Maurice ('Moshe', 'Moses') Elliman

(09/03/1872 - 02/03/1952)

Maurice Elliman, born Moshe Hellman on March 9, 1872, into a Jewish family in Kovno, Lithuania, played a pivotal role in shaping Dublin’s entertainment landscape. From humble beginnings, he emerged as a successful businessman, cinema pioneer, and theatre impresario, leaving an enduring legacy that transformed the city’s cultural scene.

Born into a family facing hardship after his father’s death, Moshe Hellman, later known as Maurice Elliman, embarked on a journey of resilience. Forced to emigrate in 1894, he walked to Hamburg, Germany, with the intention of reaching America. However, influenced by fellow emigrants, he redirected his path to Ireland, registering in Dublin as Moses Helman.

In Dublin, Maurice lived within the suburban Jewish quarter near South Circular Road, where he navigated poverty with a sense of respectability. He initially worked as a houseware salesman and later married Leah Smullen in 1896, adopting the name Maurice Elliman after obtaining citizenship in 1905.

Maurice’s entrepreneurial journey began with a restaurant in Dalkey (1907) and a greengrocery in Aungier St., Dublin. However, faced with challenges, he diversified into public entertainment. Intrigued by the potential of cinematography, he initiated a travelling cinema show with primitive equipment, later establishing Dublin’s first dedicated cinema, the Coliseum, at Redmond’s Hill in 1912.

The Elliman family played an integral role in Maurice’s ventures, managing and supporting various enterprises, including the Theatre De Luxe on Camden St. (1913). As the cinema business flourished, Maurice adapted to changing times, and by 1921, he built the iconic Metropole cinema and restaurant on Lower O’Connell St., signifying his impact on Dublin’s skyline.

Beyond business, Maurice Elliman was deeply connected to Dublin’s Jewish community. In 1916, he became a founder of the synagogue at Walworth Road, Portobello, and served as its president and cantor for over thirty years. His commitment to both show business and orthodox values showcased the multifaceted nature of his identity.

Maurice’s sons, particularly Louis and Max, joined the family business, expanding into theatres and live entertainment. Despite personal tragedies, including the death of his wife Leah in 1940 and several sons, Maurice’s resilience and the family’s commitment led to the acquisition of more cinemas and theatres in Dublin.

In 1946, Maurice Elliman formed a partnership with the Rank Organisation, creating Odeon (Ireland) Ltd. Despite age and illness, he continued to play a crucial role until his death on March 2, 1952, at his Dublin home. The funeral, attended by representatives of the president of Ireland and the lord mayor of Dublin, marked the passing of a cultural visionary.

Maurice Elliman’s legacy endures through his contributions to Dublin’s entertainment industry, the transformation of its skyline, and his impact on the Irish-Jewish community. His journey from peddling goods in rural Ireland to becoming a key figure in Dublin’s cultural landscape is a testament to his resilience, resourcefulness, and lasting influence. The Irish Jewish Museum, including a sculpted relief and a restored synagogue, pays tribute to his memory.

Person Photo
Connection with area: Businessman, cinema and theatre impresario buried in the cemetary in the Jewish Cemetery on Aughavanagh Road.