Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland names added to list of eminent figures in UK history

Jim Molyneaux, Brian Friel and Christina Reid among names

Jim Molyneaux
Jim Molyneaux
Brian Friel
Christina Reid
Cilla Black

By Adrain Rutherford

Playwrights, a former Ulster Unionist leader and a past Secretary of State are just some the Northern Ireland names added to a dictionary documenting the lives of some of UK history's most influential people.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography contains more than 60,000 biographies, more than 60 million words and more than 11,000 portraits of some of our most significant, influential or notorious figures.

An update is published today, adding biographies of 226 men and women who left their mark on the UK.

All the new entries passed away in 2015.

Famous Northern Ireland names added to the dictionary include Jim Molyneaux, who led the Ulster Unionist Party from 1979 to 1995, and was a UUP MP from 1970 to 1997.

Lord Molyneaux's entry, which runs to around 3,700 words, states: "Although he was not a politician of the first rank, he was an important figure who had a lasting impact on Ulster Unionism."

Omagh-born playwright Brian Friel is also included. His work now features in many school curricula, particularly his acclaimed 1990 play Dancing at Lughnasa, though he also produced a substantial body of work from the 1960s onwards, with Philadelphia Here I Come (1964) transferring from Dublin to Broadway.

He is joined in this update by Belfast-born Christina Reid, a fellow playwright whose work, including Joyriders (1986), was more directly influenced by the Troubles.

The other Northern Ireland entries are:

Sandy Faris, from Co Tyrone, who made his name as a composer of light and incidental music, including the theme for the television series Upstairs, Downstairs;

Sir Robert Ford, who was the commander of land forces in Northern Ireland on Bloody Sunday in 1972, but largely escaped censure by the Saville inquiry;

Roy Mason, the Labour Secretary of State for Northern Ireland from 1976 to 1979 who abandoned the mediating role of his predecessor, Merlyn Rees, in favour of a closer alignment with unionists and a more aggressive security policy;

Sir Brian Cubbon, permanent secretary at the Northern Ireland Office from 1976 to 1979, who was injured in the IRA bomb explosion which killed the British ambassador to Ireland, Christopher Ewart-Biggs;

Sir Kenneth Stowe, who was Cubbon's successor as permanent secretary at the time of the republican hunger strike at the Maze prison;

Sir Robert Wade-Gery, a diplomat who played a key role in the Anglo-Irish negotiations during the mid-1980s.

Other prominent non-Northern Ireland figures in the new edition include the politicians Denis Healey, the former Labour deputy leader, Geoffrey Howe, whose resignation speech in 1990 is widely seen as a central factor in Margaret Thatcher's downfall as Prime Minister, and former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy.

Singers Cilla Black, Errol Brown and Val Doonican are included, as are writers Sir Terry Pratchett, Ruth Rendell and William McIlvanney.

The acting world is represented by Sir Christopher Lee, Geraldine McEwan and Saeed Jaffrey.

Other additions include Sir Nicholas Winton, 'the British Schindler', who saved the lives of hundreds of Jewish children during the Holocaust, and Edward Montagu, the founder of the National Motor Museum.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is the national record of men and women who have shaped British history worldwide from prehistory to the year 2015.

From this month the dictionary includes the biographies of 60,984 individuals, written by more than 14,000 contributors.

Some 11,671 biographies include a portrait image of the subject.

Biographies in the online edition of the book now include people who died in or before the year 2015. No living person is included. People who died in later years will be added by calendar year in online updates each January, and in periodic printed supplements.

The dictionary is published in print - 63 million words in 60 volumes - and online at www.oxforddnb.com.

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