Green White Enamel

Green White Enamel tells the story of the linguist, medical doctor and poet Ethna MacCarthy, who has, for too long, been relegated to a footnote in the story of Samuel Beckett.

First broadcast: Sunday 5th September 2021, 6 pm, RTÉ lyric fm.

Re-broadcast: Sunday 29th January 2023, 6pm, RTÉ lyric fm.

Drawing of Ethna MacCarthy (1931) by Seamus O’Sullivan. Photographed by Stephen Whitehorne. Used with kind permission of Andrew Woolfson.

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After lying forgotten for decades, the poems of Ethna MacCarthy, linguist, doctor, poet, and life-long friend of Samuel Beckett, were finally published in 2019.

This programme tells the story of this fascinating woman, richly illustrated with her poems, against the backdrop of the privileged Dublin circles she moved in, and the poverty-stricken Dublin where she practised as a doctor.

We hear about her life, from her early years, born in Northern Ireland, and growing up in Dublin, and her portrayal of the city in her poetry. Contributors tell us about her friendship with Beckett and her time studying, and later teaching, at Trinity College Dublin. We hear about her work as a doctor, her compassion for those living in poverty, and how she explores this in her poetry. We also hear of her marriage to Con Leventhal, her early death, and how her work was forgotten until the discovery many years later of a small notebook containing her poems.

Green White Enamel is presented and produced by Claire Cunningham and features contributions from Eoin O’Brien, Gerald Dawe, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Jessica Traynor, Maria Johnston and Jane Maxwell.

The programme is richly illustrated with readings from the poems of Ethna MacCarthy by actor Cathy Belton. The words of Samuel Beckett are read by Owen Roe.

Ethna MacCarthy’s Poems are published by Lilliput Press.

The programme is presented and produced by Claire Cunningham and is a Rockfinch Production for RTÉ lyric fm funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland from the Television Licence Fee. Sound supervision by Tinpot Productions.