Sheila O’Kelly remembers one of Ireland’s most respected and talented actors


Joan O’Hara, Irish stage, film and television actress was born in Finisklen, Sligo, on the 11th October, 1930 to Major John Charles O’Hara and his wife Mai. Joan was raised with her sisters, Mary, renowned singer and harpist, Angela (deceased) and her brother, Dermot.

Joan O’Hara was educated at the Ursuline Convent in Sligo. She wrote poetry and was fourteen years old when she wrote a play titled ‘The Demon Piper’ that was staged for the Sligo Feis and she played the lead role in it.

At eighteen years of age, Joan moved to Dublin and lived on Mespil Road. Some time later her parents and family left Sligo and resided in Clontarf, Dublin. Joan was educated at the Abbey School of Acting in Dublin. Her first appearance on stage in the Abbey Theatre was in 1948. The following year she performed in the play ‘War, the Monster’. She performed in many plays in the Abbey Theatre including those of Seán O’Casey, Lady Augusta Gregory and W. B. Yeats.

In 1953, Joan married poet and architect, Francis J. Barry. The couple lived in a flat on St. Stephen’s Green before moving to Monkstown. They had three children, Siobhán, Guy and Sebastian. Over the years, Joan performed in dramas by several playwrights including works by Brian Friel, Marina Carr, Frank McGuinness, Tom Murphy and Tom McIntyre.

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