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Blue Plaque honour for famous Armagh actor

Thursday, 27 July 2017

ONE of Armagh's most famous sons will be honoured this weekend when an Ulster History Circle blue plaque will be unveiled at his birthplace.
Star of the big screen, Patrick Magee was one of the most important character actors of his time.
Born at No 2 Edward Street, Armagh on March 31, 1922, he is perhaps most celebrated for his work with Samuel Backett, Harold Pinter and Stanley Kubrick.
Beckett wrote the play Knapp's Last Tape specifically for Magee - indeed the original title was Magee Monologue and they went on to work together many times.
Magee first met Harold Pinter when they were young actors working as part of the actor-manager Anew Mc Master's repertory company which toured Ireland in the 40's and 50's. The pair would later work together again when Magee played the role of McCann in Pinter's play The Birthday Party for the Royal Shakespeare Company in the mid-60's.
Around the same time Magee won a Tony Award for his performance in Peter Brook's production of Marat/Sade on Broadway.
Magee appeared in two of Stanley Kubrick's most famous films, A Clockwork Orange (1971) and Barry Lyndon. Other film appearances include Zulu (1964) in which he played the part of Surgeon Major Reynolds and Chariots of Fire.
One of five children, Magee was a son of the Master of Banbrook School which the young Patrick known as 'Paudge' in Armagh, attended before going on to St Patrick's College, where he had his first theatrical experiences, appearing in school plays.
After touring Ireland with McMaster's theatre troupe he moved to England in the early 1950's, as part of a repertory company put together by director Tyrone Guthrie.
It was in England that his path first crossed with that of Samuel Beckett. They first worked together on radio before Beckett wrote the play that would earn Magee lasting fame as an actor.
Having followed his dad Pat McGee into the teaching profession for a short time his mind was set on the stage, a career he pursued with remarkable passion.
Married into the well known Sherry family, of Moy Road, Armagh, his wife Belle gave birth to their twins Mark and Caroline in London in 1961. He was a brother-in-law of the well known city greengrocer, Joe Sherry, now deceased.
Christened Patrick George McGee, he was professionally known as Patrick Magee.
Magee was a classic example of how certain actors rate the stage far more highly than the screen. He had a distinguished stage career.
In films he mostly played sinister villains in horror movies, however he did some outstanding work on film most notably in Stanley Kubrick's 'A Clockwork Orange (1971) as the crippled writer, Mr Anderson.
A regular visitor home to the city of his birth, Magee died on August 14, 1982, aged 60.
A campaign led by his good friend, the late Jack Kelly, from Banbrook, resulted in a plaque being unveiled in his honour in the new City Cinema back in the 1990's.
The Ulster History Society blue plaque will be unveiled at No 2 Edward Street, Armagh, this Saturday, July 29 at 12 noon as part of the programme of the John Hewitt International Summer School. Taking part in the ceremony will be famous Northern Irish actor Stephen Rea of Crying Game fame.
Refreshments and tributes will follow at the Market Place Theatre & Arts Centre. All are welcome to attend The Ulster History Circle is grateful to Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council for their financial support towards the plaque and to History Armagh and District History Group and Armagh Theatre Group for their assistance.

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