Fitzmaurice, George (1877–1963), playwright, was born 28 January 1877 at Bedford House, near Listowel, Co. Kerry, tenth among twelve children (seven daughters and five sons), half of whom died in infancy and none of whom married, of George Fitzmaurice, clergyman and farmer, and his catholic wife, Winifred (née O'Connor), whose family had tenanted one of the Anglo–Irish Fitzmaurices' farms. Fitzmaurice attended the local national school at Duagh, and acquired a love of reading from his Irish-speaking parents. In 1897 he began working in a bank in Cork city and writing fiction; in 1900 his short stories began appearing in Dublin weekly newspapers, where he continued to publish till 1907. In 1901 he was appointed to a temporary post in the civil service in Dublin; he was to spend the next forty-one years in civil service employment, becoming permanent in 1925. Fitzmaurice made his mark as a playwright with the publication of The country dressmaker (1907), a reworking of his short story ‘Maeve's grand lovers’. In October 1907 it was produced at the Abbey Theatre, the same year as ‘The playboy of the western world’ by J. M. Synge (qv). W. B. Yeats (qv) predicted a repeat of the Playboy riots, as in his view Fitzmaurice had presented an even less flattering view of the people than Synge. The play was in fact performed 181 times at the Abbey, becoming the fifth most performed play in the theatre's repertoire. For Fitzmaurice, however – a loner and bachelor who preferred the sanctuary of Mooney's pub off Grafton St. in Dublin, and the various Dublin lodgings he stayed in during his career (which were later to inspire One evening gleam (1952)), to the theatre – it was the first and last time he attended an opening night.
In 1908 the Abbey produced another of his plays, ‘The pie-dish’, and in 1913 ‘The magic glasses’, both short one-act plays, eschewing comedy in favour of themes of darkness, violence, blasphemy, and death. In 1914, his five plays ‘The country dressmaker’, ‘The moonlighter’, ‘The pie-dish’, ‘The magic glasses’, and ‘The dandy dolls’ were published by Maunsel in Dublin, some of the material having been written between 1909 and 1913 while Fitzmaurice was on sick leave from his job with the land commission. During the first world war he served with the Army Service Corps of the British army in France. In 1923 ‘Twixt the Giltinans and the Carmodys’, a conventional comedy, was produced by the Abbey. It was the last Fitzmaurice play the theatre accepted in his lifetime. Between 1924 and 1957 eight Fitzmaurice plays were published in Seumas O'Sullivan's (qv) Dublin Magazine, including ‘The enchanted land’, a folk play whose picture of Ireland was compared with the work of James Stephens (qv). In 1942 he retired from the civil service, by then seemingly a forgotten dramatist. In December 1945 ‘The dandy dolls’ was produced by Austin Clarke (qv) and his Lyric Theatre at the Peacock, and 1953 witnessed the first production of ‘There are tragedies and tragedies’.
Fitzmaurice based many of his seventeen plays on the Kerry hinterland and its populace, and some critics regarded his work as coming closer to the Irish peasant experience than the drama of Synge, if not anticipating Sean O'Casey (qv) in tragi-comedy by nearly twenty years. He was not a rural idealist but tended to exaggerate the foibles of the peasant for the purpose of comedy. One commentator wrote: ‘Fitzmaurice does not romanticise these folk. He knows them as a violent people who barely survive their daily battle with nature. He presents them as a stubborn and insensitive lot who compound the problems in their lives with petty bickering and unforgiving natures. But, as a Kerryman himself, he knows the lyricism of their dialect and he can reproduce this North Kerry dialect with the accuracy of a native speaker. And he knows the supernaturalism which is part of their lives and expresses itself most frequently in the conflict between Christianity and the older traditional folklore’ (McGuinness, 14). While acknowledged as using rich, fluent, and playfully inventive language in his threefold vision of the world as grotesque, bleakly glum, and fantastic, Fitzmaurice was also criticised for overly long monologues and lazy plot construction. He died alone 12 May 1963 in lodgings at Harcourt St., Dublin, and was buried in Mount Jerome, Dublin, in near-total obscurity, a neglect that other Kerry writers, notably Bryan MacMahon (qv) and John B. Keane (qv), sought to rectify in the years after his death. Between 1967 and 1970 the Dolmen Press published editions of his plays and short stories.