Remembering Darragh O'Connell

April 23, 2018

The unexpected announcement of Darragh’s death and funeral in Spain has touched us all with great sadness, all the more because there was no opportunity for his former friends, colleagues and students to come together to mourn him as we would have liked. No doubt a suitable memorial to mark his passing will be arranged in the near future.

   Some of his former students have already written of their unbounded admiration and respect for his talents as teacher and artist and their great affection for the man. A few whose work is well known both in Ireland and abroad have spoken of his guidance and interest in them as essential to their artistic creativity.  In turn, he took immense pride in the variety and excellence of the work produced by the art department which he did so much to develop.

   Every September for almost thirty years I would sit down with Darragh and his carefully-chosen stage-crew to plan the settings for the Sixth Year play. Subsequently others would do the same.

   The choice of play was always mine, with scant thought for the demands it would make on the artistic director – a British man-o’-war with upper and lower decks; the ruins of a World War I battefield;  an imperial palace in Vienna, an Inca temple in Peru or a courtroom during the Salem witch trials. To Darragh, such demands simply presented an opportunity for his team to match problem-solving to creativity  - the very essence of education, in his view.

   Waiting for the final set to materialise could be a nerve-wracking, such was Darragh’s demand for meticulous detail.  By first night, however, came the reassurance that any other weaknesses in the production would be masked, or forgiven, by the magic of Darragh and his team’s creation.

   Darragh was passionate about art. It is of the nature of teaching that not all his students shared his passion, which on occasion caused him great stress.   At such times he relied on the support of his colleagues, most particularly his fellow art-teacher Siobhan Keogh.  More important still was the support of his sister Eibhear’s family in Spain and his two nephews on whom he doted and who brought him great pride. To them we offer our heartfelt sympathy at his far too early death.

   Michael Bevan

 

In recognition of his extraordinary creativity in design, a selection of images of his settings for Sixth Year plays can be found in the Archive section of the college website.

 

Further memories and reflections can be sent either to the Union or to mbevan@gonzaga.ie

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