Drama Groups in Charlestown - The Early Days in Co. Mayo

Drama groups have been performing in Charlestown since the early 1900s. Despite the hard times, they used their own resources to entertain the local population, and sometimes beyond their boundaries, spending hours and hours rehearsing to get their performances correct and precise.

One such group got together in 1905. A concert and play were staged in the Town Hall, now our local library, on St. Stephen's night, the 26th of December.

It may well have been the first such type of entertainment staged there. The Play was 'An Doctur' The Doctor, which dealt with the dawn of the Irish language revival.

In the cast were T.P. Quinn, James Quinn, P.J. Cassidy, Jim Mulrooney, May Henry, and also involved in the presentation were William 'Bill' Gallagher, Tommy O'Donnell, Theresa Cassidy, and May Stenson.

Those who participated in the accompanying Variety Concert were the following: Misses Annie McDonnell, Kitty Mulligan, Ethel Doherty, Margaret and Mary Doherty, also P.J. Henry, father of Paddy, Michael Hurst of Swinford and a Miss Burke.

During the Civil War, 1921 to 1922, part of the Town Hall was burned down. On being rebuilt it reopened in 1926, with a Dress Dance as the first function. Among a variety of events staged or held in the hall, which was a fine spacious building of two storeys, were dances and various indoor sports.

The local Drama Players, namely the St. James Dramatic Society and the Little Theatre Group, by now amalgamated, staged various plays and concerts. Many of the travelling show companies like the Dobells, McMasters, McMostins, Carrickfords, Howards, Blacks and Macks, to name but a few, trod the boards of the famous building.

Film shows were also held there, screened by the Picture Company, Swinford. A room was also set aside for card players. Craft classes in crochet and woodwork, Domestic Economy classes and Irish language classes were also held. It was also the exhibition venue for the local Agricultural and Horticultural Shows which were held in the Town in the 1940's.

Cathal Henry 2014

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