9 January 9: Born Catholic, in Omagh, County Tyrone in Northern Ireland. BF's father was a native of Derry and a primary school principal. His mother was from Donegal and BF spent many holidays there.
The family moves to Derry, where BF's father has a teaching position at the Long Tower school. BF attends the same school and then goes on to attend secondary school at Saint Columb's College, Derry. (The same school attended by Seamus Heaney, Phil Coulter, Seamus Deane and Eamonn McCann.)
He attends the Republic of Ireland's national seminary, Saint Patrick's College, near Dublin but instead of going on to the priesthood, he takes a post-graduate teaching course in Belfast.
Starts teaching in Derry, writing in his spare time.
Marries Anne Morrison and has four daughters and one son.
His first radio play, A Sort of Freedom, airs on BBC.
His first short story, "The Skelper," appears in the New Yorker. His first stage play, The Francophile, is performed at the Group Theatre, Belfast.
He retires from teaching to write full-time.
His first major play, Philadelphia, Here I Come! is the hit of the Dublin Theatre Festival.
Moves to Donegal, "partly to get into the countryside and partly to get into the Republic"; he leaves partly because of the political situation in the North, where he says, "The sense of frustration which I felt under the tight and immovable Unionist regime became distasteful."
Elected to the Irish Academy of Letters.
The Freedom of the City premieres at The Abbey. This is BF's commentary on the Bloody Sunday massacre. It is set in Derry, NI, in 1970, in the aftermath of a Civil Rights meeting, and follows three protesters who mistakenly end up in the Guildhall. This is interpreted as an "occupation," and the play illustrates their final hours in the Guildhall, their failed escape, and the whitewash of the into their deaths.
With the actor Stephen Rea, founds the Field Day Theatre Company, which is committed to the search for "a middle ground between the country's entrenched positions" to help the Irish explore new identities for themselves. Translations is the first play produced by the group.
The Field Day Theatre Company was intended to make Derry and the North in general a vital centre for theatre and the arts. It was also an attempt to aesthetically respond to the growing political turmoil in Northern Ireland since the outbreak of violence a decade earlier “in a manner which seemed to them socially, morally and creatively responsible.” The idea was to create an imaginative “fifth province” of Ireland, which would rise above the political realities of the geographic divide of the island into the southern provinces of Munster, Connaught and Leinster, and the northern province of Ulster. The company created a mandate to explore questions of history, language, culture and nationality through its theatrical work, while its more overtly political interventions were in the form of the Field Day pamphlets on literature and colonialism,
Translations is awarded the Ewart-Biggs Peace Prize.
Elected a member of Aosdána, the national treasure of Irish artists.
Appointed to the Seanad Éireann (the Irish Senate, the upper house of Éire's bicameral legislature). Serves until 1989.
Dancing at Lughnasa premieres at the Abbey.
Dancing at Lughnasa wins three Tony Awards, including best play.
Wonderful Tennessee premieres as BF's take on a "Lough Derg" play. Three couples attempt to return to a pilgrimage site on a small island off the Ballybeg coast.
BF reflects his age on the stage with Performances, a one-act play concerning an artist's fears of aging and the mutual influences of life and art and art on life.
BF premieres the last of his fourteen plays set in Ballybeg, The Home Place. Set in 1878, it addresses the resurrection of the Home Rule movement. A wealthy English anthropologist and landowner arrives in Ballybeg to record the physical characteristics of the locals. His methods and racist hypotheses ignite animosity in the town.
BF has a debilitating stroke, which makes the already very private man even less publicly available.
Inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.
Awarded the title of Saoi (wise one), the highest honour of Aosdána, the Irish parliament of artists.
Speaking about BF on the occasion of his eightieth birthday, Seamus Heaney began by considering Ballybeg, Friel’s fictional home, which the poet likened to a crystal into which the playwright gazed to discover his vision of reality. According to Heaney, “what he witnesses when he gazes is, on the one hand, a pageant of actual, historical Irish time and place, and on the other, an imagined procession of solitary Irish selves, a multitude of faces and places appearing and disappearing like the shades in Dante’s underworld.”
2 October: BF dies at his home in Greencastle, Co Donegal, at the age of 86. One week later he is laid to rest in a simple ceremony at Glenties Cemetery, without public fanfare or spectacle, in accordance with his wishes.