History of Castlebar Pantomime - Part One, 1951-1965
Picture Ireland of the 1950's & early 60's, 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 & 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. 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".
1951 saw Jimmy Garvey follow in his brother Stephens footsteps to produce "Cinderella" which ran from December 25th-30th & January 2nd-3rd 1952. These dates were to be repeated in future productions. The acceptance of the dates (see left) is quite remarkable as all involved did so on a voluntary basis & must have made them very popular with those they lived with during the Christmas season! Costumes were hired from McGings in Dublin & 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 & 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 & 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 & Donald Downes, began their associated 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.
1953 saw Jimmy Garvey produce "Aladdin" & 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 & The Sailor" in 1957 & "Goody Two Shoes" (pictured right) in 1958. Names like Seamus Chambers, Beatrice Conway, Mattie Armstrong, Tom McGreal, Pearse Carney & Brid McCarthy joined the racks 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 & one of the McNeela sisters proudly returned with a cast iron frying pan. The second half continued with much enthusiasm & 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 contact us. 1960 saw Joe Twiggs branch out to director what is a defiant Castlebar Pantomime favourite "Cinderella". He was aided by Mrs Hunt, Mrs O'Brien & Ms Angela Corcoran who were in charge of the musical arrangements & Mrs J. Langan as Choreographer. 1961 "Dick Whittington & His Cat" was produced by Garry Black. Again this is a year where there is little available information & any additional material would be welcomed in compiling a full history of Castlebar Pantomime. 1962 brought "Jack & The Beanstalk" to the Town Hall stage through the combined efforts of Rev Cecil Norman & Anton Condon. Anton as far as the records show joined Pantomime in 1957 & went on to produce many more shows with his brother Richard from the mid to late 60's.
Judge John Garavan took over the Directors chair in 1963 with "King McKeown & 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 & where the actors should be positioned. 1964 was also a Garavan production of "Babes in the Wood". Along with Val Donegan (pictured left), Angela Denning, Christy Tynan, Padraig Flynn, Colette & Patricia Earls who appeared in this production was one Mrs Nan Monaghan. Nan, who is now known as the Queen of Castlebar Pantomime & up until 2009 annually involved in Panto mayhem.
Now, here is where the publics help will be most appreciated. Please advise if you can who produced the January 1965 production of "Sinbad the Sailor" & also was there a further production of "Aladdin" in December 1965. There is very limited material on both shows & the possibility of two shows within the one year is one possible answer to a duplication of dates.