Lillian Dolores “Dolly” Martin
(October 24 1942- November 10, 2013)
Dolly Martin was a dancer. She embodied and did what Whitman was telling us to be and do. She was a doer, a dancer, a golfer, a wife , a mother, grandmother and an actor- both onstage and off. When she was present, wherever it was, you knew it.
The Monday before last, at the music seisiún ,the night after Dolly died, Barry Lynch, former Artistic Director of An Claidheamh Soluis/The Celtic Arts Center, fondly remembered, “When Dolly was in the audience, you always knew it. You could hear her laugh.” He also said that when you were rehearsing, if she was acting with you she wouldn’t hesitate to tell you what she thought, something I have experienced myself, and in Tim’s, Dolly’s husband’s, case, she also wouldn’t hesitate to tell him exactly how he could do it better!
Lillian Dolores Martin, born Murray, one of ten children born to Thomas and Mary Murray, grew up on Stanaway road in Dublin, with five sisters and four brothers. Her sister, Anna Gossain, says she was beautiful from the day she was born. Anna remembers her mother saying about Dolores, ”If you put a sack on her she’d look beautiful but you’d want Brown Thomas’s of Grafton Street for Anna to look anything”!
Her sister Pauline, now Pauline Agnes Morrisey, the youngest of all the ten children, and a year and three months younger than Dolores, says “She used to love me and kiss me and then she’d push me away…then later, as a grown woman, “she was as soft as putty, very gentle, a proper lady through and through.”
Dolly came to the United States 50 years ago and married Tim Martin.
She and Tim had three children, Derrick , Linda and Sheamus. Derrick remembers that when his girls were learning Irish dancing, Dolly would always tell them, ”Keep your eyes on the gold”. He says she was very competitive. “To be honest with you”, Derrick told me, “she taught me how to play baseball, and her teaching me gave me a competitive edge. She taught me to be the best at it, based on her ‘never give in’ kind of attitude. She had this way about her, ‘If you’re going to do it, you’d better do it well’. He says that his eldest daughter, Shayla, was 3 and Eileen, next oldest, was 3 or 4, when they started Irish dancing. They started because at the St. Patrick’s Day parties at the house- they simply wanted to do what everybody else was doing. “If Dolly hadn’t embodied the culture, it wouldn’t have gotten passed on”.
Linda, Dolly and Tim’s second child, says that, ”Throughout our life, our mom made sure that we were cultured, that we experienced the arts-whether it was acting, dancing, or singing. Just like what Derrick said, she was a very competitive person-that’s why she took such pride in seeing her grandchildren do well. She would say, ’You can always do better,’ in whatever activity they were doing, ‘and get a scholarship to college’! She took the grandkids to Ireland when they graduated from high school. She’d take them to Stanaway Road, and tell them,’This is the house I came from. Always remember where you came from.’ She always had grander sights for the kids, for doing better.”
Dolly wanted to go to Rio in 2016, with Linda, who will be an ambassador with the Woman’s United States’ Water Polo Team. Linda says, ”We were Olympic junkies.”
Sheamus, Tim and Dolly’s youngest child, as a young actor, was the ‘Tony the Tiger Kid’ and the ‘Koolaid Kid”, in television commercials, and Dolly took him to auditions from the age of 8 to 13. He says she always made it fun by taking him to Baskin and Robbins 31 Flavors, at Western and Fountain, after every audition. He says, ”She loved sweets.”
However, he remembers that at dinner you were never allowed to leave your place until your plate was clean. (Sometimes he would go to the rest room to throw away his broccoli.)
Sheamus says Dolly recently ran into one of his friends, a former student at St. Dominic’s school, who told her, “I remember you. You were one of the meanest ’Yard duty’ parents when I was in school”. Dolly answered, ”What do you mean, I wasn’t the meanest?”
Valerie, Sheamus’s wife, says, he told her ”It might be a silly thing, but I always remember her saying, “Derrick you’re wanted on the phone. Sheamus, you’re wanted on the phone, Linda you’re wanted on the phone, and that Tim, to this day would always say, ”Dolores, you’re wanted on the phone”.
Valerie, who’s become friends with Dolly over the last six years and wed Sheamus last year, says a friend of hers recently commented, “I’ve never heard you say one negative thing about you mother –in-law”. Valerie, a new- born photographer, had recently begun putting in, as part of her packages when she would take pictures of babies, knit hats and blankets knit by Dolly. When she discovered that these knits were in demand from other photographers, Dolly and she would joke about going into business together, supplying knits to photographers, but then it became a reality: “Nana D’s Knits and Prop Shop” was born! They had just started discussing what they would charge, for knits and props, to photographers. She says the main thing about Dolly is that she always lived life to the fullest. Dolly lived life out loud.
Aside from driving her grandchildren all over Los Angeles to dancing and sporting events and whatever activities they needed to go to to-and cheering them on and guiding them through those activities- Dolly also loved to act in the theatre. From the time in 1986 when she first went An Claidheamh Soluis (‘The Sword of Light’)/The Celtic Arts Center, she auditioned and performed for the Center in many productions., including Brendan Behan’s “The Hostage”. She was Mrs. Henderson in “The Shadow of a Gunman” by Sean o’Casey, in the original production, directed by Brian Heron (o h-Eachtuigheirn), the expanded one at the Ivar, and, a decade and a half later, in a Benefit production, with scenes from ”Shadow”, at Luna Playhouse- called ”Scenes from Classic and Modern Irish theatre”- where she also sang in the chorus of “Somewhere Time Stands Still”- a musical about Irish immigrants by Melanie O’Reilly and Peter Glazer’. She studied acting seriously at Glendale College. In 2007, to benefit Brian’s An Claidheamh Soluis/Gaelic Adventure, as part of the Performance group, she played Mrs. Dedalus in Brian’s adaptation of the Christmas Dinner scene from Joyce’s ”Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”- “Portrait Christmas”- at the house of Richard and Aleta Collins. She again played Mrs. Dedalus at Molly Malone’s Pub during the winter of 2008, in an expanded adaptation of “Portrait…”-”Portrait Joyce”- acting with her grandson Colin Martin, playing the young Stephen Dedalus, her granddaughters Shayla and Eileen Martin, playing dancing maids, and her husband, Tim Martin, playing John Casey, the radical.
Dolly often said she would have loved to perform more but willingly put her tasks as grandparent front and center whenever her grandchildren needed her.
There is no way to over-emphasize the shock we all felt who knew Dolly, family and friends alike, when we learned of her sudden death, a week ago, in her sleep. The person who has suffered most through this shock is Tim. However, Tim says, “Dolly still lives on in her kids and grandkids, and that is my consolation”. We all send our love and support to you, Taidghín Martin. We saw those beautiful grandchildren and children of yours speaking, dancing and singing last night at Dolly’s wake.
And Lillian Dolores Martin, each of us who knew you will miss you and remember with love- as long as we live- your fierce, gentle dancing soul.
Solas na bhflaithheas ort.
The light of heaven be on you.