The popular Irish soap opera Glenroe focused on a group of people living near a village pub, run by Teasy McDaid, who was played by Maureen Toal. The series topped the television ratings in the Irish Republic for the duration of its run from 1983 to 2001. It was also successful outside Ireland, getting screened by most ITV regional companies.
At the age of 16, Toal joined the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, and over the years appeared in JM Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World and Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars. Her television career began in 1951, when she took one of the leading roles in O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock.
Many television productions followed, including The Irish RM (1983-1985), starring Peter Bowles. Toal’s stage career was not confined to Ireland alone. In 1980, she was seen in London’s Old Vic in an Abbey Theatre production of Hugh Leonard’s A Life, with Cyril Cusack. The Irish playwright and poet Frank McGuinness wrote a one-woman play for her, The Baglady (1985), which her family said was one of the highlights of her career.
In 2010, she was awarded an honorary doctorate in literature at University College Dublin. McGuinness, delivering the citation, described her as “our greatest actress”. In a tribute after her death, Fiach Mac Conghail, the director of the Abbey Theatre, said: “Maureen Toal was one of Ireland’s most loved actresses. Her career at the Abbey spanned six decades. The theatre world salutes a great acting talent, and I know that she will be missed by her friends and colleagues in the theatre community.”
For a time, she was married to the Irish character actor Milo O’Shea. Maureen Toal, who was born in Dublin on September 7, 1930, died at her home in the Sandycove area of the city, on August 24, aged 81.
Richard Anthony Baker