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How many of your young readers , I wonder, ever heard of Adrigoole Hall? How many could even guess in which of the Adrigoole’s it was situated? How many indeed? So passes the glory of the world!

And yet there was a time- and to many of us it does not seem that long ago- when Adrigoole Hall was the Mecca of the young dancers of the three counties; when the roads on a Sunday night were black with cyclists all converging on the little hall that rested-for it is no longer there, at least I could not find it recently-in the sandhills of Adrigoole-a little nearer to Washington than to Dunmore.

Lest I appear even older than my hastening days warrant, I must say that the heyday of Adrigoole Hall was strictly before my time, but, as for many another heart no longer young, it has always had a warm spot for me and that for a special reason, that will soon emerge.

Quite recently in a trip down south, during a casual roadside encounter with a member of the Gardai, he asked me, as he checked my driving licence, in a rich Donegal accent, if I knew where Adrigoole Hall was. It transpired that he had spent his early days in the force attached to Claremorris Garda Station and was a regular Sunday night client at the hall!

Did I ever hear of Adrigoole Hall? “Indeed I did”, I told him,

“and I scarce out of swaddling clothes”! In one glorious Lent in the early thirties I sat night after night watching my first play there. It was O’ Casey’s “Shadow of a Gunman”.  

O’Casey’s two-acter was staged by the Gortnaguine lads-and what a wonderful bunch they were under their Producer, the one and only John Burke-Collins. It was a complete “Sinn Fein” production in that the “Props” as well as the actors were local. Tim Patton, the Postman, the old McHale’s stalwart, long since gone to his eternal reward, provided the Auxillary’s uniform and I contributed my toy revolver. When the group travelled to places such as Greene’s loft in Milltown, my father’s old “Tin Lizzie” provided the transport. In this way I became a sort of unofficial mascot. Indeed by the time the play came off the boards, I had the dialogue-and the actors’ mannerisms- by heart and could, I believe,if called on, become a prompter to any cast!

The memory those days is not what it used to be but I have not quite forgotten the members of the cast, I think! Let’s see:Two who brought the house down every night were the Ryder brothers, Paddy, in the role of Jimmy Shiels, wearing a long nightie and his brother Jack as Tommy Owens.Jim Donelon, whom I run into regularly in Tuam, and looking not a day older, played the lead part, that of Daniel Davern, “the very shadow of a Gunman”. His sister Nellie, now living in Castlebar with her husband , John Patton and family, was an alluring Minnie Powell. John himself played the part of Mr. Gallagher. (Perhaps the romance flourished during rehearsals!) John, a great follower of Galway and the McHale’s, never misses a match that either team play. I meet him regularly. Michael Green was the landlord, Mr. Mulligan; while Kathleen Prendergast, now a Sister of Charity, played the part of Mrs. Henderson.

But Adolphus Grigson in the person of Michael Greaney stole the show. He knocked the last ounce out of the part of the hard-drinking Orangeman. His long-suffering wife was yet another Donelon, Norah. My favourite however, was the Auxillary (or Black and Tan) in the Postman’s uniform and toting my revolver menacingly in his right hand. The part was played by John Scahill. Norah Donelon and John Scahill have long since departed to another happier stage in the great hereafter. God rest both their souls.

Funnily enough, I cannot place “Maguire”-whoever played that role, I just can’t remember-but I nearly brought it off, didn’t I! In these days of Drama Groups and Drama Festivals and modern “Props” there are, no doubt, better productions of “The Gunman”, but to me, the Adrigoole Hall Production will always be the greatest.

Perhaps if the mellowing survivors of the cast read these lines they will fondly return with me in spirit to the long vanished Adrigoole Hall and recall the weeks from a long vanished era, when they recreated the Drama of the War of Independence on its cramped little stage----and I hope they will forgive me for raking up the ashes of the past!

Written by Kevin Kilgarriff in 1974. 

Incidentally, the actor who played the part of “Maguire” was Paddy Rattigan.              (The Official name of Addrigoole Hall was “The  Spinning Wheel Ballroom”.)