventionsISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description. 2nd ed. Ottawa: International Council on Archives, 2000.National Council on Archives: Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names. Chippenham: National Council on Archives, 1997.
Date of Descriptions2009