independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

A romance filled with drama

Martin and Brid started out as teachers but after they were married became determined to act out their careers on the stage

'Looking back to when we first had a baby and a mortgage, we would have thought it was an impossible dream that both of us could be in the acting world at the same time. So the fact that we're both not starving, have two children and a roof over our heads is quite amazing."

Brid Ni Chumhaill is recalling how she and her husband Martin Maguire were working as teachers when they married in 1986, but were both captivated by acting and the theatre. They could scarcely have believed that they would end up in a situation where she was investigating his murder a couple of decades later – on screen, of course.

Brid plays Detective O'Shea in the TG4 soap Ros na Run, and she gets called in whenever a crime has been committed in the village – a common occurrence, as inhabitants of a soap village tend to be the victims of crime or the perpetrators of illegal activities on an alarmingly frequent basis. Martin plays Barry, who ended up as a body in the bog in the last series of the soap, after he attempted to rape his ex-girlfriend Frances. When Barry's body is found in the current series, Inspector O'Shea is called upon.

"Working on Ros na Run was a wonderful opportunity," says Martin. "Even though Brid and I both had roles on it, we were never on set at the same time, which was very convenient domestically, as it's filmed in Spiddal, although not so much relationship-wise."

Having lived in Dublin for many years, Brid and Martin moved to Tipperary a few years ago to live in an innovative community at Cloughjordan Ecovillage. Residents on the 67-acre site aim to live in a way that is democratic, healthy and socially enriching, while minimising ecological impacts, and they grow their own food, plants and trees to promote biodiversity. Brid and Martin love living there, and say that it demonstrates that it is possible to live in a place that is easier on the earth than the normal way.

They have two children – Ruth, 21, who is studying drama and English at Trinity College, and Danny, 14.

Martin is originally from Santry in Dublin, where he lived with his five siblings, father Hugh, a bus conductor, and mother Patricia, a nurse. He weighed only three pounds when he came into the world in 1960, 10 weeks prematurely. His twin sister, Rita, sadly passed away after two days, and is buried in the Holy Angels' plot in Glasnevin.

He became involved in theatre while studying English and history at Maynooth. After qualifying as a teacher, he taught at The High School in Rathgar for several years, but continued acting and directing outside of school hours. He decided to leave teaching in 1990 to pursue his career in acting and directing full-time, adding play-writing to his repertoire, beginning with writing an episode of The Morbegs. He is also a member of the Guild of Irish Drama Adjudicators, and regularly adjudicates festivals.

He met Brid in 1982, when both were members of The Dublin Shakespeare Society. They were playing a prince and princess who fall in love in a production of A Winter's Tale, and fiction turned to real-life romance offstage. It beats the nightclub for this type of thing happening, laughs Brid.

"I was 24 and Martin was 21 when we met," she says, adding that Martin was very thin, gangly and boyish-looking back then, but very kind. Brid is the youngest of the late Gretta and Eugene's four children, and she was born in Roscommon, lived in Wexford while at primary school and Raheny in Dublin while in secondary. She studied primary teaching at St Patrick's in Drumcondra, and taught for years, working with emotionally troubled children. She left when she developed a serious fatigue illness.

"It was very debilitating, and Martin was absolutely brilliant, just as he was when we first met and my mother was dying of motor neurone disease," she says. Brid is inspirational, as she has also beaten breast cancer twice, 11 years and seven years ago, respectively. Her sister Mairead sadly died of the same disease. She says that overcoming such serious illnesses has made her grateful for the tiny things in life, and she retains a faith that things will always turn out OK in the end. She has also found solace in the Unitarian Church, where she has found her spiritual home.

After recovering from her fatigue illness, she realised that life was too short not to pursue your dreams, so she and several other actors founded a co-operative actors' agency, Frontline. Martin is involved in a similar agency called Castaway.

She has built up a great acting career, and does many theatre roles apart from her regular stint on Ros na Run. Last summer, she was in The House, by Tom Murphy, at the Abbey.

"Brid's moral strength is a fantastic thing, and there is a great energy about her," says Martin.

"Having experienced the obviousness of death in the past, she carried it lightly. She's a really good person and her heart is so much in the right place. She might not be great when it comes to unpacking bags, but she always laughs at my jokes."

Martin says that he and Brid are learning how to live better lives together and are more centred in what they want to be doing. After all, living a life you love is an enormous privilege, says Brid, and living it with someone you love is the icing on the cake.

"Martin always tells the truth and he makes my life lovely," says Brid. "I'd marry him again in a shot."

'Ros na Run', TG4, Tuesdays

and Thurdays, 8.30pm;

Omnibus, Sundays, 10.30pm

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