There’s been a fair few changes since Claremorris Town Hall echoed to the sound of music or the tap of dancing feet. Seamus Gallagher was the local impresario then. Joe Charles and the late Robert Brannick were front of house. The page covering zero tolerance was the only dog-eared one on their working manual.
You needed a modicum of persistence inside also. Cameron Hanley’s horses never encountered as many refusals as lads received along those pillars. Some women didn’t put a tooth in it either when it came to dampening a fella’s ardour. There was one disinclined lady from up Crossboyne way but we’ll leave it so. If you overcame those woman-made obstacles you could waltz her over to Art O’Neill’s mineral bar to wine her and dine her before whisking her off home in the old Morris Minor. Vodka and Red Bull how are ya!
One tradition is alive and well in Claremorrris. This week the town hosts the 42nd Claremorris Amateur Drama Festival. The cream of Ireland’s drama groups will ply their wares in the town hall until next Monday night. If all this news is new news then you’ve already missed a few good plays. But that’s what happens if ‘Desperate Housewives’ or ‘Fair City’ is your thing. And never mind that bunkum with Bernard Dunne mumbling pigeon Irish to save the cúpla focal. That’s a bit like throwing a steel girder to a drowning man. Oh Buíochas le Dia for Michael Commins.
Claremorris Drama Festival would not have survived the test of time were it not for a hard-working committee who have taken the baton and ran with it. People like Martin and Eileen Dyer and Tony Kitching gave their time and energy to this event and to drama in general.
The winning group will walk off with the Blue Riband Trophy in memory of the late Ray Leonard. No man had a greater understanding of the stage or nurtured talent better than Ray. He willingly shared his knowledge of the boards with every troupe and turned them into award winning performers in the process. But that was Ray always and he loved to see people giving of their best.
Peter McCallig is at the helm of a strong team now. With people like Matt McLoughlin, Linda Bernie, Carmel Glynn, Pat Noone, Ann Maloney, Austin Garvin and a plethora of others his gig is a handy enough one. The hall looks more like a theatre now. No effort is spared to ensure the patrons enjoy the experience. And in times of austerity entrepreneurs like Eddie Sweeney, Flynn’s Pharmacy, the Concannon’s in CBE and all the other businesses generously plough a few bob into the venture.
Michael Carey officially opened the 42nd Claremorris Drama Festival last Friday night. Carey is no stranger to the stage. He has given close on forty years to life beyond the curtain. With Headford Drama Group he’s toured America more often than politicians on Paddy’s Day junkets. He left a better impression too because Michael always ensured the audience got value for their dollar.
His famous work ‘Thy Will Be Done’ was the opening play on Friday night by Sliabh Aughty Drama Group. Hamlet has the Prince and ‘Thy Will Be Done’ has Bridie Lavan. Carey created this incredible character over a decade ago and Wini Joyce took her across a Headford stage and breathed life into her. Wini is still the benchmark used to measure any depiction of Bridie but it’s unlikely any performer will ever scale those heady heights again. As we say around here ‘there’s only one Bridie Lavan’.
There are other great groups visiting Claremorris this week so do yourself a big favour and mosey along to the Town Hall. Except Thursday or you’ll need the clipboard, the marker and a few mints. And you could be sweatin’ on ‘all the fours’. Thursday is Bingo night and you don’t tamper with that in Claremorris.
Maybe that’s why they do tradition so well.