Picture Ireland of the 1950s and early 1960s: if you did not live within walking distance of Dublin City centre you were typically thought to be living in rural Ireland. Rural it was considered, but there was plenty to keep people amused. The cinema, bingo, golf, dances, days out to the beach, bingo, the occasional trip to the pub, circus, fun fairs, plays and then there was Pantomime!
The revived Castlebar Pantomime is celebrating its 20th Anniversary in January 2005. It is possible however that this achievement may never have occurred if not for the talented, resourceful people who previously stood on the stage of the Town Hall from 1951 to 1965. In these pages, we take a look back at the Castlebar Pantomime a tradition which goes back as far as 1922 with a Stephen Garvey production of "Little Red Riding Hood" to the 2005 production of "Panto At The OK Corral".
The year 1951 saw Jimmy Garvey follow in his brother Stephenís footsteps to produce "Cinderella" which ran from December 25th-30th and January 2nd-3rd 1952. These dates were to be repeated in future productions. The acceptance of the dates is quite remarkable as all involved did so on a voluntary basis and must have made them very popular with those they lived with during the Christmas season! Costumes were hired from McGings in Dublin and were much admired. Lighting was a series of coloured floodlights the size of biscuit tins along the front of the stage. Props were borrowed from kitchens, gardens, bakeries etc. The scenery created by Jim "Tot" McGowan and Peter Gavin magically arrived minutes before the audience.
The story goes that there was no need to advertise a second Pantomime in 1952. Such was the success of "Cinderella" once the word was out that "Jimmy" was putting on "Robinson Crusoe" that crowds arrived from near and far. The most pressing problem that year was selecting a cast due to the sheer volume of interest. Names like Andy McTigue, Herbie Glynn, Gussie Wynne, Mary Ainsworth, Henry and Donald Downes, began their association with Castlebar Pantomime. Apparently the sailor costumes proved to be interesting that year as they were all a little on the small side. As is the tradition today, any home made additions to the costumes were more than welcome to create the colour associated with Pantomime.
In 1953 Jimmy Garvey produced "Aladdin" and then we enter the Andy McTigue era of directing Castlebar Pantomime with "The Enchanted Danny" in 1954,"Mother Goose" in 1955, "Ali Baba" in 1956, "Sinbad and The Sailor" in 1957 and "Goody Two Shoes" in 1958. Names like Seamus Chambers, Beatrice Conway, Mattie Armstrong, Tom McGreal, Pearse Carney and Brid McCarthy joined the ranks of Castlebar Pantomime. Herbie Glynn tells a tale of a frying pan which was used by Mother Goose but which did not survive the first half of the show intact. A replacement for the second half had to be found rapidly. McNeela's bakery was then located directly in front of the Town Hall and one of the McNeela sisters proudly returned with a cast iron frying pan. The second half continued with much enthusiasm and you can guess the rest. What should have been a gentle tap on the head from a cast iron frying pan, turned into a forceful whack, which left poor Herbert seeing stars for many minutes while the cast collapsed in tears of laughter around him - but that's Panto for ya!
At this time, there is no information on a 1959 Production. If there is any further material available on this or any other year please forward to Sharon Lavelle, C/o Flannelly Insurances, Market Square, Castlebar (or email details care of email@example.com). All paper documents will be copied and returned as a history of Castlebar Pantomime is currently being complied and we would like it to be as complete as possible.
In 1960 Joe Twiggs branched out to direct what is a definite Castlebar Pantomime favourite "Cinderella". He was aided by Mrs Hunt, Mrs O'Brien and Ms Angela Corcoran who were in charge of the musical arrangements and Mrs J. Langan as Choreographer.
In 1961 "Dick Whittington and His Cat" was produced by Garry Black. Again this is a year where there is little available information and any additional material would be welcomed in compiling a full history of Castlebar Pantomime.
The year 1962 brought "Jack and The Beanstalk" to the Town Hall stage through the combined efforts of Rev Cecil Norman and Anton Condon. Anton, as far as the records show, joined Pantomime in 1957 and went on to produce many more shows with his brother Richard from the mid- to late 1960s.
Judge John Garavan took over the Directors chair in 1963 with "King McKeown and The Banshee". This was written by Herbie Glynn who had moved away from Castlebar. He still has the original script in his possession, complete with drawings of the stage and where the actors should be positioned. 1964 was also a Garavan production of "Babes in the Wood". Along with Val Donegan, Angela Denning, Christy Tynan, Padraig Flynn, Colette and Patricia Earls who appeared in this production was one Mrs Nan Monaghan. Nan, who is now known as the Queen of Castlebar Pantomime, is still annually involved in Panto mayhem.
Now, here is where the publicís help will be most appreciated. Please advise if you can who produced the January 1965 production of "Sinbad and The Vampire" and also was there a further production of "Aladdin" in December 1965? There is very limited material on both shows and the possibility of two shows within the one year is one possible answer to a duplication of dates.
If any further material is available regarding the Panto years from 1951 to 2004 please forward to Sharon Lavelle at Flannelly Insuranceís, Market Square, Castlebar. Or, contact her at 094 9023193. All documents will be copied and safely returned as a history of Castlebar Pantomime is currently being complied in a website format. The assistance of the public, former Pantomime members or their families would be most appreciated in recording this unique local tradition. Any additional material for the Pantomime history, memories, photos, media cuttings etc. can now also be forwarded by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
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