By Gerry Breen
February 2021 marked the 60th anniversary of the death of Edward Pakenham, the sixth Earl of Longford, an Irish peer, politician and playwright, who devoted much of his life to the patronage of Irish theatre and culture.
Edward Arthur Henry Pakenham, to give him his full name, was born on 29th December, 1902, and he succeeded to the earldom when his father was killed in action at the Battle of Gallipoli on 21st August, 1915.
Lord Longford was educated at Eton College and Oxford University. He was a brilliant classical scholar and an excellent linguist. While he was at Eton, he became interested in Irish nationalism. He was inspired by the Easter Rising of 1916 and the Russian Revolution of 1917. He learned Irish and adopted the name of Eamon de Longphort. Not surprisingly, his political views didn’t endear him to his fellow students at Eton and Oxford.
Lord Longford met his future wife, Christine Patti Trew, while he was at Oxford, and they were married on 18th July, 1925. They had a mutual interest in the theatre, and after their marriage, Oxford scholar Christine came with him to Ireland and adopted Ireland as her country. She became a notable figure in Irish theatrical life.
Lord Longford had several volumes of poetry published while he was still at Eton, but poetry was to take a back seat to his other literary and theatrical interests. Having completed his M.A. in 1928, he joined Micheal MacLiammoir and Hilton Edwards on the board of their recently established Gate Theatre in Dublin in 1930.