Without Mick Lally’s input and support, Druid Theatre Company might “never have existed”. So said Druid artistic director Garry Hynes, who paid tribute to the much loved actor who died this week.
Mick Lally passed away on Tuesday morning at the age of 64, following a short illness. Originally from the Gaeltacht village of Tourmakeady, Co Mayo, his long association with Galway began in the late 1960s when he moved to the city.
Mr Lally studied in UCG and became a member of Dramsoc. He graduated from the University with a BA in 1969, a HDip in education in 1970, and in 1999 he was given an honorary MA for his contribution to Irish theatre.
In 1975, along with his friends Garry Hynes and Marie Mullen, he co-founded Druid, the first professional theatre company in Ireland to be based outside Dublin.
He went to become an iconic presence on the Irish stage and screen, being celebrated for his performances in the plays of Samuel Beckett, such as Waiting For Godot, and of Tom Murphy, such as A Whistle In The Dark.
Mr Lally also enjoyed a long career in television, appearing in Bracken, and then as Miley, one of the three central characters in Glenroe, the Irish rural soap, which ran on Sunday evenings from 1983 to 2001.
Mr Lally is survived by his wife Peggy and his three children, Saileog, Darach, and Maghnus.
His friend and colleague Garry Hynes said there was “total shock and disbelief” in Druid at Mr Lally’s passing.
“Mick Lally was a man without measure,” she said. “He was my hero and I looked up to him. Druid owes everything to him. If he hadn’t agreed to join Marie and I in the summer of 1975 then Druid would not have existed. Everyone at Druid has lost a colleague and dear friend.”
Labour Party president and Galway West TD Michael D Higgins also paid tribute to Mr Lally saying he “made a set of ground breaking contributions to Irish theatre on stage, television, and radio”.
Dep Higgins also described Mr Lally as “a consistent supporter of causes where rights were at stake”.
“A supporter of socialist causes, he had courage and consistency in his idealism,” he said. “A native Irish speaker, he was at the forefront of development of the Irish language in an open and generous way.”
Dr James Browne, the president of NUI Galway offered the “sincere condolences” of the university to Mr Lally’s family, friends, and colleagues.
“Mick Lally was an outstanding actor of his generation, perhaps of any generation,” Dr Browne said. “His national and international reputation earned him the status as an icon of Irish theatre. An Irish speaker who served his native Mayo and country with complete commitment, it is our pleasure to have him associated with this university. Mick will be remembered fondly.”
Green senator Niall Ó Brolcháin described Mr Lally as “a great ambassador for the city” who will be “sorely missed”.
Environment Minister John Gormley said Mr Lally “represented a very real part of Irish culture”.
“He had an amazing ability to connect with the audience and to tell a story, whether on stage or on television,” the Minister said. “As a passionate Irish speaker, he was often to be heard singing a sean nós song or telling a folk tale. Glenroe brought Mick into all Irish homes but his work ranged far beyond this, onto the stage and the big screen. He was a true artist and his death leaves a huge void.”
The Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs, Pat Carey offered his condolences to Mr Lally’s family and friends.
“Through his consummate professionalism, humility and generosity of spirit as an actor and as a man, Mick Lally earned a special place in the hearts of Irish people,” the Minister said. “He was one of our greatest actors and he leaves behind a body of work that will endure.
“He brought a depth of feeling and authenticity to every role he played and he had a wonderful ability to get to the heart of a character and to bring that character to life. His great humanity always shone through in his work on stage and screen.”
Minister Carey also paid particular tribute to Mr Lally’s work in Irish language theatre, television, and film and said he would be fondly remembered by the Irish speakers.
“Mick was a great example to those who believe in the vitality and importance of Irish,” he said. “He advocated for the language he loved with characteristic dignity and he did some of his finest work in Irish. Tá laoch ar lár gan aon amhras.”