Irish Theatre Archive/John Finegan Collection

Repository: Dublin City Archives

Identity Statement

TitleIrish Theatre Archive/John Finegan Collection
Archive ReferenceIE DCLA/ITA/230
Web Link to this Entry
Creation Dates1940s-1980s
Extent Mediumaprox 4,500 analogue photographs


Creator(s): John Finegan

  • Administrative History ↴

    By the time of his death in December 1996, aged 90, John Finegan, had spent well over half a century as one of Ireland’s best known theatre and film critics. He had worked with Independent Newspapers from 1923 to 1971, writing his first review in 1934 and serving as Chief Sub-editor and Assistant Editor with the Evening Herald. After retirement he continued his labour of love until well into his 80s and was credited with having attended at least 3,000 first nights in his lifetime. Revered for his encyclopaedic knowledge of Irish theatre by all associated with that profession he had witnessed early stage appearances of some greats like Edwards and MacLiammóir, Sara Allgood, Cyril Cusack, Barry Fitzgerald, F.J. McCormack and Ria Mooney. He was fondly remembered by Maureen Potter, Rosaleen Linehan and Hugh Leonard for the kindness and sensitivity in his reviews. His published works include a book on Anne Devlin based on her diary and an account of Dublin’s underworld life in Honor Bright and Nighttown. Worth noting also is his article, “Dublin’s Lost Theatres”, in Dublin Historical Record, Vol. 47, No. 1, Diamond Jubilee Issue (Spring, 1994), pp. 95-99, a listing of theatres dating back to the 1600s. He is buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin W6.
  • Archival History ↴

    Bequeathed to the Irish Theatre Archive By John Finegan. Received from his Executor, Mr. Tom McCoy, Oct 2003
  • Immediate Source Acquisition ↴


Content & Structure

  • Scope & Content: John Finegan ↴

    The collection includes 4,019 photographs, mainly of individual actors and production shots produced for publicity purposes. It includes material relating to many national and international plays of all genres held in Ireland during the 1950s-1980s, and all the main Dublin theatres including the Gaiety, Abbey, Gate, Eblana, and Theatre Royal feature frequently. Among the shots are images of Harry Brogan, David Kelly, Donal Donnelly, T.P. McKenna, Norman Rodway, Patrick Bedford, Siobhan McKenna, Milo O’Shea, Vincent Dowling, Angela Newman, Máiréad Ní Dhomhnaill, Jack McGowran, Barry McGovern, Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne, some of whom were cutting their teeth in the theatre. There are even a number relating to productions in the long gone Queen’s Theatre on Pearse Street. Names like Margaret Rutherford, Tyrone Power and John Geilgud crop up in connection with touring plays that premiered at the Olympia in the late 1950s. We also come across Alan Simpson and his involvement with the controversial Pike Theatre of yore. Donal McCann and Peter O’Toole are seen rehearsing Beckett’s Waiting For Godot in 1969. Several photos of Vernon Hayden, Jimmy O’Dea, Jack Cruise, Ursula Doyle and Maureen Potter remind us of the popularity of Dublin’s favourite pantomime stars of the 1950s. Those interested in dramaí as Gaeilge will find quite a few productions put on at the Abbey and the now extant Damer Theatre on St Stephen’s Green. The fields of cinema, opera and ballet are also well represented among the publicity shots

  • Appraisal Destruction ↴

    Permanent Retention
  • Accruals ↴

    There are approximately 500 photographs which are not yet digitised and catalogued. These will be added to once processed
  • Arrangement ↴

    The photographs were mainly sorted alphabetically by name of lead actor featured.

Conditions of Access & Use

Access Conditions Researchers are requested to access digital copies in first instance on Analogue versions are available to view by members of the public who apply for a research card at the Dublin City Library and Archives Reading Room
Conditions Governing ReproductionReproduction is subject to the Dublin City Library and Archives Reading Room ‘Terms of Membership’, and in accordance with copyright legislation. Publication is by permission of the City Archivist.
Creation Dates1940s-1980s
Extent Mediumaprox 4,500 analogue photographs
Material Language ScriptEnglish and Irish
Finding Aids See Item level descriptions have been created for every digitised photographs. Archive Web Link →

Allied Materials

Originals InformationOriginal analogue photographs have been transferred to mylar and archival photo albums and are stored in DCLA Strong Rooms.
Copies InformationDigital copies at
Related MaterialIrish Theatre Archive collections held at Dublin City Archives


NoteEvery effort to record the correct production details, individuals, dates and copyright holders of original material has been made. Corrections or additions to catalogue information most welcome. Please email and quote the identifier: vital reference number.

Descriptive Control Area

Archivist NoteFinola Frawley
Rules/ConventionsDublin Core Metadata Element Set
Date of Descriptions20XX-20XX