Oughterard Pioneer Dramatic Society
Oughterard Newsletter October 2011
In 1953 I was working part-time with Michael Monahan who owned a painting and decorating business in Main Street where he also had a cycle shop. It was a great meeting place for the youth of the town. Michael was very much involved with youth, as he was president of the local Pioneer Club and as a businessman he was responsible for employing many young lads who found themselves unemployed after leaving school. He would give them all a start in life in his businesses and if they wished to purchase a bike; well they only had to pay one pound as down payment and the rest by monthly instalments of one pound and the bike would be paid for in one year.
The biggest sacrifice
He was a man of wonderful ideas and so far seeing. At that time the season of Lent consisted of seven weeks of fasting, praying and self-denial. Many people gave up smoking, drinking and may other luxuries. Many children gave up eating sweets and other novelties too. For us teenagers at the time – the biggest sacrifice of all was having to pass the seven weeks of Lent without a dance.
However it was not the end, because we had “the concerts” every week to keep our spirits up. A travelling show would arrive in Oughterard every year for Lent. It was a godsend for the place. It was owned by a family called Moore and they were very talented. Mr Moore himself was a song writer, writing all the songs used by the band (his sons). They were all great musicians and so lively. Every night they would have a varied programme of music, song, and plays including many comedy acts. They were a delight to listen to, they played to a packed house every night. Usually these concerts were held in the parish hall called The Kirk. Sadly this lovely hall was demolished by Hurricane Debbie which struck Ireland on September 16th 1961.
Set in Cuba
Before the season finished Michael Monahan decided to ask Mr Moore if he would write a play for us to get us started as dramatic group. He was delighted to oblige and wrote us a fantastic play which we entitled Sentenced to Death. It was a three act melodrama, set in Cuba. In the first act we were all in the Cuban Army. In second and third acts we were all gone our separate ways. It was brilliant!
As well as the main play we included the odd sketch giving us more variety. We had some cross talks for two comedians which were usually very funny. Thomas Monahan and myself did these crosstalks entitled The Toff and the Tramp. Thomas always played the Tramp, he was a genius, a brilliant actor, we had such great times together. He was the life and soul of each performance.
We played to packed houses all the time with this show and we even went on tour to outlying areas like Clarenbridge, Maree, Connemara and across the Corrib to venues in Co. Mayo as well. The show was an outstanding success all the way.
The following year we repeated the schedule – this time with a brand new show. Our main play this time was a comedy called Meet the Family which went down very well with audiences everywhere. We also had our usual crosstalks and plenty of céili music.
We took a lot of the dullness out of Lent and everybody enjoyed themselves. We got a lot of publicity, especially form The Connacht Tribune who came out to Oughterard and photographed us all at rehearsals and published them. It was really a great time.
Our roadie for all of these trips was Sean Conneely. He transported us around the west in his tidy pickup van to all our venues. The van was wrapped up in tarpaulin tied down to keep us nice and comfy as we made our way to our various destinations. Of course the atmosphere was alight with plenty of good humour. Sometimes my uncle, Peter Johnny would accompany us and his humorous jokes would add to the pleasure on these trips too. Regretfully that year of 1960 was our last year together. For me it was a transfer to An Ceathrú Rúadh as a permanent bus conductor with CIE. Tomas Monahan and Terry Watts emigrated to the USA, Peggy Tierney became a ban Gárda (one of the first lady Gardaí in Ireland, Pete Tierney and Frank McGauley went to England and so this happy band of actors and entertainers separated. It was the end of a perfect partnership. Those of us still around still talk with pride of these happy years that we laughed, joked and entertained so many people and in doing so we also entertained ourselves as well. I look forward to meeting my old stage partner Thomas Monahan who visits here very year. We relive many of these precious moments that we had all those years ago.
The complete cast was: Thomas Monahan, Maureen Monahan, Tim Molloy, Pete Tierney, Frank McGauley, Paddy Tierney, Peggy Tierney, Terry Watts, Sean Conneely and myself.
Sadly some of these wonderful people have passed on namely Michael Monahan, Tim Molloy, Sean Connelly, Terry Watts and Frank McGauley. May they rest in peace.