Quigley, Godfrey (1923–94), actor, theatre manager and director, was born 5 May 1923 in Jerusalem, Palestine Mandate, the son of Eugene Patrick Quigley, a military official from Co. Sligo, and his American born wife Lillian (née Broderick). His father had been awarded the MC during the first world war and been promoted to army captain before enjoying a high-flying career in the Palestinian Mandate where he acted successively as head of the Criminal Investigation Department, superintendent of the Jaffa District and deputy commandant of the Palestinian Police.
Moving to Ireland with his family at age 13, he continued his education at Belvedere College, Dublin, where he was successful academically. His family soon joined him in Dublin Prevented from studying law at TCD by the refusal of John Charles McQuaid (qv), archbishop of Dublin, to grant him a dispensation from the ban against catholics attending the college, he served four years in the RAF during the second world war. Restless and lacking work back in Dublin, on the suggestion of a friend, the actress Marie Kean (qv), he trained at the Abbey school of acting under Ria Mooney (qv); he would later state that he took up acting ‘to cope with a world [he] couldn't cope with’ (Times obit.). Despite his late entry (at age 24) into the profession, over a career spanning some forty years he established himself as one of the most noteworthy Irish actors of the post-war generation. After touring in the fit-up company of Anew McMaster (qv), he appeared variously with the Abbey, Gate, and Longford companies.
In 1954 he was principal founder and manager of the Dublin Globe Theatre, based in Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin. Operating on a shoestring budget, but boasting such acting and production talent as Jack MacGowran (qv), Norman Rodway (qv), Denis Brennan (qv), Michael O'Herlihy, Maureen Toal (qv), and Milo O'Shea (qv), the Globe challenged the artistic stasis then gripping the Abbey under the straitlaced management of Ernest Blythe (qv) by staging innovative new Irish plays (such as ‘Madigan's lock’ (1958) by fledgling playwright Hugh Leonard (qv)), and works from the international repertoire, especially contemporary American drama. Quigley was directed by Tyrone Guthrie (qv) in the controversial first production of ‘The bishop's bonfire’ (1955), the first new play by Sean O'Casey (qv) to be premiered in Dublin in many years. Involved with Brendan Smith (qv) in launching the Dublin international theatre festival (1957), Quigley scored a major success at the Abbey playing James Tyrone in Eugene O'Neill's ‘Long day's journey into night’ (1959). In 1959 the Globe co-produced a lively adaptation at the Gaiety theatre of J. P. Donleavy's novel The ginger man, starring Richard Harris (qv); when the play was withdrawn after three performances owing to public protests and clerical pressure, Quigley abruptly closed down the Globe in disgust at Irish cultural philistinism. Over the next several years he worked in London in theatre, film, and television; his credits in the latter medium included roles in ‘The avengers’ and ‘The Saint’.
His return to Dublin was marked by further controversy, as director of the premiere production of ‘The king of the castle’ by Eugene McCabe at the Abbey for the 1964 theatre festival, a brutally naturalistic drama that broke ground in Irish theatre with its raw sexual theme and uncompromising dissection of a rural society riven by cupidity. He continued to act and direct on the Dublin stage, especially during the annual theatre festivals. In a notable performance he played a rabble-rousing, Bible-thumping protestant demagogue in ‘The assassin’ (1969) by Belfast-born playwright John Boyd (1912–2002). Quigley appeared regularly in the London West End and with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and toured North America and South Africa. He wrote a stage musical, ‘Marcella’, for the 1973 theatre festival, adapted from the play ‘Look at the Heffernans!’ by Brinsley McNamara (qv). He performed in character roles in over twenty films; twice directed by Stanley Kubrick (as the prison chaplain in A clockwork orange (1971) and as Captain Grogan in Barry Lyndon (1975)), he appeared in the television film Catholics (1973), an adaptation of the novel by Brian Moore (qv), and in Educating Rita (1983). His radio work included the 1950s serial ‘The Kennedys of Castleross’ broadcast on Radio Éireann.
His later stage career was associated particularly with works by Hugh Leonard and Tom Murphy; he acted in the first productions of Leonard's ‘The Patrick Pearse motel’ (1971) and ‘Time was’ (1976), and in the Dublin premiere of ‘Irishmen’ (1975). He was especially acclaimed in Murphy's ‘The Gigli concert’ (Abbey, 1983), in the demanding role of the alcoholic, depressive, tormented Irish builder, who yearns to sing like the great Italian tenor, for which he won the 1984 Harvey's award as best actor of the year. His last memorable performances were as Dada, the bullying patriarch of a Coventry Irish family, in revivals of Murphy's early play ‘A whistle in the dark’, in Dublin (1986) and London (1989); nearly thirty years earlier, Quigley, an adjudicator when the play had won the 1960 all-Ireland new script competition, only to be rejected by the Abbey, passed the work on to Joan Littlewood, who premiered it in London.
Though lacking subtlety in his acting, Quigley could command the stage with his large, often hunched physique, florid complexion, and resounding voice. At his best in unsympathetic roles, he could convincingly convey bluster, lechery, or simmering wrath. Actorly and theatrical in his off-stage demeanour, addressing bosom friends and casual acquaintances alike as ‘dear heart’, he was a nimble-witted man, known to colleagues as ‘the Quig’. His recreations were bridge, gambling, and devising ingeniously intricate board games. He married actress and novelist Genevieve Lyons, with whom he had one daughter; the couple were separated for many years. His long-time partner was actress Liz Davis, with whom he lived in Dublin, and who cared for him devotedly during his affliction with Alzheimer's disease, which he bore with courage and dignity. He died 7 September 1994 in his home.