Eugene excited to return to the stage


BALLINROBE MUSICAL SOCIETY CHORUS Back row, left to right: Steven Brady, Pat McGovern, Tommie Heneghan, Eugene O’Malley, Gerry Hughes, Fred Yarnell. Third row, left to right: Des Treacy, Stephanie Martin, Eimear Philbin, Una Loughran, Mick Sweeney, Therese Morley, Kathy Kennedy, Mannel Da Silva Pereiva, Oisín McGovern.Second row, left to right: Orla Boland, Finola Higgins, Siobhan Campbell, Geraldine Baily, Ita Delaney, Maria Gallagher, Maria Hobson.Front row, left to right: Sophia McGreal, Emma Loscher, Erika Flynn, Sorcha Daffy, Áine Kilcoyne, Michelle Conroy.Absent from photo: Mick Gannon, Oisín Gannon, Joanne Heskin, Lizzie Ord. Pic: Trish Forde

Mike Finnerty

THE return of Ballinrobe Musical Society to the stage for the first time since 2020 due to the Covid pandemic was always going to make this year’s production feel a little different.
But for Eugene O’Malley, one of the Society’s longest-serving and most dedicated members, the absence of his close friend, Noel Ansbro, who passed away in April 2021, makes it all the more poignant.
Noel, or ‘Noeleen’ as he was known around Ballinrobe, made his debut with the Musical Society in their 1974 production of ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ and their staging of the same show in 2020 turned out to be his final performance with his fellow show veterans; the likes of Gerry Hughes, Tony Walkin Snr, Michael Sweeney, Fred Yarnell and the aforementioned Eugene O’Malley.
“We all really miss Noel, and there’s a big void there because we had our own bit of craic going,” Eugene, who is also a member of Ballinrobe Musical Society committee, told The Mayo News.
“Aoife [McClafferty, choreographer] put a name on us, ‘One Direction’ because she couldn’t get us to do any dance so she told us, ‘Walk across the stage in one direction!’” he laughed.
“The fun we had on the stage, the messing we were doing, and people wouldn’t have known it.
“Noel could read music and he helped us out in a lot of ways, getting the notes right and getting the bassline right. He didn’t care about anything else once the baseline was right,” recalled Eugene.
A member of a well-known local family, who is also one of the town’s undertakers, Eugene O’Malley’s commitment to Ballinrobe Musical Society mirrors that of so many others who have been rehearsing for the last four months ahead of next week’s show.
Since the mid-1970s he has worked with everyone from Courtney Kenny to Sr Francis to Noel Kirrane to the current Musical Director, Finola Higgins.
He explained why he had no hesitation in signing up for another run.
“I thought it was important to stay involved, to get the show up and running again, and put the shoulder to the wheel. It’s important for the society to get a good year under them, get people involved and get interested for next year.
“It’s very important that people do get involved, and that’s the reason we have to have a good show this year. Because we’ve missed two years now and people have got used a different way of living.
“They have different sorts of social scenes now and it can be hard for them to get organised to be up here for 7pm for practice.
“We’re very lucky. And we’re very lucky that there were people willing to go on the committee.  “We’ve a great chairman in Kenneth McCarthy, he’s brilliant.
“What makes it for me is the people you meet every year, we have great craic,” smiled Eugene.
“Having the craic in the backline with Freddie, Gerry and Mick Sweeney, and I love the singing and seeing good shows going on.
“The buzz all week of the show is great too, you really miss it the week afterwards.
“It really shortens the winter as well because you start practicing in October and then after Christmas you’re really into it until February. And when it’s all over, you realise that the evenings are long and the cows start calving!”
Eugene admits that it will impossible to replicate the ‘phenomenal successes’ of a show like ‘The Pirate Queen’ but he’s a big fan of this year’s production, ‘Me and My Girl’.
“It’s a light-hearted show with lovely music, and I think people will really like it,” he said.
“It’s a great show to get things up and running again.”