Hollywood actress Maureen O’Hara is to be remembered at a museum dedicated to her memory in Limerick which will include memorabilia such as her Oscar, clothes, awards, letters, and old pictures.
The Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum has long had ties with the late Dublin-born actress.
O’Hara and her husband, Charles Blair, flew in and out of Foynes during the flying boat era. O’Hara subsequently became a patron of the museum.
Founder of the museum and a friend of O’Hara’s, Margaret O’Shaughnessy, said a massive fundraising drive was being launched to raise €1m for a new O’Hara wing of the building. The project will also involve extending the 1940s cinema on-site.
“We have applied for planning permission. Hopefully, the Government will row in behind us. Her grandson, Conor Fitzsimons, has donated her memorabilia. She was a fantastic lady. She never played the Hollywood star.”
Ms O’Shaughnessy, who attended O’Hara’s funeral in Washington DC last year, says the actress was very down to earth in spite of her extraordinary career.
“One thing I remember is the year she spent New Year’s Eve with me. We went to visit a close friend in hospital in Limerick. All the nurses were asking for her autograph and she would sign autographs for a month. She even went into the rooms of patients and wished them a happy new year.”
Margaret says in addition to being a talented actress, Maureen was a gifted singer who released a number of albums. “She was an amazing lady. It was a privilege to be at her funeral last year. Now the fundraising has started for the special wing.”
The Hollywood icon was born in Ranelagh in Dublin in 1920. O’Hara came to Hollywood to star in 1939’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame and went on to have a long career. How Green Was My Valley, a touching 1941 drama about a Welsh mining family, won five Oscars including best picture.
She became John Wayne’s favourite leading lady, appearing with him in The Quiet Man and other films. And she was little Natalie Wood’s mother in the Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street. Her most famous role was as Mary Kate Danaher in John Ford’s The Quiet Man from 1952. She was thrice married.
O’Hara was born Maureen Fitzsimons. She changed her name to O’Hara on the advice of actor Charles Laughton who first “discovered” her as a feisty 19-year-old with captivating good looks. O’Hara lived in Glengarriff, Co Cork, for over 40 years.
Members of the public who would like to donate to the fundraising effort should contact Margaret O’Shaughnessy on 087 2490830.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved