By Tom Shanahan


In the year 1935 we were in the middle of an economic war with England. In Abbeydorney parish there were four motor cars. Three of those were used for hackney work.. The bicycle, the ass and cart and the pony and trap were the chief modes of transport. Radios were few and far between. There was no electricity. Because of the world wide economic depression, emigration to the USA was at a standstill and few could get work in England.

Out of all this doom and gloom and the poor standard of living was born the Abbeydorney Dramatic Society. Twenty one of us met in early September 1935 in Bob Brosnan's hall in the village. Bob lit the wick of the oil lamp and we sat down to discuss the formation of a Dramatic Society in our parish. I had sent to London for a book on the acting and production of palys. This book became the bible of our Society. Present at that foundation meeting were;

M.P. Mulvihill, Timmy Shanahan, John Joe Egan, Cissie Shanahan, Johnny Brennan, Margaret Twomey, Bob Brosnan, Maurice Fuller, John O'Brien, Jerh. Shanahan, Paddy Joe Keane, Gerald O'Rourke, Nell Lynch, Tom Bob Ryall, Patsy Fitzgerald, Maurice Fitzgerald, Bob O'Mahony, Sandy Egan, John Hennessy, Nora Dowling and myself.

We decided to produce the play "The Days of the Black and Tans" Only fourteen years before, the Tans had left Ireland. The memory of the burning of the homes in the village was fresh in the peoples mind so the ;play was to prove an instant success. Our first production was in Bob's hall on Friday 29th November,1935. All of those who had their houses burned were present at the play. We performed the play in Ballymacelligott, Ballylongford, Castlegregory, Kilflynn, Crotta, Lixnaw and Causeway. At the latter place we were forced to abandon the performance after the first Act due to overcrowding of the hall and the danger of accident.

A performance in Ardfert had to be abandoned when the Parish Priest objected to the performance of the play during the Lenten season. . In February 1940, I bid goodbye to Abbeydorney. The train which took me to Dublin no longer runs. The station where Paddy Joe Keane and Jerry Kavanagh worked is deserted. When I returned in 1977 the Dramatic Society was still thriving. It will never die. It was the only one in North Kerry in 1935. In our period we were blessed with excellent singers, most notably Paddy Joe Keane, Jerry Kavanagh and Nora Dowling. Tom Bob Ryall, John O'Brien and Johnny O'Mahony were excellent musicians. Bob Brosnan was an excellent dancing master whose fame was known throughout Kerry.

In 1936 Paddy Joe Keane made ecumenical history when he sang the hymn "Nearer My God To Thee" in St. Columba's Church, Kilflynn during the funeral service of the lateCissie Champ. She had departed in the flower of her youth. Then regarded as exclusive to the Protestant people, it was never sung in a Catholic Church. The Vatican Council 1965 changed all this.

On Tuesday evening, July 4th 1989, as I awaited the start of concelebrated Mass in Kyrie Eleison Cemetary, I thought of Paddy Joe Keane, John Joe Egan, Timmy Shanahan, Cissie Shanahan, Bob Brosnan, Jerh. Shanahan, Patsy Fitzgerald, Bob O'Mahony, and Jerry Kavanagh who were at rest all around me in the cemeary.. Also Tom Bob Ryall at rest in England, M..P. Mulvihill, J Hennessy and Maurice Fuller at rest in Kiltomey and Johnny O'Mahony at rest in Listowel. I was reminded of the medieval mortality legend of the Three Live Kings and the Three Dead Kings painted on the mural at the Cistercian Abbey, Abbeyknockmoy, Co. Galway with the latin inscription "We have been as you are, you shall be as we are".

Abbeydorney Dramatic Society
Abbeydorney Dramatic Society 1935

The above historic photograph of the Abbeydorney Dramatic Society was taken in 1935. Front from left, seated on ground: M.P. Mulvihill, Tim Shanahan. Front from left, seated: J.J. Egan, Tom Shanahan, C. Shanahan,J. Brennan, M. Twomey. From left standing: B. Brosnan, M. Fuller, J.O'Brian, Jer Shanahan, P.J. Keane, G. O'Rourke, N. Lynch, T.B. Ryall. Back Standing: P. Fitzgerald, B. O'Mahony, M. Fitzgerald, S. Egan, J. Hennessy. . Copyright (C) 1989 All rights reserved.

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