A series by Liam Nolan


In 1912 Irish-born England-domiciled playwright George Bernard Shaw wrote a play he called Pygmalion. It was about a working class Cockney flower seller, Eliza Doolittle, who decided that she would have to improve her accent and learn to ‘talk proper’ if she wanted to realise her ambition to work in a florist’s shop. So she turned to a phonetician, Professor Henry Higgins, to improve her accent.


Shaw, a spiky, brilliant, opinionated, contentious character who would be awarded a Nobel Prize for literature, wrote more than 60 plays. They included Saint Joan, Major Barbara, Man and Superman, The Doctor’s Dilemma and the aforesaid Pygmalion.

One afternoon in the 1930s a young Hungarian named Gabriel Pascal was walking on a Mediterranean beach when he encountered Shaw swimming nude and holding on to a buoy. That was Pascal’s story anyway. His wife shed a different perspective on the story after Pascal died.

The young Hungarian had a passion for art and drama, and when Shaw shouted to him to come and join him in the sea, Pascal stripped off and complied. They talked and talked and talked, and Shaw was impressed by what he heard. He told Mr Pascal to come and see him when he was entirely penniless.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own