Ray McAnally was born in Buncrana in Co Donegal in 1926. He became a member of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 1947. He played oppostine Constance Cummings in the London production of “Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf” as George and garnered very favourable reviews for his searing performance. He made many television performances over the next few years. In 1986 he gave a tremendous performance as Altamirano the Cardinal in Roland Joffe’s “The Mission” opposite Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons. He followed this two years later with another forceful performance with Daniel Day-Lewis and Brenda Fricker in “My Left Foot”. He won great acclaim for television’s “A Very British Coup”. He died suddenly at the age of 63 jst as he was getting into his stride as a major figure in international cinema.
Article from “The Donegal Diaspora”:
Born on 30th March 1926 in Buncrana, Co. Donegal, Ray McAnally was educated at Saint Eunan’s college, Letterkenny. During his time there, he wrote, produced and staged a musical called ‘Madame Screwball’. Upon leaving, Ray entered the seminary but left again a short time after. In 1947 he joined the Abbey Theatre where he met and married actress Ronnie Masterson. Together they formed Old Quay Productions, putting on an array of classic plays throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
He made a triumphant London theatre debut in 1962 with “A Nice Bunch of Cheap Flowers” and was cast as George in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” opposite legendary British actress, Constance Cummings, at the Piccadilly Theatre. He routinely acted in the Abbey and at various Irish festivals, achieving award-winning notice on TV and films in the last decade of his life. His impressive performance as Cardinal Altamirano in the film “The Mission” (1986) earned him Evening Standard and BAFTA awards. His role in the BBC production of “A Perfect Spy”(1987) also earned him a BAFTA award.
In the last year of his life, McAnally portrayed the role of Daniel Day-Lewis’ father in the Academy Award-winning film “My Left Foot” (1989). McAnally died suddenly of a heart attack on June 15th of that year and received a posthumous BAFTA award for this, his last movie. McAnally had four children; Conor, Aonghus, Máire and Niamh.
Growing up in an atmosphere of theatre and television, it was quite natural that Ray’s children would follow him into the entertainment industry. Ray’s son, Conor is a professional television producer/director with 30 years experience in music and television programming. He has been Director, Producer, Writer or Executive Producer of more than 2000 show episodes in a wide range of genres . His shows have won 22 major awards including 5 British Academy Awards and 3 from the Royal Television Society
Ray’s son Aonghus is a well known TV presenter and personality in Ireland, working on various renowned RTÉ TV and radio productions including ‘Anything Goes” and “The Lyrics Board”. The brothers recollect that summer caravan holidays on Shrove beach in Co. Donegal were very special: ‘playing on the sand dunes was a thrill as an innocent 8 year old!’says Aonghus.
One summer Conor was featured on the John Hinde postcard of the harbour in Moville. Aonghus jokes that for years he has resented the fact that Conor never called him to be in the picture, despite the fact he was only around the corner. Due to hectic work schedules and geography, both brothers regret that they are not able to visit Donegal more often but when they do, Aonghus claims that they have a definite sense of feeling closer to their father:
‘Whenever I am there I feel his spirit around me. We are all formed by our memories of parents and Donegal was a pivotal part of who and what he was… If it’s your county or your people’s county then when you touch the soil under foot then you are home. Simple as that!’.
This article from “The Donegal Diaspora” can also be accessed online here.
Gary Brumburgh’s entry:
Although Irish character actor Ray McAnally would become one of his country’s most revered stage actors, he will be forever remembered by audiences both here and abroad for a couple of films he made during the last years of his life. Born in the seaside town of Buncrana and the son of a bank manager, he was educated at St. Eunan’s College and entered a seminary at the age of 18. Lucky for us stage and filmgoers, the priesthood proved not to be his calling, and he departed after only a brief time. He joined the Abbey Theatre in 1947 where he met and married actress Ronnie Masterson. They would later form Old Quay Productions and present an assortment of classic plays in the 60s and 70s. He made a triumphant London theatre debut in 1962 with “A Nice Bunch of Cheap Flowers” and gave a towering performance as George in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” opposite legendary British actress, Constance Cummings, at the Piccadilly Theatre. He routinely acted in the Abbey and Irish festivals, but then, in the last decade of life, achieved award-winning notice on TV and films. His impressive performance as Cardinal Altamirano in the film The Mission (1986) earned him Evening Standard and BAFTA awards. His role in the BBC production of A Perfect Spy (1987) also earned him a BAFTA award. In the last year of his life, he was absolutely awe-inspiring as Daniel Day-Lewis’ father in the Academy Award-winning film _My Left Foot (1989)_, the story of cerebral palsy victim Christy Brown, who overcame his severe disability to become a flourishing artist and writer. McAnally died suddenly of a heart attack on June 15th of that year and received a posthumous BAFTA award for this last movie in 1990. A fitting end to a versatile, galvanizing talent.