THE IRISH TIMES -- THURSDAY, JANUARY 9, 1941
DEATH OF MR. F. R. HIGGINS -- IRISH POET AND PLAYWRIGHT
We deeply regret to announce the death
of Mr. F. R. Higgins, one of the
foremost poets writing in the English
language, which, as announced in our late
editions of yesterday, has taken place in
Dublin, after a brief illness. Mr. Higgins,
who had been suffering from heart trouble
for some time, collapsed on Tuesday morning
while transacting business near Jervis Street
Hospital, and he was taken to the hospital
in a very serious condition. Shortly after
admission he became unconscious. He died
shortly before four o'clock yesterday morning.
With the passing of F. R. Higgins a real
poet is removed from the world. He was a
young man - only forty-four years of age -
and it may be said that he had not yet come
to the full flower of his genius. The bulk
of his work is not large - for to be a poet
alone will rarely pay the rent in these
times, and he had to work for his living -
but such of it as there is has frequently
the quality of greatness. Mr. Desmond
MacCarthy, one of the most distinguished
literary critics of our time, when he reviewed
"The Gap of Brightness" - Mr. Higgins's
collected poems - in the Irish Times last July,
"This slender volume has impressed me
more than any recent verse that I have come
across. The spirit of Mr. Higgins keeps
close to experience, yet it is gallant, wistful,
extravagant and free, while his pencraft -
I must repeat this - is a joy to those who
love words that fit the thing." Mr. Mac-
Carthy spoke of his "mastery of pencraft"
his "felicity of phrase," his "astonishing
gift of phrase," his "profound intuition,"
and of the dramatic qualities, the humour
and the rapture of his poetry. One, indeed,
who stood among the great poets of our
time has passed away.
Frederick Robert Higgins was born in
April, 1896, at Foxford, County Mayo, the
eldest son of the late Mr. Joseph Higgins
and Mrs. Annie Higgins, of Higginsbrook,
County Meath, and it was in the royal land
of Meath that he spent his early and most
impressionable years. He loved all Ireland,
but Meath, naturally enough, was nearest
and dearest to his heart. One of his most
vigorous and most poignant poems was
"Auction," with its appropriate refrain,
"Going, going, gone," in which he describes
the "beef-belted, pea-eyed men of Meath"
and the sale of that old house which he loved
A house of ghosts and that among
Gardens where even the Spring is old;
So gather round, the sale is on,
And nods and winks spell out in gold,
Going, going, gone.
AT THE ABBEY THEATRE
For a number of years before his death
Mr. Higgins was manager of the Abbey
Theatre, and one of the most active members
of the board of directors. He was largely
responsible for the renascent policy upon
which the theatre embarked soon after the
outbreak of the present war. People had
begun to take the Abbey for granted.
Attendances were falling off. There was
seldom a new play, and the theatre for some
time had been almost living on "revivals."
The new policy was that nothing but new
plays should be produced henceforward, and
Mr. Higgins expressed the opinion that there
were enough plays being written to enable
the Abbey to continue almost indefinitely
without ever repeating anything of more
than a year old. The policy gave new life
to the theatre, and since it came into opera-
tion some six months ago the theatre has not
once had to fall back - as so often in the
past - on revivals of the old favourites.
Indeed, one of the new plays, George Shiels's
"The Rugged Path," was on the boards for
twelve weeks, and had the longest "run"
of any play ever performed at the Abbey.
Mr. Higgins was himself the author of
several plays, including "A Deuce o' Jacks,"
a one-act comedy, which was produced and
well received at the Abbey in 1935. During
that same year he was joint editor with
the late W. B. Yeats of a new series of
"broadsides," produced by the Cuala Press.
During his short life he contributed exten-
sively to literary periodicals and anthologies
in America, England and Ireland, writing
poetry, criticism and short stories, and he
showed remarkable versatility. At fourteen
years of age he started to earn his living
in a building provider's office in Dublin, and,
after some years at clerical work, he became
an official in the Irish Labour movement.
During that time he began to contribute to
vaious literary and economic Irish reviews,
and - strange occupation for a poet! - he was
for a time editor of an Irish trade journal. He
was a foundation member and honorary
secretary of the Irish Academy of Letters,
and for his poems, "Arable Holdings," the
Academy honoured him with the Casement
Award. From 1928 to 1932 he was Adjudi-
cator of Poetry in Aonach Tailteann. In
1924, incidentally, he himself won the Aonach
Tailteann Award for Poetry with his book,
"Salt Air." For some years he has been
Professor of Literature in the Royal Hiber-
nian Academy of Arts.
Mr. Higgins was almost as well known in
America as he was in his native country,
and a few years ago he made a successful
lecture tour in the United States and Canada.
As managing director of the Abbey Theatre
he again crossed the Atlantic in 1937, when
the company made its last and highly suc-
cessful tour of Canada and the States.
In 1921 he married Miss Beatrice May,
only daughter of the late James Moore, of
Clontarf, who survives him. Both his
mother and his wife were with him when