Lifestyle – Patricia Burke Brogan’s play Eclipsed shone a light on the dark secrets of Ireland’s Magdalen Laundries and has been staged all over the world since it premiered in Galway in 1992. It’s now on the Leaving Cert curriculum. A 2020 production from the Mill Theatre is available online for audiences of all ages and its director Kate Canning tells JUDY MURPHY why Eclipsed is so important.
“I’d known this play since I was a teenager and couldn’t understand why it wasn’t done more,” says director Kate Canning about Patricia Burke Brogan’s groundbreaking play Eclipsed.
Eclipsed, which received its world premiere in the writer’s hometown of Galway in 1992, shone a light into the shameful story of Ireland’s Magdalen laundries, doing so in a humane, sometimes humorous, ultimately devastating way.
Patricia, a former novice in the Mercy Order, who had spent a brief period supervising young women in Galway City’s Magdalen Laundry on Forster Street in the late 1950s, had been horrified by what she’d witnessed. With this play, she gave a voice to women who had been locked up in these institutions and largely forgotten. Unlike the Mother and Baby Homes, the women in laundries were incarcerated long-term, but it was all part of the same repressive society, where women who were perceived to have ‘brought shame’ on families were hidden.
The debut production of Eclipsed by Punchbag Theatre (in a former garage close to the Spanish Arch), went on to win a Fringe First at the Edinburgh Festival in 1992 and was subsequently staged all over the world. More recently, it’s been added to the Leaving Cert curriculum, which is one reason why Kate Canning decided to stage it at Dundrum’s Mill Theatre in Dublin last February.
A year later, it’s now available online, both for general audiences and exam students, with a special focus on the students.
Kate, who is originally from East Cork, first encountered Eclipsed as a teenager. She played the vulnerable Mandy, one of the ‘penitent’ women incarcerated in the laundry, in a production of the play from local theatre group, Ballyduff, an outfit renowned on Ireland’s amateur drama scene. Its powerful story resonated with her.
Most of the action in Eclipsed takes place in 1963, with the first and final scenes being set in 1992, the year it premiered. Rosa, a young woman who’d been adopted by a well-off American couple, is visiting the former St Paul’s laundry at Killmacha, seeking information about her birth-mother Brigit. She’s met by a vulnerable, elderly woman, Nellie-Nora, who guides her to a basement where a basket of old photos and letters remains.
As Rosa browses through these, the audience is transported back in time to meet the young Brigit and the other women in St Paul’s.
To create a play for an all-woman cast was almost unheard of when Patricia wrote Eclipsed and Kate marvels at her foresightedness.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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Truckers to take to the roads in droves – for pre-Christmas fundraising run
A convoy of big-wheel truckers will take to Connemara’s roads next month – in a variation of the iconic Coca Cola Christmas ad.
That’s the plan announced by local advocate Paddy Rock, who wants to recreate that festive feeling – and raise money for two worthy causes in the process.
But the truckers won’t bring the region to a standstill – because they will be taking to the roads with just their cabs, all decked out in Christmas lights!
Launching the Joyce Country Truck Run & Light Show, Mr Rock outlined the charity route, beginning at Peacock’s Hotel and travelling through Maam, Cornamona and Cloughbreac before finishing in Clonbur village, where the annual lighting of the Christmas tree will officially trigger the start of the festive season.
The whole spectacular will benefit two charities – Galway Parkinson’s Association and My Canine Companion, Autism and Therapy Services, because both support two local families in the area.
Paddy Rock, founder of the Joyce Country Truck Run, is also a member of the Galway Parkinson’s Association – an organisation he said had helped him cope with his own diagnosis of the illness.
“It has help me manage my Parkinson’s with tips and helpful information from other members and of course the therapies the association provides,” he said.
And that was why he decided to come up with the truck run.
He said he always had an idea that he would love to make his own version of the Coke Christmas ad with all the trucks lit up for Christmas.
And he knew that Maam Valley – all lit up with the finest trucks around decorated in Christmas lights – was the place to recreate such an iconic scene and do it for the benefit of deserving charities.
Aoife Conroy, mother of Robbie Conroy-Dermody, revealed the positive impact on her little boy after he received his assistance dog, Archie, from My Canine Companion – Autism and Therapy Services.
My Canine Companion trains assistance dogs for children with autism and other needs.
The dog’s primary role is to be a safety anchor when out in public for the children as the child is attached to the dog’s vest via a safety belt ensuring the child is safe at all times – bu,t they are also companions, sensory and emotional supports…and most importantly a friend.
Robbie Conroy-Dermody is autistic and was delighted to receive his assistance puppy-in-training Archie back in August.
Aoife said that Archie had changed her son’s life already after only a couple of months of being with them.
“Robbie made a friend on his first day of school – something that would otherwise be very difficult for him,” she said.
“A boy in his class was so taken with Archie and – after his teacher told the class Archie was a magic doggie to help Robbie – she later heard the boy tell his mother that Robbie was his friend, and he had a magic doggie.
“So thanks to Archie, the magic dog, Robbie now has two best friends,” she said.
The launch event also heard from Marie Cahill, Chairperson of the Galway Parkinson’s Association, who told the gathering that the GPA provides physiotherapy and speech and language therapy for over 100 members per week.
“These therapies are vital for the members of this group – and the level of support for this event shows just how important they are to the people of Galway and their families,” she said.
The first annual Joyce Country Truck Run & Light Show in aid of Galway Parkinson’s Association and My Canine Companion – Autism and Therapy Services will commence on December 11 from Peacock’s Hotel, Maam Cross, at 5pm.
The event is open to articulated lorry cabs – no trailers – and to smaller trucks such as refrigerated six wheelers and delivery trucks.
For more information on how to register for the event, contact email@example.com – and to contribute go to https://www.idonate.ie/JoyceCountryTruckRun
Galway Lions roar into festive action!
A Galway charity is once again focussed on the real spirit of Christmas – by raising funds to provide festive vouchers for over 400 families and individuals in need this Yuletide season.
To do that, Galway Lions Club has this week launched four separate fundraising drives – including its annual Radio Auction on Galway Bay Fm.
This annual extravaganza – overseen by ‘auctioneer’ Keith Finnegan and broadcast live on his Galway Talks show – has hundreds of great gifts under the hammer, with the proceeds then helping hundreds of needy families this Christmas.
The #lionsauction2021 will take place on Friday, December 3, between 9am and 12 noon – live on Galway Talks with Keith Finnegan and streamed live on: https://www.facebook.com/GalwayLionsClub.ie
The Lions expect to have over 230 items for sale including weekends away, fuel and food vouchers, tickets to sporting events, shopping vouchers and furniture.
You can bid online from 9am on Tuesday next, November 30, until 12 noon on Friday, December 3, on the auction website at www.galwaylionsclub.ie, or on the day by phone on 091-353250 where lines will be manned throughout the show.
On top of the Radio Auction, they will also be holding cash collections at local supermarkets and shopping centres, as well as a November swim and soft toy raffles – and they are once again appealing to the businesses and people of Galway to help them to help others.
“The Lions Club is a community-based organisation working to help those families in need. We work closely with many local organisations on a joint community basis – sourcing donations from businesses, working with other local charities and organisations and all our volunteers come from a wide spectrum of the local community in Galway,” said Galway Lions President Fergal McAndrew.
“Our joint wish is to give that extra little bit of help that might just make the difference and maybe help families in these tough challenging times. All of this is only possible through the generosity of the people and businesses of Galway,” he added.
The Lions Club Supermarket Collection, year on year, yields circa €18,000 which is a vital contribution to funding club projects – and volunteers are hoping to at least match that again this year.
The cash collections will be evident throughout the city from the last weekend of November and the first two weekends of December.
“Given the restrictions we were faced with relative to our cash collections at supermarkets last year and thankfully to a lesser degree this year, we have looked to iDonate to support our traditional cash collection fundraising efforts,” said Fergal McAndrew.
And one of those iDonate contributors will also win a hotel break at the Delphi 4* hotel and spa. That Draw will take place on December 18, and the winner will be notified by email.
You can also support Galway Lions by buying a line to win one of those big friendly cuddly bears that you will see on display in offices, shops, sports club, gyms and other venues. All the money goes directly to the Christmas appeal.
Galway mum is honoured for her dedication
A young Galway mother – honoured for her commitment to caring – has revealed her frustration over the lack of services for her nine-year-old son who suffers from a rare genetic disorder.
Martina Hynes from Tuam, who was last week named the Galway Family Carer of the Year, says that looking after young Joe is both rewarding – but, at the same time, frustrating because of the lack of support.
She said that she was honoured at having been chosen as the award winner having been nominated by close friend Noreen Ward who is also part of a sporting group that cater for children with needs on a weekend basis.
Martina and husband Dermot from Parkview Drive, Tuam, have – along with other young mothers with children who have challenging conditions – been campaigning for better and more frequent services from the HSE.
Joe was diagnosed with learning difficulties from an early age and was subject to epileptic fits until medication controlled this around a year ago.
While he is attending primary school in Tuam and is part of a local rugby programme for children with challenging conditions, he is full of the joys of life and is looking forward to what mum Martina hopes to be a normal life.
Joseph has SETD1B, a neurodevelopment disorder that includes absent seizures, global development delay, language delay, intellectual disability, autism as well as behavioural issues.
On one occasion, Joe was cycling from his home and wanted to turn a particular direction but was unable to do so and ended up in the middle of traffic on the main road. “He was very lucky,” admitted Martina, who is also the mother to seven-year-old Dylan.
She has subsequently discovered that there are only eight children in the country with Joe’s particular condition and this has intensified her demands for treatment and care for their child.
Martina was nominated by close pal Noreen Ward for the award and said that she was astounded that she was chosen. She added that it wasn’t something that she even contemplated on receiving.
“We just want Joe to have the treatment he deserves and that hopefully he can go on to live a normal life. It is very difficult for him but certainly more manageable with medication.
“However, the occupational therapy, physiotherapy, psychology and every other treatment he requires has not been available to him for the past two or three years because of Covid.
“That is when it becomes difficult as he desperately needs these services and there is nothing we can do to compensate,” Martina told The Connacht Tribune.
Martina cares for Joe while husband Dermot is a long-distance lorry driver in Dublin but they are hoping that the HSE can provide them with some assistance in the not too distant future.
“Martina is always there to support her friends, helps out at the local inclusion rugby club, and that nothing is too much for her,” said her nominator Noreen.
Joe is a member of the Little Rascals Rugby Club in Tuam which is for kids with physical and psychological challenges, and they were delighted when the then Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt paid them a visit for a training session.
“They will never forget that experience,” Martina recalls.