Abbey Theatre Minute Book 1937 - 1939
1st September 1937
26th May 1939
Sale of Securities.
In view of the necessity for immediately providing the sum of £1500
part purchase money of Whytes premises the Board agreed to the
sale of the following securities:-
£500 4% Conversion Loan, @ 105 3/4
£500 Second National Loan 5% Stock 1950-60, @ 113 7/8
£500 Third National Loan 4 1/2% Stock, 1950-70, @110 1/4.
On the motion of Dr Starkie seconded by Mr O'Connor it was
agreed that the Seal of the Society be affixed to the Power of
Attorney to Messrs Butler and Briscoe, Stock Brokers, authorising
them to effect the sale. The Power of Attorney was then sealed.
An Agreement in Duplicate for the purchase of Messrs Whytes
premises was submitted by Messrs Arthur Cox & Co., Solicitors.
On the motion of Mr O'Connor seconded by Mr Higgins it was
agreed that the Seal of the Society be affixed to both copies
of the Agreement. The Agreement in duplicate was then sealed.
Draft scheme for rebuilding.
As had been agreed at the meeting held on the 18th August, Mr Blythe had
submitted to the Directors a draft scheme embodying the points
which would be discussed with the Minister for Finance when
considering his proposals for the building a theatre block.
An amended version of Mr Blythe's scheme was submitted by
Mr O'Connor [and] after due consideration it was unanimously
agreed that the following scheme for a direction to the
Directors negotiating with the Minister for Finance:-
AT A MEETING OF THE BOARD HELD ON 1ST SEPTEMBER 1937 IT WAS UNANIMOUSLY
AGREED THAT THE FOLLOWING SCHEME BE A DIRECTION TO THE DIRECTORS NEGOTIATING
WITH THE MINISTER FOR FINANCE.
1. We warmly welcome the Minister's suggestion as foreshadowing a large
and more convenient home for the Abbey Theatre, without interference with
its tradition or independence. The concentration of theatrical activity
in one block or in adjoining structures would give an opportunity for
erecting an imposing building and might very slightly improve door receipts;
but unless accompanied by a scheme of central control which would enable
scenery, costumes and other resources to be pooled, facilitate exchange
of actors and programmes, and eliminate all element of competition, it
would not improve appreciably the conditions of dramatic work in Dublin,
and in the opinion of the Abbey Theatre directors would not be advisable.
2. In view of national policy in relation to the Irish language, one
of the functions of the Abbey Theatre as a national theatre should be
the production of plays in Irish, subject to the theatres financial
resources permitting the work to be done in a satisfactory manner.
3. The purchase of Whyte's premises gives the Abbey Theatre a site
which allows of a scheme of reconstruction providing for a second auditorium
of studio size in which plays in Irish might be performed.
4. The best chance of having dramatic work of good quality done in
Irish would be to entrust it to the Abbey Theatre with a special subsidy
for not less than ten years. If this were done Abbey Theatre scenery,
costumes and technical staff could be employed in connection with the
Gaelic stage, saving much expense and ensuring a high standard of production.
Saving could be effected by eliminating overlapping in connection with
advertisement, office staff, advance booking, etc. Moreover, a larger
and more experienced company of actors would be made available for Gaelic
plays, as some of the regular Abbey Company are Irish speakers, and the
players specialising in Gaelic work would have the advantage of frequent
work in the Abbey beside actors whose artistic standards are as high as
are to be found anywhere in the world. The Directors of the Abbey Theatre
would make themselves responsible for the selection and provision of plays
of a standard not less high than that of its own theatre.
5. However, in the event of the Minister being unwilling to make performance
in Irish simply part of the ordinary work of the Abbey, it might be arranged
that the Abbey board could lend its services on agreed terms, and establish
a special Gaelic sub-committee on which there might be two or three
outsiders and to which would be delegated all direct responsibility for
6. A second alternative, would be that the Government as a condition of
any additional grant for plays in Irish should insist, as has already been
done in Galway on the formation of a permanent and responsible board. If
it were arranged that half the members of this board should be drawn from
the Board of the Abbey, co-ordination might be arranged; though not, we
strongly feel, as well as under our suggested scheme.
7. The site now available would not permit of the erection of three
auditoriums. The Board of the Abbey would be reluctant to consider
removal to a new site. To f1nd and acquire one as well situated as
the present might take a good deal of time and if delay took place
the Abbey would be compelled by the Corporation to spend on existing
buildings a sum of approximately £3,500 which would be lost if removal
afterwards took place. If the Minister continues to adhere to the view
that there should be three auditoriums, the practicable course is for
the Government to purchase the premises lying between the present Abbey
Theatre and the river front. This would provide a superb site, and by
arching over the existing laneway and building across the full extent
of the site a theatre adequate to any scheme of expansion and improvement
would be secured.
8. A combined National Theatre scheme should envisage three auditoriums
of differing sizes: The National Theatre proper, seating from 800 to
1,000; a theatre similar in size to the existing Abbey Theatre, and a
studio theatre seating 250 to accommodate the proposed Gaelic theatre
and student organisations. This scheme would allow for an interchange
of programmes; the National Theatre proper taking the more popular bill,
whether Irish, Gaelic or European, always providing that a play by an
Irish dramatist should be on view in one or other of the larger theatres.
i.e. a comedy by George Shiels would naturally be produced in the National
Theatre, a poetic or literary play in the smaller.
9. If the Government should decide to acquire the premises on the quay
and proceed with the above scheme the Abbey Board would contribute the
site of their present theatre, valued at approximately £15,000. on condition
that control of the whole premises should be vested in the Abbey Board
with a specific agreement with the Government as to their use. The
Directorate of the Abbey Theatre could not see their way to facilitate
the opening of another theatre immediately adjacent to their theatre
without a controlling interest in it; as the National Theatre Society is
limited by the terms of its constitution to the production of certain
plays only, and no satisfactory restriction could be devised which would
prevent another theatre from producing plays of a strictly commercial type;
thereby endangering the whole future of the Irish theatre; or from competing
with the Abbey Theatre in regard to its personnel and staff. The Abbey
Theatre would prefer not to join in the proposed scheme of reconstruction
rather than consider a proposal which would imperil its future; but if the
Government would consider handing control over to the Abbey Theatre Board,
the Board would be prepared to undertake the production of European plays,
employing a second producer and scenic designer, say Hilton Edwards and
Michael MacLiammoir, if these would consent.
10. If the scheme for a National Theatre as set out above is not considered
feasible, we suggest that the best next alternative is the creation of two
independent theatres, one for non-Irish work, and the Abbey Theatre with
two auditoriums, for gaelic and Irish plays.
Mr Higgins reported that he had received a contract for the O'Casey
plays which stipulated that one of these plays should
be performed within fourteen days of the opening of the
He had also received a contract from the Agents for
Synge stipulating that The Playboy should be performed
at least once a month.
Mr Higgins stated he was of opinion that the conditions
of the tour did not permit of these stipulations being
accepted. The Board suggested to Mr Higgins that it
might be possible to arrange for special matinee
performances of these plays so as to conform to the
conditions of the contracts.
Mr Higgins also stated that he proposed taking
scripts of "The Lost Leader" "The Man in the Cloak" and
"Invincibles" with a view to producing the plays while
in the U.S.A.
Mr Higgins referred to the proposed Abbey Theatre Festival
to be held during the week before Horse Show, during Horse
Show week and during the week after. He said that if
the details of this festival were available he would
do a lot of advance publicity while in America.
It was agreed that Mr Robinson should draft a scheme
of plays social events and lectures suitable for the
It was agreed that the Players going to America should be
entertained to lunch by the Directors on Thursday 16th September.
School of Acting.
Mr Robinson reported that 42 pupils had been accepted for
the School, 28 women and 14 men, and that probably a few
more would join during the coming week. About seven
applications had been received for the Production Lectures.
The Board sanctioned the letting of the Peacock to Mr Robinson for
private auditions during the week 27/9/37 to 2/x/37 from
8pm to 10 pm.
8th Sept. 1937.
Minutes of a Meeting of the Directors of the National Theatre Society
Limited held at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, at 5 p.m. on Wednesday,
8th September 1937.
Mr W. B. Yeats in the chair, Mr Lennox Robinson, Mr F. R. Higgins
Mr Frank O'Connor.
Annual Statement of Accounts.
The Statement of Accounts for the year ending 28th February 1937 and
the reports of the Directors and of the Auditors to be presented to
the Annual General Meeting of the Society were considered and
The Board then adjourned until the conclusion of the Annual
General Meeting convened for 5.15 p.m. and the meeting of the
Board was resumed after the Annual General Meeting
Mr E. Blythe then took the chair, Mr W. B. Yeats, Dr Walter
Starkie, Mr F. R. Higgins, Mr Frank O'Connor.
The Minutes of the last Meeting were read, confirmed and
Mr Yeats suggested in connection with the following
negotiations with the Minister for Finance that the Board
should accept the Government proposals with a statement
that the Directors must have control.
After some discussion it was agreed that the Directions passed
at the meeting held on the 1st Sept. 1937 should stand, it being
clearly understood that any scheme accepted must provide
for proper control by the Directors.
It was agreed that if required by the Minister for Finance
Mr Blythe should again see him and it was proposed by
Mr Higgins, seconded by Dr Starkie and passed:- "That Mr
Yeats, Mr Blythe and Mr O'Connor be appointed as a negotiating
The Secretary reported that the Bank balance was £710-0-1.
Mr Higgins reported that Mr Shields had been to Liverpool to
inspect the scenery being constructed by Messrs Robinson and
that he considered the work was very good. The total cost would be
£183 for scenery plus £5 for cratage. The Board authorised
payment of £188.
Mr Higgins also reported that a cable had been received from
Schubert giving the order of the opening plays as follows:- Katie
Roche, Plough and the Stars, Sliver Jubilee, Juno, Drama at Inish.
It was decided that Dr Starkie should take the chair at the luncheon
to the Players on the 16th inst. Mr Yeats could not attend as he
would at that date have left Dublin.
Mr Higgins and Mr O'Connor were appointed to consider the
scheme for an Abbey Theatre festival which was being drawn