In 1981 when Liam Neeson was carving out his career and treading the boards in theatres, he played the part of Gypo in Tom Murphy’s adaptation of Liam O’Flaherty’s novel “The Informer”. The play was produced by Noel Pearson in association with the Dublin Theatre Festival and ran at The Olympia in October of that year.
Little did anyone know at the time where Liam Neeson’s career would lead him, from theatre and onto the silver screen and international fame. In 1981, his rise to prominence with his powerful performance portraying Oscar Schindler in Steven Spielberg’s holocaust drama “Schindler’s List” and for which he earned Academy Award for Best Actor nomination was still 12 years away and his role as Michael Collins in the eponymous film came 3 years after that.
Roll on almost 42 years later and that same jacket worn by Liam Neeson for the part of Gypo in the 1981 production of “The Informer” is now in possession of Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF) along with an original programme and promotional poster.
These items were donated to IHF by Bernie Bourke, daughter of the late Peadar Bourke whose father PJ ‘Paddy’ Bourke had established the family theatrical costuming business with his wife Maggie in 1905. P.J. Bourke Costumiers, Dame Street, were well know purveyors of Theatrical Costumes for stage and film until the business closed in 1995. Bernie very generously donated these ‘thespian treasures’ to IHF to be auctioned to raise funds for IHF in thanks for the incredible care her late mother received in October 2021. Having this support meant her mother received expert end-of-life care in her own home at the wonderful age of 98 which meant so much to her family. As a further gesture of generosity, Liam Neeson recently signed both the poster and original programme which made the journey to New York for that purpose, making these collector’s items even more special.
The jacket itself has also had quite a journey since 1981 when it was worn by Liam Neeson. Bernie taught English and Drama at the time and her father gave her the jacket for a school play after which it served in many a drama production and narrowly escaped being destroyed when the school costume room and all its contents was ravaged by fire. The jacket was on loan to another local school at the time and escaped the fate of all the other costumes, surviving to tell its tale.
Bernie Bourke said:
I am delighted to donate the jacket worn by Liam Neeson in The Informer in 1981 for auction for the benefit of Irish Hospice Foundation. My Dad always wrote on the garment labels the name of the established and up and coming actors who wore them, so we knew Liam Neeson had worn this particular jacket for the role. By donating the jacket and the promotional items from The Informer in the hope they will raise funds at auction, I wanted to give thanks for the amazing care Mam received from the Nurses for Night Care service.
Helen McVeigh, Director of Fundraising at IHF, said:
We are very grateful to Bernie Bourke for donating the jacket from her father’s theatrical costume collection for auction to make a difference for end-of-life and bereavement care for other families across Ireland. We are grateful also to Whyte Auctions for their support in managing the sale and hope the jacket and the poster and programme kindly signed by Liam Neeson generate interest and are successful in raising funds for our work here at IHF.
The jacket, and signed progamme and poster will be auctioned at Whyte’s Annual Eclectic Collector Auction on Saturday 13th May. It will be a timed on-line sale with viewing at Whyte’s galleries from Wednesday 10th May to Friday 12th May, 10am to 5pm daily.