Cyril Cusack

Cyril James Cusack[1] (26 November 1910 – 7 October 1993) was an Irish[2][3] actor, who appeared in numerous films and television productions in a career lasting more than 70 years.[4]

Cyril Cusack
Cusack as the fireman captain in Fahrenheit 451, 1966
Cyril James Cusack

(1910-11-26)26 November 1910
Died7 October 1993(1993-10-07) (aged 82)
Chiswick, London, England
Years active1918–1993
Mary Margaret "Maureen" Kiely
(m. 1945; div. 1977)

Mary Rose Cunningham (m. 1979)
Children6, including Sinéad, Sorcha, Niamh, Pádraig and Catherine Cusack
RelativesRichard Boyd Barrett
Max Irons

Early life

Cusack was born in Durban, Natal, South Africa. His mother, Alice Violet (née Cole), was an English Cockney actress and chorus girl, and his father, James Walter Cusack, was an Irish mounted policeman in Natal Colony, South Africa.[1][2] His parents separated when he was young and his mother took him to England, and then to Ireland. Cusack's mother and her partner, Brefni O'Rorke, joined the O'Brien and Ireland Players. Cyril made his first stage performance at the age of seven. Cusack was educated in Newbridge College, Newbridge, County Kildare and University College Dublin. He left without a degree and joined the Abbey Theatre in 1932. Between then and 1945, he performed in over 60 productions,[5] particularly excelling in the plays of Seán O'Casey. He also performed in plays by Irish playwright Teresa Deevy Katie Roche[6] and The King of Spain's Daughter.[7] In 1932 he also joined the Gate Theatre company, appearing with them in many notable productions over the years. In 1947, Cusack formed his own company and staged productions in Dublin, Paris and New York.


In 1963, Cusack joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in London and appeared there for several seasons. By this stage he had established a successful career in films, which had started at the age of eight. Also in 1963, Cusack won a Jacob's Award for his performance in the Telefís Éireann production of Triptych.[8] He received honorary degrees in 1977 and 1980 from the NUI and the University of Dublin respectively.

Cusack, who was bilingual in English and Irish, had a leading part in the controversial Irish language film Poitín (1977).

Cusack's last stage performance was in Chekhov's Three Sisters (1990), in which three of his daughters played the sisters.

Personal life

Cusack was twice married:

Paul (1946) worked as a producer with RTE
Sinéad (1948) actress
Sorcha (1949) actress
Niamh (1959) actress
Pádraig (1962) associate producer at the National Theatre in London.[9]
  • Mary Rose Cunningham (1979–1993)
Catherine (1968) actress

In his later life, Cusack became a campaigner for conservative causes in Ireland, notably in his opposition to abortion, where he became a frequent letter-writer to the main liberal Irish newspaper, The Irish Times. His conservative credentials came under scrutiny following his death and the revelation that he had not been faithful in his first marriage, with a long-term mistress, Mary Rose Cunningham, who bore him a daughter, Catherine. Cusack married Cunningham following his first wife's death.

Regarding his religious faith, Cusack commented "Religion promotes the divine discontent within oneself, so that one tries to make oneself a better person and draw oneself closer to God."[10]

Cusack was a longtime friend of Irish attorney general, Chief Justice and President of Ireland Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh, whom he got to know in University College Dublin in the early 1930s.[11]


In October 1993, Cusack died at home in Chiswick,[12] Greater London, from MND.[upper-alpha 1] His acting career had lasted 75 years.

Cusack is the grandfather of Irish Socialist Workers Party TD Richard Boyd Barrett and English actor Max Irons.

Complete filmography

Selected television

Theatre work

  • The King of Spain's Daughter (1935)
  • Jo Mahony in Katie Roch (1936)


  1. known in North America as Lou Gehrig's disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis


  2. "Cyril Cusack, 82, the Irish Actor Often Seen as His Country's Best". New York Times. 8 October 1993.
  3. "Cyril James Cusack actor". Encyclopædia Britannica. 28 March 2014.
  4. Cyril Cusack on IMDb
  5. "The Abbey Theatre Archive".
  6. "The Teresa Deevy Archive".
  7. "The Teresa Deevy Archive".
  8. The Irish Times, "Presentation of television awards and citations," 4 December 1963.
  9. Undated source
  10. Garret FitzGerald, All in a Life (Gill and Macmillan, 1991)
  11. Deaths England and Wales 1984–2006
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