Joan Murphy Memories of Athenry Drama Group

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John B. Keane’s internationall famed “Sive” was presented by Athenry Drama Group in Seapoint Ballroom on 4th – 5th  March 1960

It was a childhood dream come true for me, to act under the direction of the late Tommie Reilly and play alongside such great actors as Kitty Lardner; Rose Ruane, Christy Howley, Mick Fahy, Tom Armstrong, Mickey Hession and Noel O’Grady.

I first joined the group in 1935 after leaving the Choral Society and playing in the Mickado as Pitti Sing. I was in my early twenties then and Tommie Reilly was at a loose end to know what part to give me, but was my dream to play an old woman and I was cast as the old woman “Nana Glavin” a part I really loved.

John Huston the film producer was living in St Clerans in Craughwell at the time when we played “Sive” in the Craughwell Hall. He loved the play and came to the dressing room after the performance. He congratulated us all and I was delighted to hear him say that he could not believe that I had played the part of the old woman in the corner.

The following are few cuttings from the great production:

The Athenry Connection: Cutting taken from the Fr. Griffin Gaelic Football Club, “The First Forty Years” 1990

For a number of years Willie Tyrell of Palmyra Park was Vice President of Fr. Griffins and at the same time he looked after the transport side of the club. Being a taximan his services were often in demand and needless to say in those days of the late and mid-fifties cash was hard to come by. Fr. Griffins like most other clubs depended on raffles, flag days and céilís to raise capital. Very often the response wasn’t encouraging and Willie had to wait long periods to have his account settled. Being a patient man and a loyal club member, he accepted what he got and left the rest in God’s hands.

At a general meeting at the club early in February in 1960 the question of finance was once again highlighted. Willie suggested bringing the Athenry Players (a drama group) to Galway to raise funds. They were kings of the stage at that time and had won numerous awards and situations all over the country with John B. Keane’s controversial play “Sive”. Willie’s proposal was adopted and being from that part of the county himself he was given a free hand to negotiate terms and make the necessary arrangements with the group.

It was only then his problems started; when he tried to book a hall in Galway for the event he was flatly refused by all and sundry. Eyebrows were raised when the word “Sive” was mentioned, they would have nothing to do with such a play. How times have changed in thirty years.

Photo – https://www.irish-showbands.com/images/halls/seapoint-.

Willie was determined however and eventually Noel Finan of Seapoint Ballroom gave him the nod. A lot of hard work went into preparing the stage and sets but all club members rose magnificently to the challenge. All modes of conveyance including Cunniss’ horse and dray were used to transport seating from various parts of the city to Seapoint. Willing and tired bodies dragged chairs and stools up two flights of stairs to the ballroom and when the show finished two days later they dragged them down again to the ground level. No one complained, it was that kind of streamlined operation. Handbills were printed advertising the dates and admission prices. They were stuffed through every letterbox in the city by enthusiastic workers. Sive was staged on Friday and Saturday March 4th and 5th 1960 in Seapoint ballroom and admission prices were 4/= and 2/6. The presentation on both nights was a huge success and enthusiastic crowds thronged the ballroom each night. They were rewarded with tremendous acting from Kitty Lardner, Joan Murphy, Rose Ruane, Christy Howley, Mike Fahy, Declan Whelan, Tom Armstrong, Noel O’Grady and Mickey Hession. A word of praise for producer Tom Reilly.

The coffers of the Fr. Griffin Club benefited greatly from the venture which led to many appearances in the years that followed from the same group. Galway audiences later had the pleasure of seeing “Lovers Meeting”, “Home is the Hero”, “Juno and the Peacock”, “The Plough and the Stars” and many others performed by the same group. But on reflection, great as those times were, the one that really hit the jackpot was “Sive”.

Joan Murphy, pictured here with the cast of “Ill Met by Moonlight”

Extract from the Connacht Tribune March 1960

Athenry Players present John B. Keane ’s prize winning play “Sive” on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Bumper houses are expected and already the first two nights are booked out and most of Saturday’s seats are gone.

Enquiries for bookings have been received from Loughrea, Ballinasloe, Headford, Tuam, Menlough, Castleblakeney, Monivea, Craughwell, New Inn, Galway, Salthill, Oranmore, Gort, etc.

The play has been very well-rehearsed under the direction of the producer; Tom Reilly.

The group is making arrangements to stage the play in other centres.

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About this record

Written by Joan Murphy

Published here 13 Jan 2023 and originally published December 1996

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