Mary O’Malley (1918 - 2006) was an Irish theatre director who along with her husband, Pearse, co-founded the eminent Belfast Lyric Players Theatre, today known as the Lyric Theatre, which has remained the only full-time producing theatre in Northern Ireland. During her lifetime, Mary was a pioneering figure in the Northern Irish arts and cultural scene and passionately championed existing and upcoming talent for more than fifty years. Over the decades, she helped launch and foster the careers of numerous acclaimed playwrights, poets, and actors. Born in 1918 in County Cork, Mary O’Malley (née Hickey) moved to Belfast in 1947 after completing her education at University College Galway. Whilst in Belfast, she co-founded the seminal Belfast Lyric Players Theatre in 1951 (today the Lyric Theatre). In its formative years, the theatre staged amateur drama productions in Mary and Pearse’s own home in South Belfast. It was during this period that Mary also became actively involved in politics and, in 1952, was elected as councillor for the Irish Labour Party where she used her platform to further the rights of women, and the disenfranchised. By the early 1960s, she became more prominent in the public eye with her appointment as an honorary member of the Ulster Society of Women Artists and, along with Pearse, founded Threshold literary magazine, and opened a drama school and musical academy to nurture emerging talent. By 1968, the Lyric moved to purpose-built premises at Ridgeway Street in the Stranmillis area of Belfast to accommodate larger and more complex productions where it still operates today and, in 2011, was extended further. Following Mary’s retirement in 1976, she moved to Wicklow and later Dublin where she worked on her autobiography, Never Shake Hands with the Devil, which was published in 1990. She passed away in 2006 at the age of 86.
The archive material in this collection consists of extracts from Lyric Publications currently housed in the Linen Hall Library’s extensive Lyric Theatre archive.