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Epic production of Tarry Flynn is a real family affair for Mary

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: {J}

Mary Monaghan’s acting CV includes playing Pegeen Mike in J M Synge’s Playboy of the Western World the Abbey Theatre and sharing a stage with Tony award winner Anna Manahan in a production of John B. Keane’s Sive. Her participation in drama has brought Mary all over Ireland, not to mention to Hungary and to America, yet she doesn’t earn a penny from it.

She is one of the many passionate amateur actors who can be found in drama groups up and down the country, who take part in theatre purely for the love of it.

Now, after an absence of six years, Mary is returning to drama, to play in the Town Hall Theatre’s forthcoming production of Tarry Flynn, which features a cast of 62 actors as well as five musicians and dancing chickens, in addition to a large backstage crew.

Tarry Flynn, set in the 1930s, is the story of a poetic young Cavan farmer, poet and frustrated bachelor. This innovative stage adaptation of Patrick Kavanagh’s novel by Conall Morrison won huge plaudits when it was first produced in the Abbey Theatre in the 1990s. The Town Hall production is being directed by Andrew Flynn of Decadent Theatre and Galway Youth Theatres.

And, for Mary it’s very much a family affair, because her husband John and their seventeen-year-old son Myles are also in the play, although their roles aren’t as demanding as hers.

Mary is playing Tarry’s mother, a woman who dotes on her only son. She auditioned after being recommended by fellow amateur actor, Geraldine Holmes of Kats, but had no great confidence she’d get a main role.

“I’m afraid every time I pick up a script, I’m going to get caught out,” she laughs. “But I figured I’d get a part somewhere because there’s such a big cast!”

Despite her doubts, she’s now in intensive rehearsals for the production which opens on Tuesday next, August 3.

Mary has a day job with Eircom and because time is precious, she grabs every minute she can get to practise her lines – her script is beside her as we speak. Her older son, John has been a great help in that area she says.

Learning lines on the run is a process she is well familiar with.

Mary’s involvement in amateur drama, which began in her teens, has helped shape all aspects of her life.

She met her husband, John at a summer drama course in Gormanstown College, Co Meath, in 1980. He is from Headford, where they settled after marrying and is also an enthusiastic participant in amateur drama and musicals.

Ever since she was a child growing up in Kilconnell near Ballinasloe, Mary loved storytelling and drama, but as the eldest of eight children, it was a question of ‘go out and get a job’ after leaving school, so she never considered an acting career.

But one of the first things she did when she got a job with the Department of Post and Telegraphs in Athlone was join the local Little City Theatre Group. With them she played in Shadow of a Gunman and – a major challenge – took on the lead role of Anne Frank in the play of the same name, based on the famous diary of the young girl who was murdered by the Nazis.

Since moving to Headford in 1983 Mary has been involved with many local groups including Headford Players, Heads or Harps, Pegasus and KATS, taking on roles from the tragic to the comic.

By the 1980s, the Department of P&T had renamed itself Telecom Éireann, and with that company’s musical society, she played Elsa in the Sound of Music, winning an Aims Award for her performance.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.

 

For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Ruby ready to rock again and Bob is worth a big flutter in Gold Cup

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 06-Mar-2013

New edge to Galway hurling championship title pursuit

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A battle of talent and the ability to pull in public votes

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 11-Mar-2013

Here is a question. And there is no holiday or grand prize for getting the answer. But can anyone name the people who have won The Voice of Ireland and what has become of them?

Over across the water in the UK they have The X Factor and while I hate the concept of it, it has produced a few stars even though they don’t last long in the whole scheme of things.

But The Voice of Ireland seems to generate false excitement with the winner ending up become more anonymous than they already were. And it is costing families a fortune in the process.

While the programme is a ratings winner, strangely, it has resulted in those getting through to the final stages investing huge amounts of money in the hope that they will receive enough votes to get through to the next stages.

So, suddenly, it is not about the voice or the talent involved, it is all about votes and who the participants can convince to pledge their support for them. So it is obvious that talent goes out the window.

It means that someone with half a talent could realistically win the whole thing if they generated enough support behind them. From now on, the judges will be taken out of the equation and it will be left to the public to generate income for some phone operator.

Those who get through to the live performances have to engage in a massive publicity campaign in an effort to win votes which makes this whole effort a pure sham. It is no longer about their ability and just an effort to win appeal.

While the initial process does involve some vetting of the acts, now it becomes a general election type exercise in which the most popular will win the competition and the judges will have no say whatsoever.

It is a bit like the recent Eurosong in which the judging panel across the country voted for their favourite song, which incidentally was the best of a very bad lot, but then this was overturned by the public who chose a relatively crap song to represent us.

But again, this was all down to convincing the public about who to vote for rather than having any bearing on the quality on offer. There are times that genuine talent becomes overlooked because of the need to extract money from the voting public.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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