Charles Macklin was born near Culdaff on the Inishowen peninsula. There is some confusion about his actual date of birth but Macklin himself claimed 1699. Little is known of his early childhood, although his family name was McLaughlin and he changed it for the English stage. He found work as an actor on the English stage and was noticed in a small character role in a Fielding play and offered work with the prestigious Theatre Royal.
In the season of 1741/42 Macklin left the theatre after some disagreement. Subsequently he found fame in his portrayal and interpretation of Shakespeare’s Shylock and other notable Shakespearian roles. Together with David Garrick he revolutionized theatre in the 18th century, introducing a naturalistic style of acting and imparting his skills to many students of theatre. He was the first to introduce many common tenets of acting such as regular rehearsals, projection of the voice and use of pause. However, once again, he had a falling out with Garrick which damaged Macklin’s career.
He retired from the stage in 1753 and went on to open a tavern where he gave a nightly lecture and debate. He returned to the stage for a short period but finally retired in 1789. Macklin married Ann Grace and had a daughter, Mary, who also became a popular actor. His wife died in 1758 and he married once again to Elizabeth Jones later that year. He had a colourful life, experiencing many lawsuits, once conducting his own defense when he accidentally killed a fellow actor.
Macklin died in 1797 and his memorial tablet can be seen in St. Paul's Church, Covent Garden.
In his honour, the Charles Macklin Autumn School is held each October in Culdaff. For further information contact Ann McGroryon 00353 74 93 79104