Anna Manahan (Anna Maria Manahan)

Anna Manahan

Anna Manahan was born in County Waterford in what was then the Irish Free State (now the Republic of Ireland). Her career began when, as a young woman, she was recruited by the legendary Irish impresarios and theatrical directors Micheál MacLiammóir and Hilton Edwards. She later married stage director Colm O’Kelly, who died not long afterwards of polio, which he contracted after swimming in the Nile during a theatre tour of Egypt. They had no children and she never remarried. She was known professionally by her maiden name. In 1957, she played Serafina in the first Irish production of Tennessee Williams’ The Rose Tattoo and achieved unexpected notoriety when she and several other members of the cast were arrested for the possession of a condom on stage. Anna Manahan played a minor role in the Irish cult soap opera The Riordans (1960s), and as Mrs. Kenefick in the TV comedy Me Mammy (1970s). She also played the lead in the Irish comedy series, Leave It To Mrs O’Brien (1980s) and Mrs. Cadogan in The Irish R.M. (1980s). Most recently she played Ursula in Fair City, for which her niece, Michele Manahan (daughter of Michael Manahan), is a writer. She had an extensive theatre portfolio having played at theatres throughout Ireland, the UK, continental Europe, the USA and Australia. Anna Manahan won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her role as the Mag in Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane on Broadway. She previously received a Tony nomination in 1969 for Brian Friel’s Lovers.

The late Irish playwright John B. Keane wrote the play Big Maggie specifically for her. In 2001 she starred in Keane’s The Matchmaker with veteran Irish actor Des Keogh. In 2005 she starred in Sisters, a new play by Declan Hassett that was also written for her and for which she was nominated for a Drama Desk Award in the category of Outstanding Solo Performance. The production toured Ireland and was staged at the International Festival of World Theatre in Colorado and also played at the 59e59 Theater in New York City in 2006. She appeared in films starring, among others, Laurence Olivier, Peter Cushing, Kenneth More, Christopher Walken, Maggie Smith, Albert Finney and Brenda Fricker, and with John Gielgud in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1977). She received the Gold Medal of the Éire Society of Boston in 1984 and thus joined the company of past recipients such as John F. Kennedy, and film makers John Ford and John Huston. She received an honorary doctorate in letters from the University of Limerick in 2003. She was granted the freedom of the city of Waterford in 2002 in recognition of her life’s achievement in the arts. She thus became the 28th Freeman of Waterford since Isaac Butt in 1877. In 2004 she started to play the role of Ursula in Fair City. All About Anna (2005) a documentary on her life and work was made by Charlie Mc Carthy/Icebox Films for RTÉ television. In 2008, she became the first ever patron of the Active Retirement Ireland organization. Anna Manahan died of multiple organ failure on 8 March 2009 in Waterford, Ireland.

More Images

  • 10manahan.450 -


  • October, 18, 1924
  • County Waterford, Ireland


  • March, 08, 2009
  • Waterford, Ireland

Cause of Death

  • multiple organ failure


  • Saint Mary's Cemetery
  • County Waterford, Ireland

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