Multi-award winning playwright Brian Friel admitted to “a flush of pride” when told he had been selected as the 2010 Donegal Person of the Year.
Friel(82), an intensely private person, doesn’t give media interviews. His acceptance speech at a ceremony in Dublin on Saturday evening before 650 guests was a very rare public utterance from him - if not a first.
Friel, accepting the honour from the Donegal Association in Dublin’s president, Tony Dunlevy, said “this is a very big event for me and I mean that most sincerely”.
In a brief, self-depricating and hugely witty address, the County Tyrone native, who has lived more than half of his life in County Donegal, said he was a bit of “an imposter”.
“I have a confession to make, I am an imposter here, I am not a pure Donegal person at all, but I have lived in Donegal for 44 years, since 1967, more than half my life.”
To applause mixed with laughter he explained his Donegal connections, his father’s Glenties heritage and the connections he and his wife Ann share with Termon, Churchill and Burtonport, concluding that “all of those connections must have purified my blood of all the Derry and Tyrone contaminations.”
Last year’s winner Altan’s Mairead Mooney was was unable to attend but sent a message from Dallas and honoured Mr Friel in her own special way by playing a piece she entitled “The humours of Ballybeg” via i-phone - again another first for the Association.
The gala event in the Burlington Hotel was a hugely successful evening, a veritable who’s who of the Irish theatre world - actors, producers, directors and academic scholars of Friel’s work tripping over one at the Burlington Hotel.
Close friend Gay Byrne summed up the mood: “I am overwhelmed with admiration for the man, for his intellect, for his thought processes and for his wisdom.”
Fellow St. Columb’s College old boy Phil Coulter, said Friel had “brought Donegal to the world” and he added: “Everybody here loves Donegal, myself included. The man who has brought Donegal to the widest audience is Brian Friel and God bless him for that!”