Drama in Dunmore
(This article was written in 2007 by Micheal O Liodean)

In 1899, J.J. Nestor and James Kilraine decided to form the Dunmore Dramatic Society, as an off-shoot of the G.A.A.  Nestor was probably the Michael Donnellan of his day, and was recognised as the finest footballer in Connacht. But drama was also important to the young Dunmore man, and in 1900, they staged their first production, with a youthful Charles Kelly stealing the show with his performance in “Charles O’Malley”.

The play was performed in the Courthouse, which was in the Square, and for the next few years this was the venue for the dramatic productions.. In 1903, the Tuam Herald had this to say about the Dunmore group:

        “On Saturday, I went to a dramatic performance given by the members of the Dunmore MacHale  Football club. It was entitled “Pike O’Callaghan”,and Mr. James J. Nestor  (who is almost as familiar a figure on stage as he is on the football field) played the part of Niel O Connor with much histrionic and elocutionary ability…..Mr. Martin Morris as Lady Broughton, looked a fine young damsel, and behaved as coy, modest,  and a deal more patriotic than 99% of the perfidious sex he acted for!  The Gaels of Tuam should follow their example and try their luck at something stagey.

For over a hundred years, Dunmore has had a drama group, and the earliest photograph was taken in 1900, with an all male cast. At that time it was not the done thing for any women to appear on stage in amateur productions. The leading light in the fledgling Drama group was Charles Kelly, who was a noted comedian, and his trade mark was a string of sausages as a belt round his waist, and a huge alarm clock which he pulled out from time to time. He performed all over Connacht, and it was noted on one occasion in Tuam that the audience refused to enter the Town Hall until Charles arrived by horse and trap from Dunmore.

Drama Group in Dunmore c. 1900. Most can't be identified except: "Whaler" Walsh [tall hat - back row]; John Doorey [2nd from L - front row]; Mr. Molloy [3rd from L - front row]; Charles Kelly [The "lady" in middle of front row].

As the members got older, the dramatic society petered out, but it was revived in the early 1930’s with Kevin Kelly (son of Charles), Tommy Morris, Madge Donnellan, Molly Howley, Jimmy Greaney, Willie Leydon, Tommy (Bradley) Walsh, Michael James Charles, Brendan Dinn, Angie Fox, Lilly Guinan, Kitty Concannon, Eileen Daly and many others. Among the plays they performed were “The Shaughráun”, “The Colleen Bawn”, “The Far Off Hills”, “Paul Twining” and “Professor Tim”.
Around the same time, The Carrentrilla Slashers group also took to the boards, and Martin Silke  produced two plays in the Town Hall, “Mad to Get Married” and “Dopey Dan,” which included such luminaries as John Keenan, Pat and Michael Donnellan,  Pat and John Forde, Mick Warde, Sheila Keenan, Kevin Kennedy and Paddy Treacy. Padraic Reilly kept the show moving as master of ceremonies.

Pages from the script of "The Far Off Hills" [1934]. "W. Leydon" who played Pierce Hegarty was the writer's father. This photograph is also featured in the gallery on this website and may be more clearly viewed there.
The most notable production of the 1950’s was that chilling play about a woman possessed, “The Righteous are Bold” with Margaret Walsh in the main lead. The group went to the very competitive Ballinrobe festival, and won a nomination to the All Ireland, with Margaret winning the best actress award.
Fr. Charlie O’Malley was the curate in Boffin Island at the time, and he invited the Dunmore MacHales team to play on the island. And as an added bonus, he asked the drama group to perform “The Righteous are Bold” as well. Unfortunately, when they arrived on the island, the weather took a turn for the worst, and they were effectively marooned. Along with “The Righteous are Bold,” they put on “The Far Off Hills,” a play they had performed the previous year, to pass the time on the island. Several members of the cast were teachers, and they had the keys of their respective schools. The storms continued, and eventually a lone boatman was found to ferry them to the mainland. The seas were mountainous, and Charlie O Malley kept them singing on the journey, which could have ended like Anach Cuain! Luckily, all survived, boosted by John Joe Timothy’s intermittent cries of “Hoist the Jolly Roger!”. Three marriages came from this group, but I am assured that this had nothing to do with the trip to Boffin!

Even though the Drama Group had saved the Town Hall, they themselves were pursued by the Performing Rights Society, for not paying their royalties, and to clear this debt, they performed “Katie Roche” in the Green Cinema. Other plays at the time included “The Real McCoy,” “Dial M for Murder” and “Michelmas   Eve,” with Margaret Walsh again winning best actress award in Ballinrobe in “Dial M.”. Some of the members of the 1950’s group included Martin, Michael and Margaret Walsh, John, Tom and Kathleen Gilmore, Annette Dunne, Teresa Howley, Mary Halliday, Maureen O Brien, John O’Malley, John Rushe, Cecil Steede, Bertie Coleman and several others.

After a lull of some years, the Dunmore group was revived in the early 1970’s and with a stage crafted by Martin Folan and Jimmy Reddington, they performed “The Loves of Cass Maguire”, “Moll,” “The Black Stranger,”  A Crucial Week in the Life of a Grocers Assistant.”  Newcomers to the group, which again was spearheaded by Margaret Walsh, included Tommy Keenan, Michael Leydon, Mary Glynn, Angela Reddington, Charlie Kelly, Padraic Donoghue, George Bruen, John Morris Lil Bruen, Mary McDonagh, Mary Nestor, Brian Hynes, Bridie Heverin, Jarlath Heverin, and several others.


"The Righteous Are Bold" [1955]. Back L to R: Martin Walsh; John O'Malley; Michael Walsh; Annette Gilmore; Tom Gilmore; John Gilmore; Bertie Coleman (Producer). Front L to R: Teresa Lynch; Mary Coleman; Margaret Walsh; Maureen O'Malley.

When the Town Hall was extended, a new stage with a basement was erected at the “other” end of the hall and the first production on this stage was the spectacular “Wood of the Whispering” by Milltown man M.J. Molloy. There was a gasp when the curtain was pulled, as half of Carrentrilla wood appeared to be on the stage! Other productions were to follow, and they included “Gaslight,” “The Year of the Hiker”, “Strike Happy,” and “ I Do not Like Thee, Dr. Fell.”
In “Strike Happy,” there
was a power cut after the first act, but true to the maxim that “the show must go on,” Margaret and Nuala Walsh arrived with several candlesticks and the rest of the show went on in rather flattering candle-light!

In the late 1970’s, the idea of having a Showtime was explored, and four were staged in all. They were hugely popular, and provided a platform for a wide range of talents, particularly a young man called Pete McConville. Mrs Mooney provided the music, with Margaret Walsh and George Bruen involved in production.. When money was needed for the new sports centre in the I.W.C, the Showtime group donated £1,700 to the project.


Micheal O Liodean and Margaret Walsh - "Ah Yes! I Remember it Well!" from one of the Showtime productions.
Later in the 1990’s, it was felt that Dunmore should try a full scale musical, and to date five have been produced- “Calamity Jane,” “South Pacific,” “Oklahoma,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Oliver!”. Martin Silke emerged as a fine singer and actor in these, and when George Bruen decided to put on a play in 2003, Martin was the ideal lead in Hugh Leonard’s “Da.” The new group formally became Dunmore Amateur Dramatic Society (D.A.D.S) in 2004 and with a very large cast, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” is the most recent offering. Heading the cast is our adopted Dunmore man, Ollie Turner, with Marie Howley as Nurse Ratchett. For over a hundred years, drama has survived in Dunmore. Long may it continue into the future.
Micheal O Liodean as Dr. Spivey in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" with Marie Howley (Nurse Ratched) and Aidan Corless (Cheswick).

Colm McCormick 25.04.2016 16:36

Congratulations to all in DADS on their performance in Castleblayney last week. Fantastic production of The Gigli Concert.

Tom Latchford 19.09.2012 14:00

Well done, DUNMORE.Long may you continue.

Padraic Gilmore 11.06.2012 15:47

Great pictures

Tom O'Brien 17.11.2011 20:03

Hi. Can I draw your attention to a Play of mine called HAPPY LOVING COUPLES! Please check out the prom on you tube (happy loving couples theatre promo).

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Latest comments

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25.04 | 16:36

Congratulations to all in DADS on their performance in Castleblayney last week. Fantastic production of The Gigli Concert.