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Duggan, Edmund (1862–1938)

by Margaret Williams

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Edmund Duggan (1862?-1938), actor and playwright, was born at Lismore, County Waterford, Ireland, son of Dennis Duggan, farmer, and his wife Mary Ann, née Walsh. He came to Victoria with his parents at the age of 9. After education at St Patrick's College, East Melbourne, he worked in a Flinders Lane warehouse.

Duggan's great love was Shakespeare. With his brother Patrick (P.J.) he helped to found the Roscians, a club whose members met to study Shakespeare, occasionally performing for charity; Edmund played Horatio to P.J.'s Hamlet on 19 August 1879. When 22 he decided to try his luck as a professional actor. His early experience was with George Titheradge's company, and at the Gaiety Theatre, Sydney. In September 1890 he helped to manage his sister Eugenie's début as Juliet at the Theatre Royal, Melbourne, P.J. playing Mercutio. Soon afterwards P.J. left for the United States of America, where he made his career until his death in 1910. Another sister, Kathleen, also went on the stage.

In the 1890s Duggan had his own country touring company, performed with Alfred Dampier, and was actor and stage-manager with stars such as Myra Kemble and the Charles Holloway-William Anderson company. In 1900 Anderson (who had married Eugenie) 'inherited' the Duggans from Holloway as leading members of his 'Famous Dramatic Organisation'.

Duggan was noted for his comic Irish roles, but is remembered today as co-author of several melodramas characterized by their natural depiction of bush life. In 1891 in Sydney, he had staged his melodrama The Democrat, revived as Eureka Stockade in Adelaide in 1897, together with his dramatization of For the Term of his Natural Life. In 1906 Anderson produced Duggan's version of Lady Audley's Secret. In 1907 The Squatter's Daughter, written by Duggan and Bert Bailey or 'Albert Edmunds', was performed in Melbourne; it had a near-record run, and was filmed with the original cast in 1910. In 1909 Duggan and Bailey's play The Man from Outback was staged, and in 1911 Duggan's own play, My Mate, was produced at the King's, Melbourne, featuring readings from Adam Lindsay Gordon—Duggan was vice-president of a Gordon memorial society. In September 1912 Anderson handed over the King's theatre to Bailey with Julius Grant as managing director and Duggan as acting manager, opening with the famous dramatization of On Our Selection, advertised as by 'Albert Edmunds and B. Smith', and with Duggan playing the Irishman, Maloney. Another 'Albert Edmunds' play, The Native Born, followed in 1913.

Duggan remained with the Bailey-Grant management at the King's, touring Australia and New Zealand in his own and other melodramas, and producing a revival of On Our Selection in Melbourne in 1920. He persuaded 'Steele Rudd' to write The Rudd Family which he produced in 1928, starring as 'Dad'.

A genial personality, Duggan was well known as a rower with the Yarra Yarra club. On 7 October 1899 in Sydney, he had married Beatrice Hamea. Duggan died of heart failure in Melbourne on 2 August 1938, survived by his two daughters, and was buried in Boroondara cemetery. His estate was valued for probate at £75.

Select Bibliography

  • E. D. Davis, The Life and Times of Steele Rudd (Melb, 1976)
  • Theatre Magazine (Sydney, Melbourne), 1 July 1912, 1 May, 1 Sept 1913
  • Quadrant, Jan 1976, p 19
  • Australasian (Melbourne), 23 Aug 1879, 22 Aug 1908
  • Table Talk (Melbourne), 11 Jan 1900.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Margaret Williams, 'Duggan, Edmund (1862–1938)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/duggan-edmund-6032/text10311, published in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 23 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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