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This atricle appeared in the Irish Independent 17th April 1953

It is unlikely that any of the forty groups at the All-Ireland Amateur Drama Festival in Athlone will have the tradition of the Athenry Players of Galway.

The group which performed “Margaret Gillan” in the Spotex Hall has a tradition of producing plays which goes back to the time when men were stage-women because the women of the time didn’t think it proper to appear on a public stage!

It is perhaps fortunate for the Athenry Players that the women of modern-day Athenry don’t share their grandmothers’ dim view of the public stage.

Kitty Lardner– the girl who played “Margaret Gillan” in Athlone the other night- is a good spokesman for the Athenry Players.  The group has been going so long now that there is hardly anyone who can tell you when it started.  Kitty isn’t sure when the women consented to grace the Athenry stage, but knows that her mother Mrs. Larry Lardner acted with her father with the Athenry Players.  And if someone is to say “Isn’t that nice- Kitty carries on a family tradition, “Kitty’ll soon tell them that the Athenry Players exist and flourish to-day because of these same family traditions.

You had only to look at the cast of “Margaret Gillan” on the Athlone stage, to see it.  Christie Howley, playing the role of Master Growney, was carrying on where his uncle, Frank Hynes left off.  Mary Molloy, playing Rose Leonard, got her first lessons in acting while watching her father, champion sheepshearer, Jack Mulloy.  Joan Murphy, cast as Esther Gillan, is a daughter of the late Dick Murphy, who nursed the group along for years in his own hall, which is their headquarters. And Kathleen Corley, who played Ellen Ledwith, is only one of the Corleys to play with this group.

The Brinsley McNamara play was given, in the words of adjudicator John Bourne, “a very level population”, and gave them little difficulty.  It’s easy to understand why, when one remembers that they’ve successfully tackled the works of every leading Irish Dramatist, and not-so-leading dramatists, during their lifetime- Synge, O’Casey, Yeats, Paul Vincent Carroll, T. C. Murray, George Sheils, Lennox Robinson and many others.

This is their second time to Athlone. Their previous production was “The Wise Have Not Spoke,” produced in the early years of the Festival.  This visit drew a compliment from Adjudicator Bourne for the set they produced.  The credit for that belongs to ex-players, Jerry Collins and Christie Barrett, who with P.J. Higgins and Michael Gilchrist, make and paint all the sets for the group.  Stephen Jordan the former T.D. and G.A.A. referee is the President of the group.

Last night the Charlestown Dramatic Club staged “Gaslight” and the Amps Theatre Group Dublin, produced “Hyacinth Halvey”.  To-day at 3pm, All Ireland winners the Ashbourne Players stage “Professor Tim” while Cáirde Fíl, Dublin, produce “Mungo’s Mansion” after the one-act play, “The Paddy Peddler “being put on by Aisteorí na Cathrach, Miltown Malbay.

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Written by To be confirmed!

Published here 29 Mar 2023 and originally published Easter 1998

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