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The Black Stranger – A Play by Gerard Healy

This play dealing with the famine was selected as a commemoration of this sad episode in our history. At first this dark and brooding play was taken on more as a duty for “the year that was in it”, but as the players became engrossed in their parts and the play became alive to them they found it most satisfying though most demanding. How well they coped was clearly shown by the great appreciation and enthusiasm of the audience, many of whom did not expect to be entertained by a play on such a serious subject.

While the play deals with the more common aspects of the famine, starvation and fever , and the gradual wiping out of a generation, it showed also the huge tensions which built up between members of a family, the clash of ideas between young and old. The older people represented by

Patrick Corcoran and his Wife Kate who see the need for looking to the future by keeping seed potatoes and oats in the hope that next year will be better. Patrick even refusing a few potatoes begged by his frantic son-in-law for his pregnant wife, Patrick’s own daughter. “The oats is for the rent” closes the subject as regards making it into a meal.

The younger generation see no future and don’t believe in holding on to seed they may not live to see grow, and see violence or the emigration ship as the only way out. The appalling unemployment and the pointless “relief work” add only to the general frustration and misery. In spite of the death of four of the characters and Patrick’s son-in-law Danny’s admission that he smothered his infant son whose mother died at his birth, the play ends on a note of hope. When Bart, the only remaining son, decides not to go to America, leaving a hope that a family can be rebuilt and that next year things will be better.

Kitty Lardner.

Athenry Drama group presented the “The Black Stranger” on December 9th and 10th with the following cast:

Patrick Corcoran, the smallholder – Paddy Ryan.

Kate, his wife – Rita Melia.

Michael, his son – Dermot Monaghan.

Bart, his younger son – Joe Tighe.

Peter McCarthy, a smallholder – Martin O’Grady.

Bridie, his daughter – Elaine Kavanagh.

Danny, his son – Kerril Hanlon.

Mag, Danny’s wife – Anna Reilly.

Sean the fool – Aidan Archer.

Producer: Kitty Lardner.

Setting : Tommy Ryan, Paddy Ryan, Martin O’Grady.

Lighting: Joe Tighe.

Art- work: Frank Kennedy.

Stage Manager: Tommy Ryan.

M.C.: I Jim Flynn.

Back Stage: Deirdre Rabbitte, Gerard Burke.

Front of House: Tom Carr, Nora Byrne, Rachel Barrett, Rose Barrett.

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Written by Kitty Lardner

Published here 03 Nov 2022 and originally published 1995

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