Leghowney Dramatic Club
Events have a way of overtaking us and finding us totally unprepared, even though, in some cases, we have had many years to get ready for them. Such unfortunately has been the experience of the Leghowney Dramatic Club which now celebrates its Golden Jubilee and regretfully lacks sufficient memorabilia, programmes, photographs, posters, scripts, etc., to enable them to put in chronological order a definite record of the club's activities over the past fifty years. Thankfully there are still people around whose recollections of past performances, memories of their parts palyed by former members, many now gone to their eternal reward, reminiscences of highlights of particular productions, and other details have enabled the club to put together a fairly comprehensive history of the glorious past. This experience has also given the present members a determination to ensure that a future generation will not have the same problem when the centenary celebrations come around. It is safe to assume that Leghowney Dramatic Club will still be in existence then, given the dedication, loyalty and interest displayed by the young players now coming into the club. The committee proposes setting up a library in which every detail of the club's activities will be recorded, every piece of memorabilia preserved. As well as providing a valuable record for the future it should also help to keep alive a love of drama in the area, a heritage bequeathed to them by a past generation for safe keeping. Leghowney Dramatic Club was started in 1937. A new hall had been built in the area by the Fianna Fail cumann whose members, apart from using it for their immediate political purposes were also very concerned that it should be a base for promoting cultural and gaelic activities in the region. Language lessons were conducted in the hall. Ceili classes were a regular feature. A pipe band provided an extrovert expression of allegiance to the party at political gatherings. It also provided welcome entertainment at sporting and other activities. A somewhat dormant stage talent, going back to th days when plays were performed in the Four Masters National School Copany, was revived to give Leghowney its first dramatic club. This was at a time when ti was fashionable to have drama clubs, usually called dramatic societies, attached to particular groupings like tennis clubs, pioneer associations, football clubs, etc. it was not surprising therefore, given the circumstances, that Leghowney Drama Club should become closely identified with the local cumann from which it derived most of its membership. The Leghowney Club must have been the first to have this close affiliation with the Fianna Fail party, or one fo the first. In later years the scope of its activities broadened and membership to-day embraces all shades of political opinion.
Ths club's annual stage production has always been an eagerly awaited event. Initially it was a "one night stand" and with the limited accommodation available many patrons failed to gain admission and were disappointed. Consequently the club had no choice but to extend its run to two and even three nights. Rehearsals were a leisured affair and were only part of a night's social get-together. The rest of the time was taken up with ceilidhe dancing, card playing, or perhaps learning the Irish Language... as one member put it, "some of us had to cycle miles to attend so we always made a night of it". On the night of the show itself the patrons certainly got value for their money. The programme consisted of a fairly lengthy concert, followed by the play itself, with a one-act comedy, described as a "farce", thrown in at the end. In recent years both the concert and farce have been dispensed with. The Leghowney Drama Club never lost sight of its primary aim... To entertain. This is probably why they never troubled to take part in drama festivals. The club members have invaruably presented goog healthy rural comedy like that to be found in George Sheil's plays, most of which have been produced by the club. Veteran actor, James Murphy, has always played the comedy role, which is usually the heaviest part in the show and he is rightly described as "the darling of Leghowney stage". But it must also be said that his appearance on stage in the various other towns in which they have played have been greeted with similar acclaim. Something of a family tradition has grown up around the Leghowney Club where over the past fifty years a number of families, many of them closely related, have given two and three generations of actors to the group. I have been privileged to have seen very many of their productions over the years I have shared the club's enthusiasm. I congratulate them on reaching fifty years. I am sure very few amateur stage groups have survived so long. May they continue to delight and entertain their community for another fifty years... aye, and longer.Back to top
1937 - Pike O'Callaghan
Regrettably it is not possible to record all the plays or casts as there are no records available. Plays and casts for which there are complete records are shown throughout the programme. The very first play produces by the Leghowney Drama Club in 1937 was Pike O'CallaghanBack to top
1938 - Professor Tim
On Sunday night and St Patricks Night, the St Patrick's Amateur Dramatic Company, Leghowney, produced "Professor Tim" before large and appreciative audiences. Those taking part were: Bernard Travers, James Murphy, Hugh Murphy, John Roper, James McNamee, William Martin, James Brogan, Hugh Hone, Brigid Roper, Maggie Gallagher and Bridget Martin. A sketch, "Handy Andy", was subsequently enacted by John McGlinchey, P.C., Patrick Roper, Denis McGroary, Hugh McGlinchey, Kathleen Hone and Josephine McGlinchey.Back to top
1944 - The Whip Hand
"The Whip Hand", a three act comedy by J.B. McCarthy , was staged by the Leghowney Amateur Dramatic Society in St. Patrick's Hass, in presence of a large audience who marked their approval in no uncertain manner as manifested by their enthusiasm and applause, as the actors performed their tasks in that attitude more like to professional than amateur. The comedy, which is all that could be desired, was its first production in the locality, and to sum up its presentation with brevity, it was executed with skill and precision, leaving neither room for improvement nor criticism, but the company which now stands in the front rank of amateurs in the county.
Those taking part were: Miss M.E. Gillespie, Messrs. James Murphy, Hugh Murphy, Peter Brogan, Hugh McGlinchey, Miss Maureen Boyle, Miss Peggy Cassidy, Mr John Boyle, Mr John Roper and Ms Molly Murphy. Priour to the play, songs were contributed by Mr John McGlinchey, P.C., Mr Gerry Roper and Miss A McNamee. Dances by Miss Margaret Martin and Miss A McNamee and recitations by Master Joseph Boyle.Back to top
James Murphy has become a legendary figure in the area where he has been entertaining audiences for fifty years. He is the only surviving member of the Leghowney Drama Club formed in 1937. In the half-century since then he has taken part in all but two of the group's productions; in some years they produced two plays. This is a record I'm sure very few performers can equal.
James always plays the lead, and this has not been given to him just because he is the club's producer or most senior member but because of his exceptional talent. It is always a pleasure to watch his masterly interpretation of a character role. Even if he never uttered a word on stage his very demeanour. The way he becomes totally involved in his presentation, with no hint of being aware of an audience, his complete self control, and the ease with which he moulds into the scene, very much there but still not intruding, never awkward and without any inhibitions, all tends to bring a sense of realism to his performances. His is never guilty of upstaging another player to gain a laugh. He is much too sensitive to the feelings of others to do so. From the moment James steps out of the wings the character takes over. He is the lovable "Mick the Tinker" in "Nothing In His Life", or perhaps the irrepressible poacher "Robert Hamill" in the "New Gossoon", or the verbose Paul Twyning....the honest, the cunning, the brusque, they are all the same to James, he can identify with all of them. Off stage he is something of a disciplinarian where rehearsals are concerned. He always demands, and always gets, the bery best from his cast, which accounts for the high standard the club has attained. But he is understanding too. He knows, for example, that learning lines and appreciation the importance of good timing, and entrances, and exits, don't come naturally to everyone and makes allowances for that. He knows the meaning of patience and tolerance, tow qualities needed in a producer. Producing and acting are two distinct talents...James has both, and he has used them simultaneously in all his productions, a rare gift when wedded together as successfully as he has endeavoured to do for fifty years.
Sometime in the early 'Sixties Seamus Clerkin, who had been producing his own group in Donegal Town, came along to help James. They have had a very close and friendly association as co-producers since then.
Seamus can recount many amusing incidents that occurred during rehearsals and on the nights of shows, and chuckles when he recalls James' apparent agony every Lent when he would go off the cigarettes..."he would cut you down with the sharp edge of his tongue". It was so out of character for James to be other than gentle and taciturn that this new role didn't suit him and many ploys were used to get his to break his fast but they never succeeded.
James Murphy grew up at a time when people were dependent on their own resources for entertainment. Card playing, "rambling", and "big nights" were all part of the local scene, and as a result of these close contacts almost every townland threw up its own character whose sitticisms were quotes on every social occasion, and indeed some of these quips still survive to this very day. Many of the characters were not unlike those portrayed in the plays by Shiels and similar writers, and I often suspect that James when he is on stage is subconsciously portraying some of the old people he knew in his youth.
Tonight he takes to the stage in one of the most exhausting roles he has played so far. He is on stage from the first scene to the end of the show and as usual he is word perfect. That his fellow club members and neighbours have come together to pay him a well deserved tribute and help him celebrate the golden jubilee of the institution (there is no better word to describe a club that has survived many vicissitudes over its fifty years) he helped to build up is a measure of the love and respect they have for him. May he continue to grace the boards for many, many more years.Back to top
1945 - Professor Tim
Cast: James Murphy, William Martin, Hugh Murphy, Peter Brogan, Agatha Hone, Molly Murphy, Margaret Martin, John Boyle, Joseph Devlin, Hugh McGlinchey.Back to top
1956 - They Got What They Wanted
Bartley Murnaghan-James Murphy
Bessis Murnaghan (His wife)- Frances Martin
Sally Murnaghan-Eileen McKeown
Nora Murnaghan-Elizabeth Hone
Jack Murnaghan-Owen Thomas
Derry Murnaghan-Liam Martin
Peter Murnaghan-Francis Hone
Owen Tubridy(Grocer)-Joseph Boyle
Matty McGrath(Farmer)-Donal Boyle
Joe McGrath(his son)-Danny Martin
Tom Cassidy(contractor)-Charles OKeeney
1961 - Nothing in his Life by Louis J. Walsh
3Auxiliaries-Francie Hone, Hugh Colhoun, Eamon ODonnell
IRA Man-Liam Martin
IRA Man-Aodh ODonnell
Contratulations from Mons. Carrabin
As parish priest, I am very happy to offer my congratulations to the Leghowney Players who are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. It is unique, I think, for a country group to keep up the annual presentation of a play in an unbroken line down through a span of 50 years. In that time they have given a great deal of pleasure to the enthusiastic crowds who have come to their productions.
It is a very healthy sign of a community to be able to produce their own entertainment. Nowadays we have become too willing to sit back and be entertained. We have become too dependent on television in particular. Often we sit looking at something in a half stupor. There is little stimulation in many of the programmes we look at. In contrast, the live stage show is stimulating and interesting, especially when the characters are local and well-known to the audience.
It is to be hoped that the fifty years tradition extablished by the Leghowney Players will continue. I feel that it will, because each year they introduce one or more new young players.
My very sincere good wishes to them. May they continue to entertain the big number of people who look forward in happy expectation to a good friendly night's enjoyment in the Leghowney Hall.Back to top
Local Drama Group are special
It is not just that amateur drama is of an extremely high standard here in Ireland (English adjudicatorsdiscover this with monotonous regularity at Festivals), it is that the local group contribute a form of drama that no other area con provide. Perhaps a spacious and luxurious hall may be the best setting for a Mozart concert, but a kitchen or a small pub is the best for a fiddler or a good song.
A new play needs to be cosseted in a custom built theatre, the critics invited and well seated and the intelligentsia primed so they know what to be impressed with. The classic play needs no such fuss, just a lot of love and the company of friends, in fact the only thing that will destroy it is falsehood.
This was brought home to me about six years ago. I had been used to the comforts of Covent Garden, Birmingham Rep and even small companies had very professional surroundings, so as I made my way to "Gossoon" or maybe it might have been "Moll" in Drimarone was the first visit) my attitude would have been patronising. Didn't my jaws drop when I saw the standard of these players. Like the adjudicators aforesaid, I had learned that although theatre had to be brought to Ireland by the Normans, it, too, became in a sense "more Irish than the Irish (arts) themselves." Not only did the country produce such playwrights as Sheridan, Farquahar (a Donegal man), Goldsmith, Bouiccault, Wilde, Synge, Yeats, O'casey but it still does so. Nor was it limited to creating, but once we hear of actors and actresses in the history of English language drama we find Quinn, Peg Woffingotn and, of course, a Donegal man, Macklin, whose portrayal of Shylock is still written about.
When I now make my way to Leghowney I do so, happy that a treat is in store for me. I expect to meet and chat to local friends before the show but once the curtains part, I know I am in the hands of people who not only care about their art but have done so for 50 years.
It's a bit like listening to the fellow in the kitchen, the turf fire, the pint, the delph on the dresser, add the skill of the musician, so it is a rare experience. The hall, the friends, the ready laughter or the knowing nod adds to the Shiels play. Some may have heard to tune before but that just adds to the enjoyment. It is a special form of drama and we are privileged to enjoy it.Back to top
1958 - Mungo's Mansion
"Mungo's Mansion", a 3 act comedy, by Walter Macken, was staged by the Leghowney Players in St Patrick's Hall, Leghowney, and the reception with which it was greeted by the very large audience was testimony of the outstanding acquittal of those taking part. It was observed by those in a position to judge that the characterisation was done more in the professional than the amateur style. The Leghowney Players are no doubt making a reputation for themselves and it can be said with truth that they have excelled themselves on this occasion. From the going up of the curtain until its final drop, those who came from near and far were held in rapt attention of the excellence of the actors. The cast was: Mr Gerard McKeown, who was in the role of Mungo King, and Donal Boyle, who was his son, Martin, while his daughter, Nellie, was Miss Elizabeth Hone. The other characters were Mr Liam Martin as Mr Skerett, the lanlord's agent; Miss Eileen McKeown as Winnie Gilhealy; Mr Eddie O'Donnell supported the doctor; Mr Patrick Joseph Mundy id Mowleogs Canavan; Mr James Murphy portrayed Jack Manders and Miss Lily Boyle acted the part of Mrs manders. The play was preceded by a variety concert which also caused mirth and enjoyment among the audience. Master Peter Callaghan and Miss Kathleen Sullivan, Barnesmore sang. Master Patrick O'Sullivan played selections on the violin. Some popular songs were dramatised by Messrs. Donal Boyle, Francis Hone and Liam Martin and schoolchildren from the Four Masters National School Copany, under Miss Frances O'Doherty, National Teacher, gave a pleasing and delightful action rendering of the "Shoemaker's Shop" and the "Happy Wanderer". They were Eilis McMullin, Pat McMullin, Andrew McCadden, Pat McGoldrick, Eilis Quinn, Mary Travers, Katherine Gildea and John Gallagher.Back to top
Mungo's Mansion - 1958
Elizabeth Hone, Liam Martin, PJ Mundy, Eileen McKeown, Gerry McKeown, Donal Boyle, Fr McGrenra, James Murphy, Edward ODonnell, Lily Boyle.
Best Wishes from Franciscans
The fiftieth anniversary of the Leghowney Players is being celebrated this year and the Franciscans, Rossnowlagh, wish to congratulate them on this achievement. The Leghowney Players all down the years came to the Friary Hall with their drama and were always assured of a capacity crowd. They came free gratis and this was their way of helping us towards the lessening of the debt.
When you mention the Leghowney Players you think immediately of James Murphy. Each year he would phone or call to the Firary to see Fr. Guardian and ask him if he would like their drama group to stage their play. Of course Fr Guardian and the Community were delighted and the local community would come from near and far and always enjoyed their production.
We wish James and his players many more years of success in the drama circle.Back to top
1955 - The Caretakers
Mr Brice, a solicitor-Liam Martin
Mr Hannan, an auctioneer-Francis Hone
Ned Coffer, no occupation-Donal Boyle
Laura Coffer, his daughter-Elizabeth Hone
Robert Croobin, an old man-James Murphy
David Macosh, a retired official-Joseph Boyle
Minnie Macosh, his wife-Frances Martin
Joss Nabbly, the village carter-William Burke
Matty, an old servant-Nora McNamee
Bertha, his sister-Hugh Colhoun
1959 - Mountain Dew
Henry Moylen, and old stiller-Gerard McKeown
Mrs Moylen, his wife- Mary Gillespie
Tessie Moylen, daughter-Eileen McKeown
Anna Moylen, daughter-Elizabeth Hone
Mike Duddy, a farmer-James Murphy
Mrs Duddy, his mother-Peggy Cassidy
Kate Duddy, his sister-Susanna Gillespie
Brian Mulvenna, a bank robber-Liam Martin
Mark Malone, motor-driver-Donal Boyle
Policemen-Billy Coleman, Charles McLauglin
Act 1 takes place in Moylen's kitchen, and Acts 2 & 3 in Moylen's Sittingroom
Six months elapse between Acts 1 & 2
A few days between Acts 2 & 3
Fifty Years A-Growing
When that little group of people congregated in Harry Edwards barn one evening in Autumn of 1937 to commence readings for their first play, the Leghowney Amateur Drama Company was born. It is unlikely that any of them would have thought that it would still be active some half a century later. But thanks to the dedication and example of those founding members it is still playing a very important part in the social life of the parish. The fact that it is still flourishing is due in no small way to one of that small band of people who by his dedication and determination has kept the Company active and successful throughout all those years and is still "treading the boards" in a highly professional manner. And long may he continue to do so. Fair play to him. I refer, of course, to James Murphy who has played a prominent part in every play staged by the Company since their first production of the 3-act play "Pike OCallaghan" close on fifty years ago. This must surely be a record for any amateur drama group member. And long may he continue the good work in his own inimitable style.
Spare a thought also, dear reader, for those people whose ideals motivated the founding of the Company - God bless them. They certainly had the interests of the local community at heart. Their example proved that ordinary "country2 folk can by their own efforts provide enjoyable entertainment and indeed good clean entertainment at comparatively moderate expense. And mind you money was a very scarce commodity in the "Thirties and Forties".
I don't know fi any minutes of that historic meeting in Edward's barn were recorded. Perhaps it was just an informal "get-together". If my memory serves me right that meeting was organised by Jamie McNamee and Willie Martin, both of whom have long since gone to their eternal reward. May they rest in peace. The idea of producing that first play was, as far as I know, the "brain-child" of Jamei McNamee and developed in the course of conversation with Willie Martin around Jamsie's fireside. Leghowney Hall was in course of construction around that time and that was probably a motivation factor. And so, on the Sunday night following Christmas day, 1937, they staged their first play in the newly opened Leghowney Hall. The performance of that 3-act play "Pike O'Callaghan" was acclaimed by a capacity audience as a most enjoyable entertainment.
The cast of "Pike OCallaghan" included: Jamie McNamee, Willie Martin, James Murphy, John Roper, Bridget Roper, Maggie Gallagher and Barney Travers. James and Bridget are still happily with us. The rest have been called to their eternal reward and may they all rest in peace. Incidentally, Bridget Roper, who subsequently married, is now resident in Glasgow. I am quite sure that if she can appear on stage along with James Murphy at whatever sort of function is planned to celebrate the "50th" they will both be assured of a wonderful ovation.
The Leghowney Amateur Drama Company has served the public well throughout all those years. They have provided us all with good, clean, lively and most enjoyable entertainment and so deserve our sincere thanks. Indeed we should be proud that there is so much local talent available to keep the show going year by year carrying on the work started by those early pioneers. We must also pay tribute to all those former members who have departed the scene having been called to their eternal reward, some indeed at an early age.
They have "their exits and their entrances" when they " tread the boards" and having made the final exits. May they all rest in peace.
The fact that this Drama Group continues to attract recruits year after year is due in the main to the dedication and enthusiasm infused by James Murphy who has been the "anchor" man for a long, long time. And indeed is the link with the other founding members. And mind you it is no accident that his love of drama has rubbed on to his nephew who seems set to carry on the family tradition which means the continuing success of drama in Leghowney will most certainly be assured.
Those of us who were around when the Leghowney drama Company took root must all marvel at the tenacity and dedication of those members who nurtured its growth and say it blossom forth into the fruitful tradition to which it has now progressed. Their only recompense was personal satisfaction. They laboured in those early years in what would now be described as adverse conditions.- no electric light, no central heating, no television, very few motor cars and the main mode of transport was "Shank's Mare" or, if you were lucky, an old bicycle. But they served the populace well. I can still recall the corwds who came from Cashelard, Drimarone, Townawilly, Killymard and all points in between to enjoy the stage performance in Leghowney. The "crack" was good then. And as I muse I regard it was a privilege to have witnessed the launching and continued success of a project which deserves special merit when an up-to-date history of this parish is being compiled.
And now my own modest tribute to the "Anchor Man" - James, A Chara, I salute youBack to top
Seamus Clerkin Remembers ...
My association with Leghowney Drama Club began in the early 1960's. James Murphy was their producer and leading actor at the time. He approached me and asked me to "give him a hand with the production end" of a play he was doing. "I'm not getting any younger!", he said to me, and "I'm finding it increasingly more difficult to produce a play and take a main part in it at the same time!".
Needless to say I accepted his invitation and arrangements were made for me to go out to Leghowney to meet the rest of the cast. I was eagerly looking forward to the meeting as I have always been very keen on amateur drama. During my primary school days in Dundalk I joined a local drama club and for ten or twelve years I was an active member. I tried to learn as much as I could about production, stage management, acting, festivals, etc., etc., and by 1960 I felt I was well experienced and had a good knowledge of the amateur drama movement. How wrong can you be!
During my first season with Leghowney I began to realise that I knew very little about the ruray drama scene and even less about the trials and tribulations that can beset a rural drama group. To say I was taken aback when I went out to the first rehearsal would be putting it rather mildly. I had been used to heated club rooms for all meetings and play readings and heated and well-lit halls and stages for rehearsals. This was quite different. Leghowney can dampen your enthusiasm and cool your zeal in a very short space of time. The members of the cast didn't seem to mind the cold; they were marvellous. No matter what obstacle cropped up in the ensuing weeks didn't bother them in the slightest. They just pressed on regardless.
They were well trained. I had a lot to learn, but I was with the right man. I could not have picked a better man to serve my time with than James Murphy. Anything that James Murphy doesn't know about drama is not worth knowing. He knows his audience. He knows his cast. He knows his lines, and everybody else's lines as well! He knows how to keep a drama group together. It was his sincere and enthusiastic dedication to drama that has kept it alive in Leghowney for the past fifty years and he has sown the seeds that will keep it alive for the next fifty years. Deo Volento!
Thank you very much James Murphy.
1978 - Mugs and Money by Joseph Tomelty
Rabby Marley- James Murphy
Martha(his wife)- Anna Colhoun
Gugs (his daughter)- Shiela Mundy
Willie John (his son) - Kevin Mundy
Barney Brudge ( a neighbour)- John P. Cassidy
Sarah Short (a neighbour)-Geraldine McLaughlin
Scotty Sturgeon (a friend of Rabby)-John Cassidy
Albert Bonein ( a neighbour)-Pat Meehan
Sam Sausage (a traveller)-Denis Ward
1979 - They Got What They Wanted by Louis D'Alton
Bartley Murnaghan-James Murphy
Bessie Murnaghan(his wife)-Elizabeth O'Doherty
Sally Murnaghan (his daughter)-Kathleen Mundy
Nora Murnaghan (daughter)-Sheila Mundy
Jack Murnaghan (son)-Kevin Mundy
Derry Murnaghan (son)-James Cassidy
Peter Murnaghan (son)- Denis Ward
Owny Tubridy (shop keeper)-John Cassidy
Matty McGrath (farmer)-James Cassidy
Joe McGrath (son)-James McMullin
Tom Cassidy (Contractor)-Eamon Cassidy
1980 - Professor Tim, By George Shiels
John Scally (a farmer)- James Cassidy
Mrs. Scally (his wife)-Elizabeth ODoherty
Peggy Scally (their daughter)-Bernie Roper
Professor Tim (Mrs. Scally's Brother)-James Murphy
James Kilroy (a rural councillor)-John Cassidy
Mrs Kilroy (his wife)-Ethna Martin
Joseph Gilroy (their son)-James McMullin
Hugh OCahan (a sporting farmer)- Denis Ward
Paddy Kinney (his groom)-Eamon Cassidy
Moll Flanagan (his housekeeper)-Nuala McNulty
Mr Alison (an auctioneer)- James Cassidy
1981 - The Whip Hand by B.G. McCarthy
Mrs Fogarty (a widow)- Elizabeth ODoherty
Paud Fogarty (her brother-in-law)- James Murphy
John Fogarty (her elder son)- Michael McAnaw
Larry Fogarty (her younger son)- Denis Ward
Bernie Regan (a friend of the family)- Patricia Ward
Dan Keogh (a farmer)- Eamon Cassidy
Maureen Keogh (his daughter)- Marie Brogan
Willie Brannigan (a neighbour)- James Cassidy
Peter Kavanagh (archaeologist)- John Cassidy
Nora (a servant)- Bernie Callaghan and Mary McAnaw
Producer: Seamus Clerkin
1982 - The New Gossoon, George Shiels' best loved comedy
Ellen Cary (a farmer)- Elizabeth ODoherty
Luke Cary (her son)- Denis Ward
Peter Cary (an uncle)- James Cassidy
Ned Shay (the servant man)- John Cassidy
Mag Kehoe (servant girl)- Mary Boyle
Rabit Hamil (a poacher)- James Murphy
Sally Hamil (his daughter) - Marie McMullin
John Henly (a corn miller)- Michael McAnaw
Biddy Henly (his daughter)- Patricia Ward
Producer: Seamus Clerkin
1983 - Paul Twyning by George Shiels
Paul Twyning (a tramp plasterer)- James Murphy
James Deegan (a farmer and magistrate)- James Cassidy
Dan Deegan (his son)- Denis Ward
Patrick Deegan (another son, a publican)- Michael McAnaw
Mrs Deegan (his wife)- Elizabeth ODoherty
Jim Deegan (their son)- Sean Hilley
Denis McGothigan (a farmer)- James Cassidy
Rose McGothigan (his daughter)- Marie McMullin
Daisy Mullan (a returned American)- Mary Boyle
Mr OHagan(a solicitor)- Joseph Boyle
PJ Croal Remembers ...
It is indeed a great pleasure for me to congratulate the Leghowney Players on reaching their 50th anniversary. This is an event that very few drama societies can lay claim to and the present members must feed justifiably proud to be part of the great tradition of bringing theatre to the rural area in which they are.
They opted not to join the drama festival circuit, but instead to bring entertainment to the local community, and in this they succeeded completely bringing many nights of pleasure and laughter to their own people. This in itself was a great service, but greater still was the learning of a creative art form that no doubt helped to pass many a dreary winter's night.
My own personal connection with the group was in helping them in their choice of play and lending them any play scripts of "Moody in Manitoba" and "Quinn's Secret" by the late George Sheils - both these plays were long out of print and the scripts were really collector items. However, what was unusual about all this was that when John Cassidy returned the original scripts (which, to say the least, were in a well worn and tatty condition) they were accompanied by two clearly typed and well bound photo-copies of the originals. Let me assure you that very often one does not have scripts returned and it proved to me that here was a group of thankful, caring people.
My wish is that they may continue the great tradition of bringing joy and pleasure to their community and friends for many years to come.Back to top
Donal Boyle Looks Back ...
For the people of Leghowney, Meenadreen, Aughlim and the surrounding locality the "Play" in the hall every winter was one of the highlights of the year, something to look forward to for months ahead, and as the Sunday night approached (the first performance was always on a Sunday night) the excitement grew. I remember the young people would all help get the seating collected from around the area; chairs and "forms" were borrowed from every house; these were carried by hand or sometimes balanced on a bicycle. The local school, Copany, was the source of a quite a lot of seating for the night. A close neighbour to the hall, John Farrell, always offered nine or ten "forms" which he had; these were relics of an old school which served the district in the early 19th century, (indeed, before he died he kindly gave these seats to the hall). Old fashioned coat hats, coats, breeches and sometimes even guns, were in demand, and care was always taken to return these to their owners.
Natives of the area who had married or gone to work in places as far away as Pettigo or Frosses would be invited to their parents or friends homes on the evening of the "Play" to have a cup of tea and a chat before going to the hall.
In the early days there was always a concert before the main event; local singers and musicians would entertain the audience for half and hour or so and this got the people in the right mood to enjoy the next "act".
Strangers and those who came a distance were always sure to get a cup of tea in "Wee Peggy's" (Peggy Cassidy's) next door to the hall before they went home, and her e the play was thoroughly discussed by the critics.
My earnest wish is that in fifty years time the hall in Leghowney will still be a centre for the local play.Back to top
Leghowney - the country's oldest Drama Club
Leghowney Drama Club is one of the oldest in the country. It was started in 1937 and in the intervening years has earned for itself widespread distinction and prestige. The late Anew McMaster once said: "The preservation of the theatre has passed from the hands of the professional to the amateur." One need not look further than Leghowney to see how true this is.
Leghowney is a small rural area in Barnesmore district and needless to remark this provides a problem when it comes to selecting a cast. However, that has been a remarkable response down the years and a tradition has now grown up which attracts young people to the club. It is indeed a tribute to the club that they have evoked such a high proportion of theatre minded people in their area and have now a potential from which to draw.
Happily one of the founder members, producer/actor, James Murphy, is still with the club. He has been a source of inspiration down the years. He played the title role in "Pike O'Callaghan", the club's very first production and has graced the stage in every performance since, always cast in the leading role. James has become and institution in local drama circles.
There is also a strong family connection with the Club over the years - James, his sisters and nephews. Others too have passed on their talents to their families; the Boyles, Hones, Ropers, Cassidys etc.
The group has always endeavoured to produce a play representative of rural life, and always with comedy content.
The never abandoned their original aim, entertainment for the people.... And the fact that their annual productions are eagerly awaited is prof that they have succeeded in doing just that. In recent years James decided to concentrate on his characterisations. It was then that Seamus Clerkin became the club producer. Seamus, with his extensive knowledge of both drama and variety, brought a new dimension into the club's productions. He would be first to agree that James had an experience that was invaluable so he was invited to remain on the production team as co-producer. Seamus was welcomed into the club and was given the same loyalty and co-operation that had been traditionally extended to James. Their productions since they teamed up have shown the benefit of their joint efforts.
Their latest production, "Paul Twyning", was of the highest standard that patrons have come to expect from the Leghowney Players. Undoubtedly the honours must go to James Murphy for his portrayal of Paul Twyning. the role called for sustained verbosity which in less capable hands could have been dull. James, however, has excellent stage presence and the gift of giving meaning to his lines and he can get the "feel" of his audience right from the start and is able to hold their interest in all his moods.
Comparative newcomer, Denis Ward, provided the laughs. His portrayal of a son cowed by a tyrant father , yet occasionally emboldened when prompted by Paul Twyning's intrigue, was excellent and one that would do credit to a veteran of the stage. His mannerisms and complete lack of self consciousness, his excellent timing, good diction, all combined to create and interpretation that was almost real. Elizabeth Doherty projects an image of realism that often makes on forget at times that she is acting. She has a good sense and responds to direction.
Only one word is needed to describe the performance of Mary Boyle.... Outstanding. She played the part of a returned yank who schemes to snare old James Deegan with her wiles and with a view to relieving him of his cash. Never once did she drop the Brooklyn accent or forget to put on the accompanying airs and graces.
Joesph Boyle and James Cassidy, who played the roles of solicitor and farmer respectively, gave good performances and maintained the standard throughout the play. Marie McMullin, new to the stage, came through with flying colours and it is to be hoped that more will be seen of her in future productions. This can be said of Michael McAnaw and Sean Hilley who played their parts with a zest that came across very well.
The stage setting was cleverly planned and was very effective. Stage managers were James Cassidy and Joseph Boyle. Stage assistants were Michael Boyle, Loretta Brogan, Hugh Cassidy, John Cassidy. Lighting, Eamon ODonnell, Make-up John Durcan.Back to top
1984 - Moodie in Mannitoba
Moodie (a painter)- James Cassidy
John Cavan (rancher)- James Murphy
Nora Cavan (his niece and secretary)- Mary Blyle
Bridget Flannery (his house keeper)- Elizabeth ODoherty
Mr OMahoney (ranch foreman)- John Cassidy
Tex (a friend of Cavans)- James Cassidy
Paddy Nolan (ranch vet)- Denis Ward
Mr McCracken (a lawyer)- Joe Boyle
The Specialist- Sean Hilley
The Nurse-Marie McMullin
Producers: James Murphy and Seamus Clerkin
1985 - McCooks Corner, by George Shiels
Neal McCook(a shopkeeper)- James Murphy
Hannah McCook (his daughter)- Mary Crawford
John Lilly (farmer)- James Cassidy
Adam Lilly (his son)- Denis McMullin
Fanny (his servant girl)-Marie McMullin
Specky Boyce (a pedlar)- Kevin Mundy
Daniel Boyce (his brother)- John Cassidy
Constable Mulgrew- James Cassidy
Master Magee (retired)- Joseph Boyle
Roseann Magee (his daughter) - Elizabeth ODoherty
Producer: Seamus Clerkin
1986 - Love and Land, by Lynn Doyle
Pat Murphy (a farmer)- James Cassidy
Widow Dougherty (his housekeeper)- Elizabeth ODoherty
Thomas Dorrian (a farmer)- Joe Boyle
Rose Dorrian (his daughter)- Eithne Martin
Peter OHare (a farmer)- John Cassidy
Brian OConnor (a publican)- Denis Ward
Mary OConnor( his daughter)- Marie McMullin
Haghey Rogan (a carter)- James Murphy
Billy Rourke (a postman)- Sean Hilley
My involvement with Leghowney Drama Club goes back a long way; I took part in a play for the first time in 1955 and from then I was "hooked". The group then, as indeed it still remains today, were a pleasure to work with. Conditions for rehearsing were far from ideal, we all gathered around the "stove", a turf burning apparatus in the centre of the "Hall" and after reading each act we all got up and danced and Irish dance, iel "Four Hand Reel" or the "Siege of Ennis" to warm ourselves (no music). In this rural area back in the fifties, we looked forward eagerly each year to our play starting as we enjoyed meeting our old friends and making new ones.
"Funny incidents" are too numerous to mention here. However, a few priceless ones come immediately to mind; in "Professor Tim" where the author allows a short time for a complete change of clothing from "Rags to Riches" it took at least three stage hands to help complete the job and get the "Professor" back on stage in time for his cue. In "Moodie in Manitoba" when a certain member of the cast mislaid his "gun" and he was handed a builder's square to improvise (in front of a live audience), and in the 1986 production of "Love and Land" when one famous character forgot his lines on stage in the Sunday night performance, sidesteps back to another and asks "What's my next line?"
Here's hoping the fun will never go out of it. Wishing the Drama Club the very best on this occasion and, please God, I hope to be around for a few years yet!Back to top
Leghowney Players in "Nothing in this Life".
It is pleasing to find groups like the Leghowney Amateur dramatic Society with a tradition of a quarter of a century behind them still going strong. On a Sunday night recently the curtain went up on still another of their inimitable productions - this time "Nothing In His Life". The hall was packed to capacity half an hour before the show was scheduled to commence.
The play, by the late District Justice J. Walsh, because of its scene/act fluidity, is ideally suited to rural groups limited in props and accommodation. Its sentiment, too, the conversion of a political agnostic to the Republican cause, found ready acceptance and created sympathetic atmosphere for the presentation.
Undoubtedly the honours of the evening went to James Murphy in his role as Mick the Tinker. The part called for a sustained flow of verbose rhetoric which in less capable hands could have tended to dull the production. In his twenty-five years with the group, James has by his diversity of parts demonstrated his versatility. The plays in which he took principal parts included Professor Tim, Mungo's Mansion, Paul Twyning, Dawn of Freedom, to mention but a few. James has the gift of being able to get the "feel" of his audience right from his first entrance, and more important, to be able to hold their interest in all his moods. I think, perhaps, the answer lies in his well timed dramatic entrances which create a feeling of "presence" and lend reality to his part. If James has a fault at all it is that his outstanding performances tend to lend principalship to characters which obviously the author had not intended. What better tribute than this can I pay James - and yet it is less than he deserves.
Watching the very polished performance of Anna Colhoun in the role of "Peggy", the housekeeper to Dr. Armour, it was difficult to believe that this was her first time on the stage. Her complete lack of stage consciousness ranks her amongst the more mature artistes. Her interpretation of changing moods was superb - from light-hearted banter with Mick the Tinker to her beautiful playing when she knelt down to pray for the injured IRA man. Her little trick of playing on departure lines added effect to her exits, and served to ensure continuity of role. I particularly liked the way she maintained that subtle distinction of station between valued housekeeper and master. Failure to have observed this difference could have spoiled the finer meshes of atmosphere woven around her privileged relationship.
Charles (Tatti) McLaughlin gave one of his inimitable performances. Sauve, affable, always in control of the situation. One could see a fine combination of stage experience and a knowledge of what the part called for in interpretation. It was a role in which over emphasis of one or other of its two phases - the anti-Irish doctor who turns Republican - would have tended to make the eventual reconciliation difficult to accept.
Charles maintained that "balance" obviously intended by the author. He is an artiste of much merit, and I am sorry that he has not figured in drama festivals where his talents are sure to meet with reward.
Nora O'Donnell - as Norah Donnelly, a sweetheart of Steven O'Hagan, a local IRA leader, and a girl whom Dr Armour tries unsuccessfully to woo - is another young lady who made her stage debut in this play. Nora displayed very little of the "nerves" that beset newcomers on their first night and any that may have intruded to the surface served to enhance her role of a shy and demure young lady who finds herself flattered - and embarrassed - by the attentions of the most eligible man in the village. Nora can be proud of her performance, and the producer is to be complimented on his casting for the part. It is a difficult decision to make - giving a leading role to a newcomer. Nora came through with flying colours, and let's hope we will see a lot of her on the stage in the years to come.
The Boyle brothers, Donal and Joe, are comparatively old hands of the stage, and their playing on this occasion was on par with their past good performances. It is interesting to observe brothers in action on the stage and note how strongly family characteristics make themselves felt. I would venture the opinion that the boys could have changed parts midway through the play and each taken the other's part and it would have gone unnoticed in an audience where they would not be known personally. Donal, who palyed Dan McGlynn, a publican, was especially pleasing during his portrayal in an encounter with the Tans.
Otherwise good performances have been often ruined by a lack of discretion in allocating minor roles, and how often have we heard, "it's a small part", anyone will do for it". Ti should be remembered that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and this is all too true of stage productions. It was evident here, however, that care was taken to cast the small roles carefully, and the overall production profited handsomely by the wisdom of the producer. Francis Hone, Hugh Colhoun and Liam Martin, experienced players, were chosen to take the parts of Black and Tans and IRA man.
Their handling of them gave the parts an added sense of the impressive and created in the audience an appreciation of their contribution to the story. Two newcomers, Aodh O'Donnell and Eamon O'Donnell, also gave a good account of themselves and both appear to have sound stage judgement and ability.
In the final analysis the production can be said to have been of a high standard - doing justice to our native plays, of which too few are being presented. James Murphy was producer, a formidable task for one playing such a heavy role on stage. He is assisted on the production side by Seamus Clerkin, who has been producing plays for the Donegal Dramatic Society for some time now. Seamus has already earned for himself the praise of drama festival adjudicators with productions he presented in the Ballyshannon Festival.