Memories of Donabate Dramatic Society

My first memory of my own involvement with the society must be from the late 1950’s. I remember a Miss Keane who taught me in Donabate national school bidding me to carry a message to father Moynihan the priest in Donabate. He was Donabate Dramatic society. What made it so unique is that it was in French or so she informed me. It had to do with a rehearsal that night, what it actually said I cannot remember except that it happened and that I repeated the message as a mantra until I got to the priests house. I hope I passed on the message correctly, I will never know.

Our family, like many others had a long tradition of involvement with the society. My father acted in many plays. To his embarrassment on one occasion when he died in a play I rushed up from the audience [I must have been quite young] in tears. This probably led to a short unplanned interval!!!

There are pictures from a newspaper called the Times Pictorial weekly from 1942 showing many of the caste doing their daily jobs as well as their roles in Dion Boucicault’s Coleen Bawn. My dad is on a harvester that we called a “Binder” horse drawn…. And from that sequence there is one of cows being herded past the church, just shows how rural we were. John Whittle is pulling pints in Smiths pub, while Margaret Linders, a farmer’s daughter milks a cow. The interesting thing is that Brinsley McNamara the author and Abbey Theatre actor is the adjudicator of the competition, I wonder if Donabate Dramatic Society won the competition, I am sure someone knows.

Apparently my Aunt Peggy Fortune and Sean Ryan of Ballisk were among the stars and could have graced any stage. Sean went on to become the producer in many plays I was involved in.

When my turn came in the 1960’s I always seemed to play character roles, The Auxie [Auxiliary British force in Ireland during the war of independence] in the Shadow of a Gunman from O’Casey’s great trilogy. I remember Sean Ryan admonishing me for my violent attack on the Statue of the virgin as I ransacked Donal Davoren’s tenement apartment.

“For God’s sake go easy, we have three more nights to do, it [the statue] will be in smithereens by Sunday night if you keep hitting it like that with your revolver.”

I played in Mrs Mulligans Millions another hilarious farce that we entered in the Rolestown festival, again in the mid nineteen sixties. People like Flossie Smith, Noreen Carolan, Noel McAllister, Stephanie Moore, were among those I remember, we had great fun we were young players. We built the sets painted flats, hunted for props, and in the words of Dylan Thomas we were:
“Happy as the grass was green”

They were great times, times before television and soaps, times when we had to entertain ourselves. There is still a need for such diversion for in the words of Mr Sleary in Hard Times:

People must be amused somehow…they can’t be always a workin’ or always a learnin’”

Long may Donabate Dramatic Society continue.


About the Author:

Joe is an author, poet, historian, and guided walks consultant. He lives in Newport, Co. Mayo. Scriptwriter and presenter of “Old Port to Newport”, Joe McDermott is the author of a number of fiction and non-fiction books including Sheegorey (historical fiction), the History of St. Mary’s Hospital, Castlebar, as well as hiking guide books such as The Western Way, The Bangor Trail, and The Foxford Way.