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Mary has magic of panto all sewn up

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Mary Loughnane and Riona Heneghan work on the costumes for the 38th annual Renmore Pantomime. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Lifestyle – Judy Murphy meets Mary Loughnane, the woman responsible for costumes in Galway’s biggest festive production

Mary Loughnane shared her house with a giant last year.  He was a bit battered and worse for wear after years in commission and needed refurbishment in advance of the 2015 Renmore Pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk.  The giant was resting in Mary’s guest bedroom, because she’s in charge of costumes for the city pantomime group, whose regular shows are part of Galway’s Christmas tradition. She brought him home so that her husband Frank could give him a makeover.

Sitting up in bed in a downstairs bedroom, gazing out at the world, he was better than any guard dog, she says with a laugh.

There’s been no need for such drastic action this year as Renmore Panto prepares for its current show, Red Riding Hood, which opens this Friday, December 30.

As we meet, Mary is getting set for the dress rehearsal when she’ll make any necessary adjustment to costumes before the opening night.

“It’s the magic,” she says of her enthusiasm after more than three decades with Renmore Panto. “Watching the children and the passion they have.”

She’s been involved in the Pantomime since she and Frank moved to Renmore about 35 years ago. She can’t remember offhand when exactly she started and says, “I wasn’t into costumes then. I helped with make-up”.

However, when her now adult children David and Valerie joined the junior performers, known as the Smurfs, Mary’s involvement increased.

“It was a real community spirit and Joe McCarthy was at the heart of it all,” she says referring to the founder and driving force of the Panto, Cork-born Joe McCarthy.

“I always liked musicals and Joe asked if I’d help out with costumes. I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Mary had always had an eye for fashion and colour, a talent she honed while working in Vogue Boutique on Mainguard Street (long gone).  She was also able to cut patterns, a vital skill in a fledgling pantomime group which had buckets more enthusiasm than cash.

Three decades ago, everything worn by the performers was made in-house. These days, most Renmore Panto costumes are bought or hired from Pat McGann Theatrical Costumes and Fancy Dress shop in Limerick, says Mary.

“In the early days, it was a huge community effort, especially with the small children. The parents made all their costumes. I’d cut out the material and they’d sew them,” she recalls.

But parents are busier now.

“Time is a big thing,” she observes, pointing out that in the 1970s, women tended to give up work when they had children, unthinkable now.

Costume-making aside, however, the basics of her job remain the same.

The first thing Mary does each year is meet with Panto directors Seán and Brian Power, to go through the script with them.

“I dress the principal performers first, by looking at them and their characters,” she explains. Next, she moves on to the other performers, including the chorus. And she has a special fondness for the villagers.

“Every panto needs a villager scene,” she says of the group that observe and comment on happenings. There are 16 villagers this year, 14 females and two males, all in vivid costumes.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Record crowds pack Ballinasloe to celebrate Fair’s 300th anniversary

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Crowds flock to the Fairgreen at the Ballinasloe Horse Fair.

RECORD crowds packed into Ballinasloe last weekend for the return of the famous October Fair – but it turned to be a ‘dry day’ for the punters with most of the pubs in the town taking the decision to close their doors on Sunday.

Hotels in the town also adopted either a ‘food only’ or ‘residents only’ policy through Sunday but Gardaí reported a trouble-free weekend in the town.

“There were huge crowds around and especially so on Sunday, but we had no reports of any trouble – it was practically an incident free weekend,” said a Garda spokesperson.

Many visitors to the Fair on Sunday expressed disappointment at the decision of the pubs to close  – although a few establishments did open their doors with special security arrangements in place.

The last ‘official fair’ took place in October, 2019, and while there was an unofficial event last year, it was only a small gathering due to the Covid restrictions.

An estimated 3,000 people turned out for the free open-air country music concert with Mike Denver in the Square on Sunday afternoon and Fair organisers also reported a very busy sales day with many horses changing hands.

Trustee of the Ballinasloe Showgrounds, Gerry Stronge, told the Connacht Tribune, that after a three-year break, the crowds had really thronged back into the town on Sunday.

“Most people I know that have been attending the Fair for years said that it was biggest crowd they had ever seen there on the first Sunday of the event.

“It was an incredible day – the streets were absolutely jammed with people – and it was most enjoyable with no trouble whatsoever,” he said.

Get the full story with loads of photos in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Compo can keep sex abuse dad out of jail

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Galway Courthouse.

An estranged father who sexually assaulted his then-ten-year-old daughter seven years ago will escape a two-year jail term – if he pays her €12,000 within the next twelve months.

Counsel for the 51-year-old man, who cannot be identified in order to protect the identity of the victim, indicated at Galway Circuit Criminal Court this week that his client would avail of Judge Brian O’Callaghan’s offer and would sell off some of his assets to raise the €12,000.

Earlier in the sentence hearing, the now-17-year-old victim told the court the seven-year delay in bringing her father to justice had caused her and her mother untold grief and suffering.

“It’s been seven years, dealing with court dates and adjournments and only now, seven years later, have I got the closure I needed,” she said.

The judge apologised to her and everyone else involved for the delay in finalising the case.

“Even allowing for Covid, it is without question that the judicial, legal, criminal system has failed all parties in this case and it’s appropriate I should give that apology,” Judge O’Callaghan said.

Prosecuting state counsel, Conall MacCarthy, said the man maintained his innocence when arrested and interviewed in April 2016.

He had been due to stand trial on two occasions in the last few years but each time his trial was adjourned for various reasons, including Covid.

He then pleaded guilty, moments before his trial was eventually due to get underway last November, to a charge of sexually assaulting the girl on August 15, 2015, at the family home near a Co. Galway village.

Sentence was adjourned on four occasions since to await the results of a probation report before it was finalised this week.

Resd the full court report in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Hero’s welcome for king of the high seas

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Atlantic rower Damian Browne holds a flare as he enters Galway Docks to a hero’s reception. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

“I just had a deep belief I was going to complete it – and nothing was going to stop me.”

Those were the words of former Connacht rugby player and now transatlantic rower Damian Browne who returned to a hero’s welcome at Galway Docks on Tuesday, just hours after his mammoth journey came to an end on the rocks at Furbo.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, 42-year-old Browne’s vessel, the Cushlamachree, came ashore just down from Pádraicín’s – not the ending the Renmore man wanted for his epic trip from New York to Galway.

The journey was due to end at the Docks at 11am on Tuesday morning, but as it turned out, Browne had a few hours at home before being met by huge crowds who, despite the rain, came out in their hundreds to welcome the extreme adventurer back.

Children from schools across the city were among the hoards of people who lined the Harbour, including those from his alma mater, St Joseph’s (The Bish) who formed a guard of honour with oars to greet Browne.

His arrival to the Docks, escorted by Galway Harbourmaster Brian Sheridan, was met with endless cheers as drumbeat and flares signalled the end of his four months at sea.

“The winds coming from the south were blowing me up through the Aran Islands and it was great to get me through the islands, but then they kept pushing me towards the north coast of Galway and nothing I could do would stop them,” says Browne of the final hours of his journey.

“Before I knew it, I was at Pádraicín’s and heading for Barna, trying to get into Barna Pier to anchor down . . . it was very tense. I saw two rocks that I knew were there, but I thought I was further out, and then I had to whip the boat around.

“I had about two seconds to whip it around, 270 degrees, and head straight out to sea, but as I did, I got hit by a massive wave.”

The boat capsized, one of his oars broke and it was at that moment he knew it was time to get up on the rocks and call for assistance.

Get the full dramatic story – and full coverage of the welcome home – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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