Michael Collins was quite an avid theatre-goer and a great supporter of The Abbey and its works. George Bernard Shaw was one of his favourite playwrights and the two men met shortly before Collins’ untimely death in the Béal na Bláth ambush, writes ALISON MARTIN
Over the years, various books and articles have been written about Michael Collins. It is not widely known, however, that Collins was an avid theatre-goer, who even risked capture during the War of Independence in order to attend performances at the Abbey Theatre.
Arguably, Collins interest in theatre can be traced back to the ten years that he had spent in London between 1906 and 1916. At the age of fifteen, Collins moved to London to take up a job in the Post Office Savings Bank. For the next nine and a half years, the young Collins lived with his older sister Hannie, who was herself an avid theatre goer.
Under Hannie’s influence, the young Collins developed a love for theatre and regularly attended the latest plays. The Royal Court, known at the time as the Court in Sloane Square, was Michael and Hannie’s favourite London theatre.
This particular theatre was well-known for hosting plays by Irish writers, which may explain its appeal to Michael and Hannie. The young Collins, however, was also a regular visitor to the Coronet Theatre, which was within walking distance of the Notting Hill home they had moved to in 1913.
According to Hannie’s later recollections, when the Manchester Repertory Company – of which Collins was a great supporter – came to town, he was often to be found in the gallery.